What’s To Know About Liver Health Supplements?
For a healthier you, a healthier liver is a must. The liver is the second largest organ in our body. No other organ in our body performs a wide range of essential functions than the liver. The three major functions of the liver are removal of toxins from blood, energy production and production of fluid called bile which assists digestion. Some people might think of taking liver health supplements or come across many claims such as ‘detoxify’ or ‘regenerate’ the liver from liver supplement labels and advertisements.
Are the claims true? Does everyone need or can take supplements for liver health? Let’s discuss some popular ingredients of liver health supplements, who needs them, what to know before starting a supplement and ways to take care of our incredible organ, liver.
Common Ingredients Of Liver Health Supplements:
Most of the health supplements for the liver contain herbal ingredients, minerals and vitamins.
Milk thistle or Silybum marianum is one of the popular herbs used as an ingredient in liver health supplements. The seeds consist of silymarin, a cluster of chemical compounds said to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. With antioxidant properties, this ingredient may help protect liver cells from reactive oxygen species that can damage tissues.
Silymarin may help in the treatment of alcoholic liver cirrhosis (scarring of the liver tissue). A 2017 study found that silymarin minimally reduces certain enzyme (markers of liver damage) levels in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease patients. Though some studies suggest the milk thistle use for liver health benefits, there is a lack of high-quality scientific evidence for clinically significant benefits.
It is generally considered safe but may rarely trigger headaches, diarrhea, nausea, or other gastro-intestinal problems. Diabetic patients should be aware that milk thistle may reduce blood sugar levels and cause hypoglycemia.
Artichoke leaf may help liver cells regenerate and protect from damage. It helps increase the secretion of bile, the fluid that promotes digestion and removal of harmful toxins from the liver. A 2018 study showed that people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) consuming artichoke extract for 2 months led to improved liver function. These health benefits may be due to the presence of phytochemical compounds cynarin and silymarin.
Turmeric is a popular spice in south Asian countries. The active ingredient curcumin present in turmeric is a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. The antioxidant properties may protect the liver from free radicals and cancer risk. The turmeric extract can help stop the replication of the hepatitis B virus.
Zinc is a trace mineral which is vital for the creation of DNA, the growth of cells, and a healthy immune system. Patients with chronic liver disorders can have zinc deficiency states. A 2018 study on chronic liver disease patients found that long-term zinc supplementation improved liver function and helped decrease the risk of developing liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma).
Selenium is a trace mineral that can increase the action of antioxidants and help reduce the damage of the liver from free radicals. Patients with liver disorders have lower selenium levels than healthy individuals, and lower selenium levels can lead to serious liver conditions in them. Selenium supplementation may help reduce certain enzymes and improve liver function.
When Should I Consider Getting Supplements For Liver Health?
You might be thinking of taking supplements if you are concerned about liver health. Usually, no particular supplements are needed in a healthy individual to boost liver function.
Supplements are usually recommended for and helpful in people with liver conditions, who are on cancer treatment, people recovering from surgery, immunocompromised individuals and sports persons. In such people, the liver works overtime or is unable to help clear toxins, and liver health supplements can be helpful in enhancing liver performance.
Take Supplements For Liver Health With Care:
Supplements are usually safe in recommended quantities, but the ingredients listed in the formulation can interact with the medications you are taking and make them less effective or might increase their side effects.
Many of the ingredients lack high-quality scientific evidence, and much more studies are needed to understand their clinical significance. In rare cases, some ingredients may even increase the burden to the liver rather than support its function.
It is important to talk with the physician about all the medications you are taking, the special diets you follow, and your health conditions before starting a supplement. Avoid taking more than recommended as it can increase your risk of side effects.
Ways To Keep Your Liver Healthy:
If you think you are at risk of developing liver problems, you can adopt some healthy lifestyles to protect your liver. Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight. It can help reduce liver fat. Include foods rich in fiber. Apples, broccoli, dates, berries, spinach, lettuce, Brussel sprouts, corn, apricots, peas, raisins, and cabbage are rich in fiber. Avoid foods high in salt, fat, and sugar.
Consumption of alcohol can create many health issues. The liver is the primary victim of the organs affected by alcohol. Consume no more than the standard drink size per day. Using certain medications together with alcohol can worsen the damage. Your physician may advise you to completely avoid alcohol in such cases. Avoid direct contact with chemicals in insecticides, cleaning products, and aerosols.
Help Your Liver, Live Longer:
Liver is the body’s primary detoxifier and a healthy liver is a must for a long and happy life. Apart from the above recommendations, safe sex practices, proper hand washing practices, and keeping blood sugars in range can help protect your liver. Your doctor may recommend liver supplements for you if you have any liver conditions. If you think you need liver supplements, consult with your doctor before starting to take them.