While some liver supplements can be hugely effective for cleansing and protecting the liver, it’s important to be informed so you can steer clear of the many supplements on the market these days that simply don’t work.
Liver detoxes and cleansing have become an industry in themselves and many companies are trying to cash in with sub-par products.
This guide will help you understand what liver supplements work and why, and help you navigate your way through the many supplements you’ll find online and in health food stores.
What on Earth Are Healthy Liver Supplements?
Essentially, if it’s not medicine and it’s not a whole food, it’s probably considered a supplement.
In order for something to really be seen as a medication it needs to be approved as such by the authorities in your country. In the United States, this is the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Liver supplements can be divided into two main categories:
– 1) Over-the-counter supplements.
– 2) And natural supplements.
Of course, you should also aim to eat whole foods which promote good liver function and we’ll discuss some of those but in this article we’ll focus on real supplements in the form of teas, pills, capsules and so on.
Liver Supplements for a Natural Liver Cleansing
Chances are if you’re looking at liver cleansing you’re interested in leading a healthier, more natural lifestyle – so natural liver cleansing remedies are probably at the top of your list.
After all, liver cleansing is largely about clearing out the toxins we pick up over the years from our environments – air and water pollution as well as the herbicides and pesticides sprayed onto most supermarket food tend to clog up the human body and adversely affect the functions of various vital organs over time.
Natural Liver Supplements Are Vitamin Pills and Plant Extracts
There are a wide range of supplements that can benefit the liver without bringing any unnatural chemicals into the body. These supplements can include vitamin pills as well as extracts from liver-friendly plants like the ones listed further down the page.
A typical liver cleansing capsule product will contain extracts from plants like burdock, dandelion, calendula, turmeric, milk thistle and cleavers.
In terms of vitamin supplements that can help your liver, the most important three to look at are:
1) Vitamin A
2) Vitamin C
3) Vitamin E.
Vitamin D in particular plays a role in reducing inflammation, and vitamin A is essential for detoxification. Vitamin E’s main role in relation to the liver is to defend against damage from free radicals, which are toxins that cause damage to cells throughout the body.
Liver Supplements: Malic Acid
Malic acid is an acid with liver cleansing properties which is found in some types of fruit. It has been shown to have positive effects for helping to cleanse the body of heavy metals and other toxins. Foods that contain malic acid include apples, pears and tomatoes.
Liver Supplements: Liver Cleansing Juice Diet
1) The lemon juice cleanse.
2) The apple juice cleanse.
An alternative cleanse relies heavily on olive oil. Grapefruit juice is another popular option.
The formula for juice diets is usually fairly similar. It involves drinking a glass or two of your chosen juice every two hours for two days.
Some cleanses recommend not eating any food with your juice, although there’s little reason why you shouldn’t eat a few small meals of vegetables.
Bear in mind that a liver cleansing juice diet is not actually a necessary part of a liver cleanse. As long as you’re willing to commit to a healthy liver diet and use the right liver supplements, you can achieve a healthier liver (as long as your liver condition isn’t caused by genetic problems or hasn’t already reached a point where it requires medical attention).
Liver Supplements: Cleansing Foods for Liver
Any plan you have to cleanse your liver with supplements alone, without paying attention to your diet of whole foods, will ultimately fail. Sorry!
Unfortunately, you can’t drink a bottle of wine every night and eat nothing but cheeseburgers and then pop a few milk thistle pills to get you liver back to normal – it just doesn’t work that way!
Any course of supplements are exactly that: supplements. They supplement your diet, which itself needs to be clean and good for your liver.
So what are some cleansing foods for you liver that will help clear the body of toxins faster?
First of all, your body actually cleanses itself naturally as long as you don’t do anything too bad to it (fill it up with toxins from alcohol or unhealthy food, for instance). But by maintaining a clean and balanced diet, you can help accelerate the natural cleansing process.
Here are some recommended foods for anyone who wants to lay the best foundation for liver cleansing:
1. Virtually any food that’s high in fiber is good for liver cleansing. This includes food like oats and oatmeal, most vegetables (especially anything green), and beans.
