In a world rife with toxic exposures, you must protect your liver as if your life depends on it -- because it does. Here are five substances that can help keep your hardest working organ humming
Your liver is one of the hardest working organs in your body, regulating an array of biological processes that are critical to health, such as metabolism, blood sugar, plasma and cholesterol production, and the removal and breakdown of toxins in the blood, to name only a few.
Liver diseases, also called hepatic diseases, are among the most serious threats to human health.[i] Adding to the risk is the lack of safe and effective treatments,[ii] as most synthetic drug-based interventions carry black-box warnings of potentially serious adverse side effects.
Five Hepatoprotective Substances
With modern life producing more pollutants than ever before and the standard American diet supplying a deluge of sugar and ultra-processed foods, it's no surprise that your liver may benefit from an occasional boost of gentle nutritional support.
We've identified five of the top hepatoprotective substances on the planet to make it easy for natural health enthusiasts to stock their herbal medicine cabinets. In fact, a few of them may already be in your kitchen pantry. Adding therapeutic doses of these five foods is not only simple and convenient, they can also supply a boost of nutrients to keep your liver nourished and protected while it's protecting you.
One of the active polyphenols in the spice turmeric, curcumin has numerous scientifically validated health benefits, including providing liver protection.[iii] Curcuminoids are responsible for the bright yellow color of turmeric and are also believed to deliver many of this spice's beneficial properties, among which are powerful antioxidant effects.[iv]
Oxidative stress can cause a host of inflammatory injuries that damage healthy cells. A Chinese research team explored the use of curcumin to alleviate damage to liver cells caused by exposure to ethanol, the intoxicating ingredient found in many alcoholic beverages.
In the study, rats that were pretreated with curcumin before exposure to ethanol demonstrated less oxidative damage through measured enzymatic activity. Researchers concluded that oxidative damage to liver cells was significantly ameliorated by curcumin treatment.[v]
While it's common knowledge that consuming excessive alcohol can damage the liver, eating a primarily processed food diet may be just as hepatotoxic in the long-term. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a global health concern affecting people who drink little to no alcohol. In the U.S., NAFLD is the most common form of chronic liver disease,[vi] likely owing to the sad state of the standard American diet.
When it comes to popular dietary habits, there is perhaps none more enduring than morning coffee, and fortunately for coffee's many fans, it may also help protect against liver disease.
A 2016 meta-analysis compared the risk of NAFLD for individuals who did and did not drink coffee. It also compared the risk of liver fibrosis, the excessive build-up of proteins that occurs in many liver diseases, between NAFLD patients who did and did not drink coffee. The analysis showed a significantly decreased risk of NAFLD among coffee drinkers, as well as a significantly decreased risk of liver fibrosis among patients with NAFLD who drank coffee on a regular basis.[vii]
3. NAC (N-Acetyl Cysteine)
N-acetyl cysteine, or NAC, is a precursor of the amino acid L-cysteine that acts as a potent antioxidant. While L-cysteine is found in foods like poultry, eggs, yogurt and sulfur-rich vegetables, NAC can only be obtained in supplement form.[viii] NAC works by scavenging free radicals, especially oxygen radicals, making it a potentially powerful ally in the treatment of oxidative stress, a crucial factor in liver diseases.[ix]
The prescription of high-dose acetaminophen (APAP) for mild-to-moderate pain management is still commonplace, though it is increasingly recognized as high-risk. As a result of data revealing unintentional overdoses, in 2011 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asked pharmaceutical companies to limit the amount of APAP used in prescription pain relievers owing to risks of severe, even lethal, drug-induced liver failure.[x]
NAC has demonstrated significant promise as a hepatoprotective substance partly due to its ability to efficiently block acetaminophen toxicity. A 2015 study showed that administration of NAC within eight hours of APAP overdose effectively mitigates hepatotoxicity, advising that this over-the-counter supplement “can provide a convenient and effective way of preventing toxicity associated with large dosage of APAP.”[xi]
Responsible for the pharmacological effects of ginseng, ginsenosides play a critical role in the body's inflammatory and disease responses and have shown impressive potential in the prevention and treatment of liver diseases. Clinical studies have shown the ameliorative effects of ginsenosides against acetaminophen-induced hepatotoxicity.[xii],[xiii]
Another recent study demonstrated that the anti-inflammatory power of ginsenosides promotes the healthy metabolism of fat by the liver and may alleviate liver injury in patients with fatty liver disease.[xiv] This potent polyphenol comes in supplement form as an extract of the Panax ginseng root and makes a great addition to a smoothie or nutritional shake.
