In college, before any Friday night out, my roommates and I would always jokingly apologize to our livers. Now that I'm 25, I'm starting to actually mean that apology. Even though I don't drink nearly as much as I used to, and have been taking concrete steps for my health, my family history of liver disease and cancer has been at the back of my mind for a few years now. While there is no magic pill out there to prevent my genetic predisposition to liver conditions, after doing some research I discovered there are liver support supplements available to help me keep my liver as healthy as I can.
How the Liver Works
Located in the upper right-hand portion of the abdominal cavity, our liver is usually thought of as the body's very own natural filter, as it helps to detox the body. The liver weighs a whopping three pounds and regulates chemical levels in the bloodstream. It also excretes something called bile that helps to carry waste away from the liver. Our liver has four main functions: process food, break down fat to convert to energy, regulate blood sugar, and help flush toxins from our system. Here's what those processes look like in a healthy liver:
Process food - All blood that leaves the stomach and intestines passes through the liver to be metabolized. The liver "processes this blood and breaks down balances, and creates the nutrients," according to Hopkins Medicine.
Break down fat to convert to energy - Remember that bile substance we mentioned earlier? That yellow-green substance actually helps the body break down fat to use as energy.
Regulate blood sugar - The liver also pulls glucose from the bloodstream to create and store a form of glucose called glycogen. When blood sugar levels get too low, the liver then releases glycogen to maintain balance.
Flush toxins- When toxins enter our system, the liver pulls them from the blood to flush them out. The liver does this by taking the pulled toxins and releasing them in our urine or stool. Our liver is constantly working to remove these toxins which can include alcohol, medications, environmental toxins, and additives in foods.
In addition to these four main liver functions, this organ has also been identified as playing a role in more than 500 vital functions in the body, according to Hopkins Medicine, including:
Production of certain proteins for blood plasma
Production of cholesterol and special proteins to help carry fats through the body
Regulation of blood levels of amino acids, which form the building blocks of proteins
Processing of hemoglobin for use of its iron content (the liver stores iron)
Conversion of poisonous ammonia to urea (urea is an end product of protein metabolism and is excreted in the urine)
Regulating blood clotting
Resisting infections by making immune factors and removing bacteria from the bloodstream
Clearance of bilirubin, also from red blood cells. If there is an accumulation of bilirubin, the skin and eyes turn yellow
Signs You May Need a Liver Support Supplement
When our liver becomes overloaded with toxins, certain signs of a stressed-out liver can start to manifest and impact our overall health and wellness. Toxins can include and be found in:
People who consume alcohol
The good news? Adding a liver support supplement or a liver detox to your routine should help you find balance again. But how do you know when it's time to start a liver detox or liver support supplement?
Here are some signs your body could be giving that you have a buildup of toxins and it might be time to give your liver a bit of a boost:
Some individual lifestyle choices and genetic factors may impact liver function and require more frequent liver detoxifications than others. You may be at a higher risk of needing a liver supplement or detox if you have:
A history of alcohol consumption/drug use
A history of long term prescription drug use
A history of nausea, motion sickness, or morning sickness
Consumed excess amounts of NutraSweet (aspartame) or other processed foods
Not giving the liver the support it needs can have detrimental effects on more than just the liver itself. When not properly cared for, certain liver problems could arise, including:
Elevated liver enzymes - Enzymes are "are proteins that speed up chemical reactions in your body," and when elevated levels of them "often indicate inflammation or damage to cells in the live"
Hepatitis - Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver, usually caused by a viral infection, but can also be caused by autoimmune conditions and "as a secondary result of medications, drugs, toxins, and alcohol." There are five kinds of hepatitis (hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, hepatitis D, and hepatitis E. A) that are caused by viral infections. The other forms, such as alcoholic hepatitis, damage the liver cells over time.
Cirrhosis - Cirrhosis is defined by the Mayo Clinic as "a late stage of scarring (fibrosis) of the liver caused by many forms of liver diseases and conditions, such as hepatitis and chronic alcoholism." Essentially, every time the liver is damaged, scar tissue is formed to help the liver heal. Unfortunately, too much of this scar tissue can make it difficult for the liver to function properly, and the damage is permanent.
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) - When too much fat is being stored in the liver cells in individuals who have a history of little to no drinking, they may be diagnosed with NAFLD. The Mayo Clinic explains how this can be dangerous, "Some individuals with NAFLD can develop nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), an aggressive form of fatty liver disease, which is marked by liver inflammation and may progress to advanced scarring (cirrhosis) and liver failure." The liver damage caused by NAFLD is comparable to the liver damage caused by years of heavy drinking.
Chronic liver disease - The NIH describes the chronic liver disease as "a progressive deterioration of liver functions for more than six months, which includes synthesis of clotting factors, other proteins, detoxification of harmful products of metabolism, and excretion of bile." Chronic liver disease usually ends with individuals experiencing cirrhosis, and can be caused by a number of factors, including toxins, alcohol abuse for a prolonged time, infection, autoimmune diseases, genetic and metabolic disorders.
These are all serious medical conditions that need to be discussed with a healthcare provider. Talk to your doctor about your symptoms and about potentially adding a dietary supplement for your liver health. You may also want to read our other article about signs your liver is full of toxins.
What to Look for in Your Liver Support Supplement
If you're looking to start adding a dietary supplement for the health of your liver, there are certain ingredients you should be looking for. Always make sure that your supplements are from a reputable brand that manufactures its products in the US, and is transparent with its formulas like 1 Body. With that being said, here are some of the best ingredients for a healthy liver:
Milk thistle - Silymarin, the active compound in milk thistle and milk thistle extract, has been found to "help reduce inflammation, regenerate liver tissues, and protect liver cells from damage in lab studies," according to researchers. Milk thistle has even been used in combination with other medical treatments to help patients that have alcoholic liver disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), hepatitis, and even cancer. It also acts as an antioxidant, helping to combat free radical damage and prevent oxidative stress in liver cells.
Dandelion root - While more research is needed, dandelion root is thought to help the liver create more bile. There was also a study conducted in 2017 that suggests that a type of carbohydrate called polysaccharides may help with detoxifying the liver.
Turmeric - Turmeric is known for its powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, both of which aid in digestion and can help boost your liver function by preventing free radical damage and damage caused by toxins.
Artichoke leaf - Not only do artichoke leaves have antioxidant properties but they have also been found in animal studies to help liver cells regenerate. Additionally, there have been recent studies in those with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease that found artichoke leaf reduced markers of liver damage compared to the placebo.
Try 1 Body Liver Support Supplements for a Healthy Liver
1 Body has your liver health and wellness in mind, which is why we've formulated our liver support supplement with the highest-quality, liver-friendly ingredients including:
Picorhiza Root Extract
Boldo Leaf Extract
Burdock Root Extract
Dandelion Leaf Extract
Alpha Lipoic Acid
Yellow Dock Root
Plus, our unique formula is manufactured in the USA at our cGMP-certified facility (enforced by the FDA), and is made with NO sugar, salt, dairy, wheat, gluten, soy, preservatives, artificial colors, or flavors; We simply use the purest & highest quality raw ingredients. Try adding 2 capsules a day to gradually experience an increase in energy, better overall health, and improved mental clarity.
Supports healthy liver function
Improves mental clarity
Manufactured in the USA at our cGMP certified facility (enforced by the FDA).