The Best Supplements for Liver Health: A Comprehensive Guide

The liver plays a crucial role in our overall health, responsible for filtering toxins, breaking down fats, and supporting various bodily functions. Maintaining optimal liver function is essential due to increased exposure to pollutants and unhealthy lifestyle choices.

This article will provide a comprehensive guide on the best supplements for liver health, focusing on the most effective nutrients that support liver function. Continue reading to discover the top supplements for liver health and their benefits.

What is the Function of the Liver?

The liver is a vital organ that plays several crucial roles in the human body, making it essential to maintain health. It is responsible for detoxifying harmful substances, metabolizing nutrients, producing bile for digestion, regulating blood sugar levels, and storing vitamins and minerals.

A healthy liver ensures our bodies function effectively and efficiently. However, poor lifestyle choices, exposure to toxins, and certain medical conditions can affect liver health. Common signs and symptoms indicating a need for liver support include fatigue, loss of appetite, headaches, yellowing of the skin, weight gain, and acne. Recognizing these symptoms early and improving liver health can prevent further damage and promote overall well-being.

Tips for Maintaining Optimal Liver Health

Several lifestyle factors can lead to liver damage, such as excessive alcohol consumption, poor diet, lack of physical activity, exposure to harmful chemicals, and neglecting regular medical checkups. To support liver health, making positive changes in these areas is essential.

Limit alcohol intake, as excessive consumption can cause liver inflammation and scarring. Maintain a healthy diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats to provide essential nutrients for liver function and prevent non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Regular physical activity is important, as movement helps burn triglycerides, reducing liver fat.

Be cautious about the products you use, avoiding exposure to risky chemicals, which can be found in some cleaning agents, pesticides, and personal care items. Schedule routine medical checkups, as early detection and intervention can prevent further liver damage and ensure overall health. Following these steps can safeguard your liver and promote long-term well-being.

Should I Take Supplements for Liver Health?

Liver health supplements can offer numerous advantages, such as aiding liver detoxification, supporting healthy liver function, and promoting overall well-being. These supplements often contain nutrients and antioxidants that help neutralize toxins, reduce inflammation, and support the liver’s natural processes.

However, when taken in excessive amounts or without proper guidance, supplements can cause liver injury or side effects, including reduced blood clotting, abdominal swelling, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), and even encephalopathy (brain damage).

Individuals who may benefit from liver supplements include those with liver conditions, exposure to high levels of toxins, or poor dietary habits affecting liver function. Conversely, those with pre-existing medical conditions or taking medications that may interact with liver supplements should avoid them unless advised otherwise by a healthcare professional.

11 Best Supplements for Liver Health in 2023

Milk Thistle

Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) has silymarin, a plant compound mixture with a long history of helping improve the liver. Multiple studies have shown that silymarin can safeguard liver cells, lower liver-related mortalities, and enhance liver functionality markers for chronic liver disease patients. [1]

Turmeric Root

Turmeric contains curcumin, the active component known for preventing obesity and diabetes. Studies show that curcumin can reduce steatohepatitis or liver fat accumulation from a high-fat diet when consumed at a 0.15% ratio. This is believed to be due to the activation of AMPK and induction of PPARα.[2]

N-acetyl Cysteine (NAC)

In 1978, it was discovered that N-acetylcysteine could reduce the toxic effects of paracetamol when taken orally in 7g doses every 216 minutes for 17 doses. [3] Further research has shown that this compound can improve transplant-free survival and shorten hospital stays for patients experiencing acute liver failure not caused by acetaminophen.[4]

TUDCA

TUDCA, a type of water-soluble bile salt, can counteract the toxicity of regular bile salts. This quality makes it an effective treatment for cholestasis, a condition where the liver is unhealthy and bile acids back up in the liver. By protecting cells from death and rehabilitating the liver, TUDCA shows excellent potential for clinical use. Studies have shown that a 10-13mg daily dose has improved liver regeneration rates in clinically ill patients. Its reliability as a treatment for cholestasis is evidenced by its use in hospitals. [5]

