The World’s #1 Nutrient to Protect Your Liver
Written by: Mike Westerdal, Sports Nutrition Certified
A working liver is highly essential for normal body function and for life itself. That’s because it performs a range of duties and is constantly at work, keeping us healthy and operating at optimal levels.
The liver is the largest gland in the body and is responsible for tasks like removing used up blood cells, ridding the body of various toxins, aiding the digestive process and supporting a healthy metabolism.
The liver also processes nutrients in the blood and turns them into proteins and cholesterol, and converts glucose into glycogen. The liver is essential to helping your body run like a well-oiled machine.
Although it processes practically everything the body ingests, the liver is susceptible to damage. And when the liver isn’t functioning as it should, the rest of our body suffers. Alcohol abuse, steroids, poor diet and high use of certain medications can be harsh on the liver and result in it either not working properly or not working at all.
A malfunctioning liver would not only cause a buildup of toxins in your blood, it could trigger a breakdown in a number of other support systems in the body – any of which could be debilitating or even deadly. If this liver is unable to function properly and filter dangerous toxins from our bodies, the outcomes can be serious.
Should the liver fail, hepatitic encephalopathy can result, causing confusion and other mental symptoms, along malnutrition, weight loss, hemorrhaging or even worse. Therefore, it is very important to invest in your health by treating your liver right and nourishing it by consuming foods and supplements that will keep it healthy. Among the most beneficial supplements that has been shown to protect the liver is Milk Thistle.
What is Milk Thistle?
Milk Thistle, also called “St. Mary’s Thistle” and “Holy Thistle,” is a plant related to the daisy. It can grow to be several feet tall. Its earliest recorded use dates back to the 4th Century B.C. and it has been mentioned throughout history, almost always referring to its use in treating ailments of the liver and for fixing bile disorders.
Southern Europe is where it is believed to have originated, with Germany being one of the main growers. As a matter of fact, Milk Thistle is commonly sold in Germany as a liver ailment treatment more than anywhere else in the world. It is also found in Southern Russia and North Africa and has become naturalized in both North and South America.
All parts of the plant are useful, with the seeds being mostly used for medicine and the other parts used for food and other purposes. Its active ingredient is Silymarin, an anti-inflammatory agent, which is also an antioxidant. Research has indicated that it works by retarding the actions of toxins and alcohol, which can result in hardening of the liver (Cirrhosis) and inhibits their potency. More recent research has been done to find out its efficacy in treating Diabetes and other lifestyle diseases, with varying results.
Nowadays, Milk Thistle is sold widely in supplement form, with many people swearing by its effectiveness. It has stood out as one of the most successful nutrients in fighting diseases of the liver such as Cirrhosis and Hepatitis C, as well as for bile disorders. Despite its popularity and reputation, it is only in recent decades that scientists have conducted serious research on its effectiveness.
While many studies have pointed out the need for more in-depth research, most have forged a link between its use and some degree of positive reactions in patients with liver problems and other ailments. In fact, the Mayo Clinic, in assessing its efficacy in treating Cirrhosis has given the herb a B rating, indicating that there is good scientific evidence to support its use in treating the disease. It received a similar rating for chronic liver disease and other non-liver related diseases such as Diabetes.
The Mayo Clinic, like many organizations involved in assessing research material, uses a rating system starting from the letter A (strongest) to evaluate the strength of evidence suggesting effectiveness from using a particular substance to treat a disease or ailment. The strength of the evidence is based on a number of European studies, which have suggested that patients with liver ailments have had improvements in their conditions after prolonged use of Milk Thistle.
Some of these studies have covered long periods of time – up to five years – so it is clear that the herb has some amount of clout, despite the observance of many that more research is needed in the future.
There are some foods that contain silymarin (milk thistle). Some examples are wild artichokes, turmeric root, and coriander seeds. It is also found in trace amounts in dark-skinned grapes, beet greens, peanuts and most berries.
However you wouldn’t be able to eat enough of the foods above to make a major difference. A much easier route is to take a silymarin milk thistle supplement which you can find on Amazon for less than $20 a bottle.
I recommend Milk Thistle from Critical Nutrition. It’s available from the world’s most trusted retailer Amazon.com. The reason I like Critical Nutrition is that they manufacture their Milk Thistle in an FDA approved facility in USA that adheres to the strictest general manufacturing practices (GMP) and each batch they produce comes with a certificate of analysis verifying that you get what’s on the label.
If you consume alcohol or take prescription medications or eat a lot of processed foods, I’d highly recommend getting some milk thistle into your system as “liver insurance”.