The human liver is a large, critical organ that serves multiple metabolic functions. Having an awareness of your liver and how to take care of it can be very important, especially for the long term. Here is a look at what the liver does, and how you can best ensure that yours will stay healthy over time.
The Roles of The Liver
The liver plays a role in all the metabolic functions that take place in your body. Some of these individual functions include breaking down fats into usable energy, breaking down carbohydrates and supplying glucose to the blood, and breaking down proteins to be used throughout the body. The liver produces substances, too. It produces bile, which is critical for the digestive process. It also produces albumin, which is a blood protein that transports various important substances throughout the body. The liver also helps remove toxins (e.g. alcohol, ammonia produced as a byproduct of bodily processes), and it helps facilitate immune responses to infections.
Taking Care of Your Liver
Like other aspects of your health, you have some control over the well-being and health of your liver. Alternatively, there are medical conditions which can leave a person’s liver in poor health, and these conditions can be generally referred to as liver disease.
One form of liver disease is cholestasis, wherein bile flow is inhibited. Another is hepatitis, which is inflammation of the liver, and cirrhosis is the hardening of the liver. Each of these conditions has a range of possible causes, and alcohol use (or excessive or prolonged use) is a potential factor in all of them.
As stated previously, you can make positive choices to bolster the health of your liver. An active lifestyle with regular watching, stretching, and varied physical activity all help support liver health. Avoiding nicotine & tobacco products, and limiting alcohol intake, are both helpful to the liver. A well-balanced diet and healthy cholesterol levels also help. For diabetic individuals, keeping blood sugar at normal levels is beneficial for liver health.
Natural Supplements to Support the Liver
There are a few herbs and supplements which can almost certainly be helpful to the health and longevity of one’s liver. However, supplements are by nature an addendum to a healthy diet and lifestyle choices, not a replacement. It should be noted that some supplements on the market have been found to have negative health effects on the liver, per consumerreports.org. Talk to your doctor before trying any new products.
Milk thistle is an herb which has been used in clinical trials to treat some forms of liver disease, and positive results have been found. A decrease in mortality related to liver disease was identified in those who used milk thistle. It might also help curb inflammation that occurs due to hepatitis.
Ginseng is an herb that works as an antioxidant that can potentially prevent liver injury that would occur due to the presence of toxins, such as alcohol and viruses. Those results are merely from animal studies, however, while some human studies show ginseng may improve liver functioning and reduce symptoms in those with liver disease.
Garlic is a plant (commonly available in supplement form) that contains a variety of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory substances that support the liver. It has also been found to help reduce the accumulation of fat on the liver, and reduce incidence of fatty liver disease in men.
Burdock is an herb that might be specifically beneficial in reducing damage done to the liver from acetaminophen. Acetaminophen is a common over-the-counter pain remedy.
Turmeric has been shown to be useful in treating hepatitis by reducing the replication of hepatitis cells. This applies to hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.
Whether or not you have had liver issues before, and whether or not you consume alcohol on a regular basis, it’s important to consciously take good care of this critical organ. Keep the above recommendations in mind when considering how to take care of your liver, and always speak to your doctor before taking a new supplement.