Is Your Liver Acting a Bit Sluggish? Consider the Benefits of Milk Thistle, Artichoke Leaf, and Dandelion
The liver is tasked with over 500 important jobs. Primarily, your liver functions like a large filter, keeping toxins out and working quickly to expel those that do find their way in.
In addition to filtering toxins from the body, the liver also:
- Purifies the blood
- Produces bile
- Releases glucose into the bloodstream to maintain energy
- Metabolizes medication into nontoxic forms the body can use
- Rids the blood of poisons
- Produce cholesterol and proteins so fats can move more easily through the body
Plain and simple, the liver is your body’s work horse.
Just by the nature of its function, the liver tends to undergo tremendous stress and seems to work an endless amount of overtime – which tends to take a serious toll on its ability to function efficiently. Alcohol, fatty foods, medication - both prescribed and over the counter - as well as environmental pollutants and carcinogens all contribute to a sluggish liver; overtime this can also contribute to serious health conditions and even liver disease.
Signs of a “Sluggish” Liver
One of the liver’s primary functions is to make bile, when it is not making enough; digestive issues ensue in the form of bloating, loss of appetite, inability to digest fatty foods, and constipation. Other signs of a sluggish liver often include skin irritations, hormonal imbalances, high cholesterol, brain fog, fatigue, and chronic bad breath.
If any (or many) of these symptoms ring true for you, your liver may be in need of a natural supplement that encourages cleansing and detoxification. Several natural ingredients have been associated with cleansing and protections from various toxins, including milk thistle, artichoke leaf, and dandelion.
Used as a healing agent since 40 A.D., milk thistle is still highly touted for its cleansing and regenerative properties. Milk thistle’s name stems from the milky white sap that seeps out when the plant’s leaves are crushed. Milk thistle’s benefits are believed to stem from the antioxidant and flavonoid known as silymarin
Silymarin is found within the seeds of milk thistle, and it is an antifibrotic that is believed to prevent toxins from binding to the walls of the liver. This means that milk thistle is not only a powerful tool in preventing toxins from getting in to the liver, but also helps toxins process faster so they can leave the body ASAP. Silymarin also plays a pivotal role in minimizing the effects of toxins such as alcohol, antibiotics, and radiation treatment. It also has a prominent role in limiting the effects of liver damage caused by air and water pollutants, as well as pesticides found on the foods we eat.
Silymarin also increases levels of glutathione, a powerful antioxidant, and an essential ingredient in detoxing the liver. Drinking alcohol can have a major impact on glutathione levels, causing them to decline exponentially. Milk thistle is believed to protect this from happening, and actually increases glutathione levels, even during exposure to alcohol and other potentially harmful toxins.
Milk thistle also reduces the risk of injury to the liver caused by acetaminophen, excess iron levels, radiation, and carcinogens present in many cleaning supplies. Additionally, milk thistle has been used to treat liver disease and helps with enzyme formation, bile formation, and works as an anti-inflammatory, not just within the liver, but throughout the entire body.
Artichoke is a member of the milk thistle family, so it stands to reason that it too would be a great asset to increasing liver health.
Used to treat liver problems since the eighteenth-century, artichoke contains cynarin, a phenolic acid that stimulates production of bile in the liver and then promotes the purging of that bile from the system.
Without cynarin and its ability to increase bile production, the health of your liver could be in jeopardy. If bile cannot efficiently make its way to the gallbladder, the liver’s chances of sustaining damaged increases.
Dandelions are a bitter food, and “bitter foods have a cleansing effect on your liver.” Dandelion is also a mild diuretic, which can have cleansing and detoxifying effects. It has also been used in the treat gallstones and gallbladder infections, as well as hepatitis. Like milk thistle, dandelion has been found to reduce risk of liver damage caused by acetaminophen. This is due in large part to polysaccharides found in dandelion root.
The best way to protect your liver is to steer clear of environmental pollutants, antibiotics, alcohol and fatty foods. Avoiding these things isn’t always possible, especially in the case of antibiotics, fatty foods, and environmental pollutants. Taking milk thistle, artichoke leaf, and/or dandelion in any of its many forms – extract, tea, pill, or consuming them in their natural state – will help prevent future damage and will support healing of damage that has already been done. Include any one of these three in your diet as a stand-alone or in a supplement and you’ll be well on your way to optimal liver health.