2. Certain spices like cinnamon and turmeric contain antioxidants which can help with liver cleansing. Most people overlook the value of spices and the nutrients they contain as part of a healthy diet, but they can be a great way to ‘sneak in’ some extra liver cleansing goodness. Garlic, parsley and fennel also fall into this category.
3. Olives and tomatoes are also good foods for liver cleansing.
A varied diet is the key.
As you can see, a good liver friendly diet is likely to contain a lot of salads and meals with steamed vegetables, or stir fries cooked in a small amount of healthy fat like olive oil. Of course this doesn’t mean you have to turn vegetarian to cleanse your liver! In fact, protein is just as important to a balanced, healthy liver diet as fiber – and meat and fish are generally the best sources of protein.
Low fat meat.
But you should try to steer clear of too much fatty meat – try eating more fish, like salmon, and skinless chicken breast. (When it comes to fish you may want to avoid tuna, as a lot of tuna on the market is high in mercury which is quite toxic). Once you’ve incorporated these foods into your diet as your main sources of nutrients, then add in a few supplements. Beans and certain nuts can also be good protein sources, but steer clear of processed nuts with added sugar and salt.
Another point to take on board is the fact that many toxins don’t actually come from the foods you eat themselves – they come from the pesticides sprayed on the food. This is why you can eat a whole lot of fruit and veges and still end up with a lot of toxins in your body. The easiest solution is to simply buy certified organic food, but if you don’t want to go that far simply make sure you thoroughly wash fruit and veges before you eat them (even if you’ll be cooking them).
There are other advantages to buying organic besides just avoiding herbicides and pesticides. For example, studies have found that organic fruit and veges actually tend to have higher nutrient content than their industrial-farming grown cousins.
Organic fruit and veges generally have more antioxidants (which neutralize the effects of toxins) and higher levels of nutrients like zinc.
Liver Supplements: Avoiding the Artificial
As we’ve just touched on, chemicals added to food such as herbicides can bring toxins into your body. But there are other even more subtle ways toxins find their way into your body. Amongst these are food coloring additives, preservatives and sugar substitutes like Aspartame.
It’s common to think drinking a ‘sugar free’ drink with Aspartame in it is healthy – don’t be fooled! Aspartame and many other chemical additives and preservatives can have quite severe negative effects.
Try to avoid eating anything with fake coloration. Cake icing is a good example of this, but many foods and soda drinks in particular have coloring additives that may be harmful to not only your liver but your body in general.
You may have heard stories about people leaving a McDonald’s cheeseburger on a shelf for a year and finding it hadn’t degraded at all. Many fast food places loaded up their food with preservatives, which again can be harmful.
If you want a healthy liver, avoid fast food as much as you can.
Liver Supplements: Liver Cleansing Herbs
There are quite a few herbs that have been used throughout the ages for their ‘blood cleaning’ properties. This essentially means they help the liver do its main job which is removing toxins from the bloodstream.
In particular, Chinese and Tibetan medicine traditions have focused on holistic healing using herbs to treat the internal causes of disease (and liver dysfunction causes many and various diseases ).
Some of liver cleansing these herbs have been proven to have little or no real effects in scientific testing, but many have stood up to experimentation. Learning to grow and use these liver cleansign herbs can allow you to avoid paying big bucks for expensive liver supplements.
Here’s an overview of some of the plants that have been used traditionally to treat liver problems:
Liver supplements no. 1: Burdock
Burdock is a herb which has long been used for aiding digestion and improving the general functions of the liver. Tea made from burdock leaves is one way to get the benefits, but supplements with burdock and milk thistle are also common.
Liver supplements no. 2: Dandelion root
Dandelion tea is a favorite amongst many fans of alternative health for its liver cleansing properties.
Liver supplements no. 3: Calendula
Calendula is a form of marigold, although it’s not the same as the marigolds that grow in most people’s gardens (the more common marigold has no effects on the liver so make sure you don’t go brewing up tea from the wrong plant!).
This is one where you need to be particularly careful to follow the right dosing instructions and consult with your doctor on whether ginger supplements might conflict with any meds you’re on, as too much ginger thins the blood and may prevent blood clots from forming when necessary.