Dandelion Root

Studies on rodents suggest that oral consumption of dandelion at dosages similar to humans (around 10 grams for a 150lb individual) can provide minor liver protection. In mouse models experiencing liver damage from CCl4 and acetaminophen, the leaves and roots of dandelion (at 200-600mg/kg) appear to offer liver protection due to their antioxidant properties. [6]

Artichoke leaf extract

Artichoke leaf extract supplementation can improve liver enzymes by decreasing oxidative stress and increasing glutathione peroxidase activity, an important antioxidant enzyme. This has reduced the production of reactive oxygen species, lipid peroxidation, and protein oxidation.[7]

Glutathione

A study using natural bioactive compounds demonstrated a decrease in liver fat for adults with severe fatty liver in a randomized controlled trial. [8]

Choline

Choline is commonly utilized as a liver health aid for decreasing liver fat. Insufficient dietary intake of choline can lead to increased accumulation of hepatic fatty acid (triglyceride) and hindered release of triglycerides from the liver into the bloodstream. [9]

Picrorhiza kurroa (Kutki or Picroliv)

Kutki or Picroliv is a liver tonic from Ayurveda that may have greater potency than milk thistle silymarins at low doses. While more research is needed, its liver protective effects and immunomodulatory properties show potential. When taken before or after toxin exposure, it demonstrates powerful hepatoprotective effects. It is notably effective against Tylenol, alcohol, and the deathcap mushroom, surpassing the potency of milk thistle supplementation. [10]

Spirulina

Spirulina is promising for liver health. Studies show that it can improve liver enzymes and reduce liver fat. Adding Spirulina to the diet of patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) at a daily dosage of 6 g showed significant improvement in their overall health and metabolic functions, thus enhancing their quality of life. [11]

L-Carnitine

L-carnitine benefits liver diseases by lowering ammonia levels, alleviating hepatic encephalopathy symptoms, and improving liver function indicators. Notably, L-carnitine effectively improved AST, ALT, and GGT levels, specifically for individuals with liver dysfunction or a BMI greater than 24. [12]

The Importance of a Personalized Supplement Regimen

A personalized supplement regimen for liver health is crucial, as individual factors determine the suitability of supplements. Consulting a doctor before starting any regimen ensures its safety and effectiveness. Monitoring your body’s responses and regularly checking liver function helps track progress.

Be aware of warning signs like fatigue, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, jaundice, and dark urine. Contact your doctor if you experience these symptoms to adjust your supplement plan or investigate other causes. A personalized approach with expert guidance and regular monitoring will optimize supplement benefits while minimizing risks.

Conclusion

In conclusion, finding the best supplements for liver health requires careful consideration and a personalized approach. Liver health is vital for overall well-being, and individualized supplement plans can significantly promote optimal liver function. However, it’s crucial to remember that not all supplements suit everyone.

To ensure the safety and effectiveness of your liver health regimen, always consult your healthcare professional before making any changes to your dietary or supplement routine. By doing so, you can take the necessary steps to support your liver health and contribute to a healthier lifestyle.

REFERENCES:

[1] Gillessen A, Schmidt HH. Silymarin as Supportive Treatment in Liver Diseases: A Narrative Review. Adv Ther. 2020 Apr;37(4):1279-1301. doi: 10.1007/s12325-020-01251-y. Epub 2020 Feb 17. PMID: 32065376; PMCID: PMC7140758.

[2] Um MY, Hwang KH, Ahn J, Ha TY. Curcumin attenuates diet-induced hepatic steatosis by activating AMP-activated protein kinase. Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol. 2013 Sep;113(3):152-7. doi: 10.1111/bcpt.12076. Epub 2013 May 25. PMID: 23574662.

[3] Scalley RD, Conner CS. Acetaminophen poisoning: a case report of the use of acetylcysteine. Am J Hosp Pharm. 1978 Aug;35(8):964-7. PMID: 677146.

