It’s common knowledge that everything we eat and drink moves through the digestive system. But did you know that everything we ingest, including nutrients, medications, and toxic substances, must be processed by the liver before anything can be utilized, altered, stored, detoxified, or eliminated by the body? A healthy diet and lifestyle helps to support this hard working, often underrated, but vitally important organ that plays a central role in metabolic homeostasis. Second only to the brain in its list of essential bodily functions, the liver is the lone organ that can regenerate and return to normal function if damaged or partially removed.
Each organ plays a role in maintaining homeostasis, or a balanced, at-rest state of the body. While the body’s detoxification system includes the lungs, the skin, the digestive system and the kidneys, the liver is the body’s major detoxification center. In addition to the chemicals we inhale, apply to our bodies, or ingest; the liver must filter bio-toxic metabolites, or waste by-products, produced by the body throughout every metabolic pathway.
Extremely important to energy production, the liver is tasked with carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism, transforming amino acids from proteins, producing bile for fat digestion and absorption, and releasing a steady flow of glucose from carbohydrates. Liver cells regulate blood glucose concentrations within a narrow, normal range. As an indispensable fuel for all cells and organs, a constant and steady supply of glucose must be maintained; while at the same time, health damaging elevated glucose levels must be controlled. As blood sugar levels fall, the liver releases newly synthesized or stored glucose. Working in tandem with insulin, when blood sugar is high, the liver converts and stores glucose to be utilized as needed.
The liver is known to perform hundreds of crucial functions, including the synthesis of cholesterol, phospholipids, non-essential amino acids, and blood plasma proteins, as well as immune and clotting factors. It regulates blood clotting and blood levels of amino acids; processes hemoglobin and stores iron; and converts ammonia, a byproduct of protein metabolism, to urea for excretion; all the while cleansing the blood of toxic substances and byproducts.
High cholesterol, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, abdominal obesity, diabetes, and excessive alcohol consumption are high risk factors for developing liver disease. Since it is always preferable to prevent rather than treat disease, it makes good sense to take steps that support liver health.
The American Liver Foundation recommends:
- Maintaining a healthy weight to avoid the accumulation of liver fat that can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
- Eating a well balance diet, high in fiber, low in refined carbs and sugar, and moderate in good fats from fish, nuts and seeds.
- Exercising regularly to burn triglycerides for fuel and reduce liver fat.
- Using alcohol responsibly to avoid damage to liver cells.
- Carefully following medication directions, including the use of over-the-counter medications, such as pain relievers, that have been shown to be detrimental to liver health when used indiscriminately.
- Practicing safe sex to reduce the risk of contracting hepatitis B and C.
- Avoiding toxic chemicals found in household products, insecticides and personal hygiene products.
Foods and supplements that provide nutritional support for liver health and function include the following:
Garlic supplies allicin and selenium, powerful nutrients that aid the detoxication process.
Green tea contains catechins, antioxidants from plants that promote proper liver function and protect against toxin and liver fat accumulation.
Dark leafy greens contain cleansing compounds that help to neutralize pesticides, herbicides and heavy metals.
Avocado is rich in glutathione-producing compounds that actively promote liver health and boost its cleansing powers.
Walnuts are rich in healthy fats, l-arginine, and glutathione, which aid the liver in detoxifying ammonia.
Turmeric provides curcuminoids, powerful anti-inflammatory compounds; and helps to maintain a healthy liver by boosting bile and enzyme production, protecting against toxic damage, and improving overall function.
NAC or N-acetylcysteine is tapped to synthesize glutathione, a powerful antioxidant utilized throughout the body.
Alpha lipoic acid has been shown to have hepatic-protective benefits.
Silymarin has been used traditionally for centuries as a natural treatment for liver health and is commonly known as milk thistle.
Professional Supplement Center offers these and other high quality formulations in support of healthy liver function and overall health:
NAC by Integrative Therapeutics®: This well absorbed formula provides 600 mg of N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine per serving in support of antioxidant protection and glutathione production. Free of gluten, wheat, soy, dairy, yeast, preservatives, and artificial ingredients.
Garlic Force™ by New Chapter: This pure and potent garlic extract with complementary herbs delivers beneficial whole food nutrients in support of free radical protection and cardiovascular health. Naturally gluten free, Non-GMO formulation.
Curcumin 500 with Bioperine® by Pure Encapsulations®: Formulated to support the body’s natural inflammatory response and promote healthy liver, colon, musculoskeletal and cellular function, this product supplies turmeric, standardized to contain 95% curcuminoids, and Bioperine ®, a black pepper extract that enhances bioavailability and absorption. Gluten and soy free, Non-GMO vegetarian formulation.
Alpha Lipoic Acid by 200 mg by Pure Encapsulations®: This multi-functional and versatile nutrient offers free radical protection, and provides support for nerve health, cardiovascualar function, and glucose metabolism. Gluten and soy free, Non-GMO vegetarian formulation.
Silymarin/Milk Thistle Extract by Douglas Laboratories: The natural protective and regenerative properties of silymarin have been shown to support and enhance normal liver function, as well as the repair and replacement of damaged cells. Free of wheat, gluten, soy, yeast, dairy and artificial ingredients.
The role of the liver in metabolic homeostasis: implications for inborn errors of metabolism. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1749209
Anatomy and Function of the Human Liver. http://www.innerbody.com/image_digeov/card10-new2.html
Liver: Anatomy and Functions. http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/liver_biliary_and_pancreatic_disorders/liver_anatomy_and_functions_85,P00676/
How does the liver work? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0072577/
Metabolic Functions of the Liver. http://www.vivo.colostate.edu/hbooks/pathphys/digestion/liver/metabolic.html
The Liver Lowdown. http://www.liverfoundation.org/education/liverlowdown/ll1013/13ways/
Quantifying the Contribution of the Liver to Glucose Homeostasis. http://journals.plos.org/ploscompbiol/article?id=10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002577