As the body’s largest organ, the liver performs over 500 functions, including processing everything we eat, drink or otherwise ingest. Daily lifestyle habits can either support or harm liver health. Consuming a high fiber, balanced diet filled with colorful antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, drinking plenty of water, exercising regularly, limiting alcohol consumption and maintaining a normal healthy weight are all factors that contribute to proper healthy liver function. Conversely, a sedentary lifestyle, an ultraprocessed diet laden with added sugar, unhealthy fats, sodium and fried foods, high alcohol consumption and excessive weight gain all put a strain on this hardworking vital organ. The journey to liver wellness begins with mindful eating, as well as a commitment to exercising three to five days each week. Daily exercise? Even better!
A reduced calorie, low sugar, low refined carbohydrate, anti-inflammatory diet can lead to improvements in liver health, and also reduces fat stored in the liver and midsection. The liver must convert surplus calories to glycogen, which is stored in the muscles, and to fat, most of which is stored in the liver and around our midsection. While there is limited storage space for glycogen, there is no limit to the amount of fat that can be created and stored. In the U.S. about 80 million people are believed to have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a common chronic condition closely linked to obesity, metabolic syndrome, high cholesterol and diabetes. Not to be confused with chronic, largely irreversible alcoholic liver disease, NAFLD is reversible in the early stages but can lead to serious health risks, including liver failure and liver cancer. NAFLD impairs toxin removal and bile production for digestion, as well as other vital liver functions.
Physical activity is a proven therapeutic strategy to improve NAFLD. Aerobic exercise helps to burn carbohydrates, proteins and fats, leading to more efficient processing and less fat storage by the liver. Studies have found that participating in endurance or resistance training several times a week can significantly reduce the amount of fat stored in liver cells, independent of weight loss. High intensity interval training (HIIT) has been shown to be beneficial in decreasing liver fat as well. Consistent low intensity exercise can also be effective at targeting liver and abdominal fat. Studies have shown that exercise consistency is more crucial than exercise intensity. As such, those with NAFLD have a choice of training methods that can be tailored to individual preferences based on the highest likelihood of long-term compliance.
Certain supplements can support efficient liver function and may enhance the effects of dietary and lifestyle changes. A healthy diet that provides a wide range of phytonutrients and antioxidant compounds can assist with detoxification. Therapeutic use of milk thistle, known for its liver-protective effects, can be traced back to antiquity, where it was traditionally used to treat liver and gallbladder disorders. Believed to support liver health and protect liver cells from toxin exposure, milk thistle comprises a group of plant compounds collectively known as silymarin. Silymarin is commonly recommended to counteract the harmful effects of alcohol on the liver, as well as speed the regeneration of injured liver cells. Due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, silymarin may also counteract cellular free radical damage and reduce inflammation in the bile ducts. Controlled studies have found that supplementing with DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, may aid the reduction of both liver and belly fat. Berberine, a plant compound, has been shown to reduce blood sugar and cholesterol levels and improve insulin sensitivity, benefitting those with NAFLD.
While further studies are needed, following a healthy diet, increasing physical activity and supplementing to reduce liver fat may help reverse NAFLD in its early stages, thereby decreasing the risk of progression to more serious and life threatening liver disease.
Professional Supplement Center offers these and other high quality supplements in support of healthy liver function and overall health:
Silymarin Milk Thistle Extract by Pure Encapsulations®: One serving provides 250 mg of milk thistle standardized to contain 80% silymarin and formulated to nutritionally support liver health and function. Gluten free, Non-GMO, hypoallergenic formulation.
Professional Choice Omega by Professional Supplement Center®: Professional Choice Omega Alaskan IFOS Five-Star Certified fish oil provides EPA and DHA in support of healthy glucose and insulin metabolism, and cardiovascular, joint, brain, nervous system and liver health. Free of wheat, gluten, corn, yeast, soy protein, dairy products, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, eggs and artificial colors, sweeteners and preservatives. Non-GMO formulation.
Berberine 500 mg by Integrative Therapeutics®: An active constituent of plants, berberine has been utilized in traditional medicine systems for centuries. This product is formulated to support blood sugar, lipid and insulin metabolism, as well as metabolic and cardiovascular function. Free of sugar, salt, yeast, wheat, gluten, corn, soy, dairy products and artificial colors, flavors and preservatives. Vegetarian formulation.
Ultra Liver Support by Douglas Laboratories®: This product is formulated with a synergistic blend of ingredients believed to support liver function and structure. Ingredients include extracts of milk thistle, dandelion, broccoli, schisandra, barberry and bilberry. Gluten free, Non-GMO formulation.
The Effects of Physical Exercise on Fatty Liver Disease. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5954622/
Fatty Liver: What It Is, and How to Get Rid of It. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/fatty-liver
Milk Thistle. https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/hn-2130007