[4] Amjad W, Thuluvath P, Mansoor M, Dutta A, Ali F, Qureshi W. N-acetylcysteine in non-acetaminophen-induced acute liver failure: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies. Prz Gastroenterol. 2022;17(1):9-16. doi: 10.5114/pg.2021.107797. Epub 2021 Jul 14. PMID: 35371352; PMCID: PMC8942009.

[5] Crosignani A, Budillon G, Cimino L, Del Vecchio Blanco C, Loguercio C, Ideo G, Raimondo G, Stabilini R, Podda M. Tauroursodeoxycholic acid for the treatment of HCV-related chronic hepatitis: a multicenter placebo-controlled study. Hepatogastroenterology. 1998 Sep-Oct;45(23):1624-9. PMID: 9840118.

[6] Colle D, Arantes LP, Gubert P, da Luz SC, Athayde ML, Teixeira Rocha JB, Soares FA. Antioxidant properties of Taraxacum officinale leaf extract are involved in the protective effect against hepatoxicity induced by acetaminophen in mice. J Med Food. 2012 Jun;15(6):549-56. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2011.0282. Epub 2012 Mar 16. PMID: 22424457.

[7] Amini MR, Sheikhhossein F, Talebyan A, Bazshahi E, Djafari F, Hekmatdoost A. Effects of Artichoke Supplementation on Liver Enzymes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Clin Nutr Res. 2022 Jul 25;11(3):228-239. doi: 10.7762/cnr.2022.11.3.228. PMID: 35949559; PMCID: PMC9348909.

[8] Ferro Y, Pujia R, Mazza E, Lascala L, Lodari O, Maurotti S, Pujia A, Montalcini T. A new nutraceutical (Livogen Plus®) improves liver steatosis in adults with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. J Transl Med. 2022 Aug 19;20(1):377. doi: 10.1186/s12967-022-03579-1. PMID: 35986358; PMCID: PMC9392294.

[9] Bruni C, Hegsted DM. Effects of choline-deficient diets on the rat hepatocyte. Electron microscopic observations. Am J Pathol. 1970 Dec;61(3):413-36. PMID: 4340541; PMCID: PMC2047449.

[10] Vaidya AB, Antarkar DS, Doshi JC, Bhatt AD, Ramesh V, Vora PV, Perissond D, Baxi AJ, Kale PM. Picrorhiza kurroa (Kutaki) Royle ex Benth as a hepatoprotective agent–experimental & clinical studies. J Postgrad Med. 1996 Oct-Dec;42(4):105-8. PMID: 9715310.

[11] Mazokopakis EE, Papadomanolaki MG, Fousteris AA, Kotsiris DA, Lampadakis IM, Ganotakis ES. The hepatoprotective and hypolipidemic effects of Spirulina (Arthrospira platensis) supplementation in a Cretan population with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: a prospective pilot study. Ann Gastroenterol. 2014;27(4):387-394. PMID: 25331487; PMCID: PMC4188938.

[12] Askarpour M, Djafarian K, Ghaedi E, Sadeghi O, Sheikhi A, Shab-Bidar S. Effect of L-Carnitine Supplementation on Liver Enzymes: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Arch Med Res. 2020 Jan;51(1):82-94. doi: 10.1016/j.arcmed.2019.12.005. Epub 2020 Feb 26. PMID: 32113058.

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Dr. Linnea Passaler

Dr. Linnea Passaler

Dr. Linnea Passaler has dedicated 20+ years to serving patients, first to a small number of individuals as a successful surgeon and then to thousands of people worldwide as the CEO of a digital health startup. After overcoming her own struggles with a dysregulated nervous system, she created Heal Your Nervous System (HYNS) to empower others in their healing journey. Her combination of neuroscience and somatic work helps those struggling with overwhelm, trauma, burnout, and anxiety to heal their dysregulated nervous systems and thrive.