5. Vitamin E
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble nutrient found in many foods, including wheat germ, nuts, seeds and green vegetables. Important for eye health and the quality of blood and tissue, vitamin E's antioxidant properties also play a role in healthy liver function. A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials found that vitamin E supplementation significantly improved liver function and the quality of liver cells and tissues in patients with NAFLD.[xv]
Vitamin E also protected the liver against oxidative damage caused by exposure to formaldehyde.[xvi] Formaldehyde is one of the most common home and industrial toxins in use today, found in products like carpeting, curtains, wood cabinets and furnishings, and products such as glues, paints, pesticides, cosmetics and detergents.[xvii]
Protecting Your Liver -- For Life
In our modern, chemical-filled world, a healthy liver is essential to stay ahead of the toxic curve. Protect yours naturally -- your life depends on it. To learn more about liver diseases and naturally hepatotoxic substances, consult GreenMedInfo.com's research database for up-to-the-minute science-based natural health information.
[iv] Curcumin: From ancient medicine to current clinical trials. H. Hatcher, R. Planalp, J. Cho, F. M. Torti, S. V. Torti. Cell Mol Life Sci. 2008 Jun; 65(11): 1631-1652. doi: 10.1007/s00018-008-7452-4. PMID: 18324353
[v] Wei Bao, Ke Li, Shuang Rong, Ping Yao, Liping Hao, Chenjiang Ying, Xiping Zhang, Andreas Nussler, Liegang Liu. Curcumin alleviates ethanol-induced hepatocytes oxidative damage involving heme oxygenase-1 induction. J Ethnopharmacol. 2010 Jan 18. Epub 2010 Jan 18. PMID: 20080166
[vi] Mayo Clinic, Diseases and Conditions, Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/nonalcoholic-fatty-liver-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20354567
[vii] Karn Wijarnpreecha, Charat Thongprayoon, Patompong Ungprasert. Coffee consumption and risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2016 Nov 7. Epub 2016 Aug 7. PMID: 27824642
[x] FDA.gov, Drugs, Drug Safety and Availability, FDA Drug Safety Communication: Prescription Acetaminophen Products to be Limited to 325 mg Per Dosage Unit; Boxed Warning Will Highlight Potential for Severe Liver Failure, https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/fda-drug-safety-communication-prescription-acetaminophen-products-be-limited-325-mg-dosage-unit
[xi] Solomon E Owumi, James P Andrus, Leonard A Herzenberg, Leonore A Herzenberg. Co-administration of N-Acetylcysteine and Acetaminophen Efficiently Blocks Acetaminophen Toxicity. Drug Dev Res. 2015 Aug ;76(5):251-8. Epub 2015 Aug 7. PMID: 26250417
[xii] Jun-Nan Hu, Zhi Liu, Zi Wang, Xin-Dian Li, Lian-Xue Zhang, Wei Li, Ying-Ping Wang. Ameliorative Effects and Possible Molecular Mechanism of Action of Black Ginseng (Panax ginseng) on Acetaminophen-Mediated Liver Injury. Molecules. 2017 Apr 21 ;22(4). Epub 2017 Apr 21. PMID: 28430162
[xiii] Shen Ren, Jing Leng, Xing-Yue Xu, Shuang Jiang, Ying-Ping Wang, Xiao-Tong Yan, Zhi Liu, Chen Chen, Zi Wang, Wei Li. Ginsenoside Rb1, A Major Saponin from, Exerts Protective Effects Against Acetaminophen-Induced Hepatotoxicity in Mice. Am J Chin Med. 2019 Dec 2:1-17. Epub 2019 Dec 2. PMID: 31786947
[xiv] Yunhe Hou, Danshan Gu, Jianzhi Peng, Kerong Jiang, Zhigang Li, Jing Shi, Shikun Yang, Shude Li, Xiaoming Fan. Ginsenoside Rg1 Regulates Liver Lipid Factor Metabolism in NAFLD Model Rats. ACS Omega. 2020 May 19 ;5(19):10878-10890. Epub 2020 May 5. PMID: 32455208
[xv] Ken Sato, Masahiko Gosho, Takaya Yamamoto, Yuji Kobayashi, Norimitsu Ishii, Tomohiko Ohashi, Yukiomi Nakade, Kiyoaki Ito, Yoshitaka Fukuzawa, Masashi Yoneda. Vitamin E has a beneficial effect on nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Nutrition. 2015 Jul-Aug;31(7-8):923-30. Epub 2014 Dec 24. PMID: 26059365
[xvi] Mukaddes Gulec, Ahmet Gurel, Ferah Armutcu. Vitamin E protects against oxidative damage caused by formaldehyde in the liver and plasma of rats. Mol Cell Biochem. 2006 Oct ;290(1-2):61-7. Epub 2006 Aug 26. PMID: 16937016