Milk Thistle, Your Liver's Best Friend

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Bloating and gas; acid reflux; constipation; inability to lose weight; chronic fatigue; hormonal imbalances… sound familiar? If you find yourself experiencing any of these symptoms on a regular basis, it could be a sign that your liver is overburdened and is not functioning optimally. It may be time to give it a boost from its BFF, milk thistle!

The liver is the body’s single most important detoxifying organ, converting toxic substances into harmless materials that can be excreted from the body. This is vitally important in our modern world, where we are constantly bombarded with a laundry list of toxins. The liver is also in charge of regulating our blood supply; metabolizing carbohydrates, fats, and protein; aiding in proper digestion and the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins; producing essential proteins and cholesterol; as well as storing key vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, D, K, and B12 and iron. With this round-the-clock work, and the ever-increasing amount of toxins we are exposed to daily, our livers need extra nutritional support to keep them functioning at peak performance. 

 

General Liver Detoxification

Without a doubt, milk thistle is a powerful liver cleanser. While it helps to remove toxins from the body, it also repairs damaged liver cells, returning them to a functional, healthy state. Milk thistle can naturally reverse the harmful effects of so many harmful—yet common— substances, including alcohol, sugar, pesticides in our food supply, heavy metals in our water supply, and pollution in the air. It can also reduce liver damage caused by acetaminophen, chemotherapy and radiation, and certain poisonous mushrooms. 

The health of the body’s blood is also heavily dependent on liver health, which is yet another reason that optimal liver function is so important. As a blood purifier, the liver needs to actively clean the blood around-the-clock in order to support every system in our bodies. By helping the liver to detoxify, milk thistle also naturally helps in this essential blood purification process.

Finally, milk thistle has been shown to restore and/or maintain glutathione levels in the liver. Glutathione is the body’s most powerful endogenous antioxidant and plays a myriad of important roles in health, including maintaining normal detoxification. 

Treatment Of Liver Diseases

A startling observational study published in the British Medical Journal earlier this year reported that deaths from liver cirrhosis have surged in the United States, especially among millennials. From 1999 to 2016, deaths from cirrhosis (the end stage of liver disease) increased by 65 percent, while deaths from liver cancer doubled. The increases are thought to be driven by the increasing prevalence of alcoholic liver disease and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.  Milk thistle is one of the most well-researched plants for the treatment of liver disease, including alcoholic liver disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and viral hepatitis. 

Human and animal studies have shown that silymarin, an active compound in milk thistle, can prevent and normalize alcohol-induced damage in the liver and improve liver health and function in cases of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Silymarin also acts as a potent antioxidant, fending off disease-causing free radicals while also preventing toxic buildup in liver cells. It’s one of the reasons why milk thistle is so incredible at protecting the liver from damage. 

Supplementing With Milk Thistle

There are many ways to incorporate milk thistle into your daily routine, as the seeds and leaves of the milk thistle plant can be consumed either in pill, powder, tincture, extract, or tea form.

As a way to detoxify the body, the recommended daily intake of milk thistle extract is 150 milligrams, taken two to three times daily for several months. This is not an amount that is needed by everyone for everyday support but can act as a natural liver “detox.” For ongoing use and general liver support, take 150 milligrams daily. 

I recommend looking for a high-quality product that’s between 150 to 250 milligrams of milk thistle extract per capsule, so you can adjust the amount you are taking depending on your needs. You should also look for products that are labeled as standardized to contain at least 80% silymarin. Silymarin is a phytonutrient found in milk thistle, and it is why milk thistle is one of the best nutrients to support liver health and daily detoxification.

Your liver works hard to keep metabolic processes running smoothly and your body free of harmful toxins, but in our modern day lives, it’s easy for this important organ to become overburdened and congested. Take the time to give it a little extra support with milk thistle. 

'Tis The Season For Sugar

By Lindsay Wilson

Are you ready? The sugar rush is almost here. It starts with Halloween and is followed by two more months of overindulging… in food in general, but more importantly, in candy and sweets. A little sweet treat now and then doesn’t hurt, but when “now and then” becomes every day, there’s a problem, sometimes a life-threatening problem.

We all know that obesity rates have skyrocketed in the U.S., among adults and children alike. But did you know that nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is also on the rise? And it is directly linked with obesity, which is linked with high sugar intake, especially high-fructose corn syrup.  NAFLD is fat accumulation in the liver, which can lead to inflammation and liver cell damage, and in the worst cases can progress to fi fibrosis, cirrhosis, and liver cancer. According to the National Institutes of Health, up to 40 percent of adults in the U.S. have NAFLD.  Rates among children have also tripled since the late 1980s, affecting up to 38 percent of obese children. 

Maintaining a healthy weight, drastically reducing sugar intake, and staying active are lifestyle habits that are critical in preventing or reversing NAFLD, but you also have a friend in milk thistle. Compounds in milk thistle have been shown to protect the liver from NAFLD in a number of ways, including having antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antifibrotic (preventing thickening and scarring of liver tissue) properties, and stimulating liver regeneration.  

References available upon request.