Liver supplements no. 5: Nettle
Not the most attractive plant to look at, nettle has a bit of a bad rap as a ‘weed.’ But in truth, nettle tea can be very effective as a liver supplement.
Liver supplements no. 6: Milk thistle
You can find a detailed explanation of this plant’s properties below.
Liver Supplements: Over the Counter Liver Cleanses
There is a wide range of liver cleanses available at pharmacies both online and off – most of them will include one or more of the ingredients listed above.
However, it’s important that you understand over-the-counter supplements are not the same as remedies you might grow yourself and brew into a tea.
The way the nutrients are processed and packaged has important effects on your body’s ability to absorb them.
Many of the most well-known over-the-counter liver cleanses have milk thistle as their active ingredient (more details on milk thistle can be found below).
Nature’s Milk Thistle Liver Cleanse is one such supplement which is available in capsule form.
Some people prefer to use home-made teas as they believe they’re more ‘natural’ than capsule supplements, but there’s no real basis for this belief as long as the contents of the capsules are 100% organic and natural.
The main point of difference is that some capsules don’t absorb into the body as well as when the nutrients are taken in through your diet of whole foods and drinks.
Milk Thistle Liver Supplements
It’s often held up as being the go-to ‘wonder supplement’ for people with liver problems. This is one of those traditional medicines that has been well-known for its liver cleansing and protection properties for hundreds of years.
Milk thistle is especially useful for people whose liver problems are the result of the presence of toxins – for instance, from alcohol or drug abuse – rather than purely genetic liver disease.
If your liver problems are genetic milk thistle may still have positive benefits but you’ll need to discuss with your doctor whether it would be of any use to add milk thistle liver supplements to your diet.
Milk thistle may also be used to help protect against damage from prescription medications that affect the liver. For example, many acne medications can have harmful effects on the liver. While your doctor will be monitoring your liver health with blood tests during the course of your medication, it may also be beneficial for you to fortify your liver with milk thistle tea or capsule supplements. Suggest this to your doctor and get their professional opinion before you start supplementing your diet.
The two Roles of Milk Thistle
One of the beauties of milk thistle is that is serves two roles: it helps repair and protect the liver from further damage at the same time.
Many supplements for the liver only do one or the other, or only help the liver perform a single role better – for instance, cleansing the blood.
While blood cleansing is an important liver function it’s certainly not the only one. Milk thistle helps give your liver a kind of protective ‘shell’ so that after the liver cleanses and repairs itself it’s less susceptible to toxins in the future.
Liver Supplements That Can Harm the Liver
While starting a regime of liver supplements to promote liver health is a great idea, you should also be aware that some supplements used for other purposes may actually be harming your liver. For instance, a weight loss supplement called Lipokinetix was found to be linked to the development of hepatitis (which is essentially liver inflammation).
This is why it’s so important to thoroughly research and discuss with your doctor specific supplements. This is especially true with any supplement that claims to be a ‘cure’ or claims to alter your natural body functions (Lipokinetix claimed to alter people’s metabolisms).
Many supplements related to bodybuilding have also been found to have negative effects on the liver, and the effects of steroids on the liver have long been known.
If you’ve been taking these kinds of supplements and experiencing liver problems, you’ll need to get in touch with your doctor and discuss whether the supplements may be affecting your liver.
It’s important to get your doctor’s opinion of a supplement because supplements aren’t regulated the way drugs are, so it’s relatively easy for supplement manufacturers to make false or misleading claims and it can be hard to find out the truth simply by looking online, where a manufacturer may have put effort into putting out false positive information about their supplements.
What Would You Like to Read Now After This Article on Liver Supplements?
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The Effective Liver Diet: Step by Step Guidelines to a Natural Liver Detox Diet
The Research-Based Liver Flush Guide: Beyond the Myths of Radical Detox Methods
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Symptoms of Liver Problems – How to Know if You Need a Natural Liver Detox
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Fatty Liver Disease in Depth: Typical Signs and Symptoms, Alcoholic and Non-Alcoholic Causes and Dietary & Medicine Treatments
Fatty Liver Causes: Alcoholic (AFLD) and Nonalcoholic (NAFLD) In-Depth
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