Supporting Liver Health for Optimal Wellbeing

By Juniper Devecis, RD

We can't deny it any longer. It's a dirty world. Our air, water, earth, and food have all been compromised, even contaminated, in some significant way. Its impact is global, exposure unavoidable. Fortunately, there are protective actions that you can take to help your body fight the continuous onslaught of toxins that assault you daily. The best course is to support your liver, as it is a major organ of detoxification. It is also a major player in nutrient metabolism, storing carbohydrates and fats to be released as needed, and necessary for the synthesis of a variety of compounds, including cholesterol, proteins, and hormones—both functions imperative for an optimal liver, and, ultimately, overall health.

One of the liver's primary functions is the detoxification of toxic compounds. As previously mentioned, the body encounters a wide range of toxic compounds. Even if the external sources, such as chemical solvents, medications, pesticides, and food additives, didn't exist, there are those toxins that the body produces as end products of metabolism or bacterial processes. Recent studies involving blood and tissue testing indicate the high prevalence of toxins, which were found in all individuals throughout the country regardless of lifestyle.

The liver has multiple roles in detoxification, including filtering the blood to remove externally and internally made toxins and transforming them for excretion. Because most toxins cannot be readily excreted in their current form, the liver converts them in a two-step process involving phase I and phase II detoxification pathways. In phase I detoxification, numerous cytochrome P450 enzymes convert the toxins into more water-soluble forms or intermediary metabolites. These metabolites are then converted into less toxic water-soluble molecules through six different phase II conjugation pathways and excreted in the urine.

Promoting an optimal balance between phase I and phase II detoxification pathways is crucial.Numerous foods can influence this balance to promote health. Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage, promote both phase I and phase II pathways. Certain amino acids, such as cysteine, methionine, taurine, and glycine, support phase II pathways as well. Additionally, herbal extracts can promote healthy detoxification. Curcumin enhances phase II enzymes, while silymarin helps control the flow of toxin conjugation through the liver.

Furthermore, nutrients and herbal extracts support liver tissue health during the normal, unavoidable daily exposure to toxic compounds, as well as free radicals generated from detoxification processes. Numerous double-blind, placebo-controlled studies indicate that the polyphenolic compounds and organic acids in silymarin, curcumin, and artichoke are protective and promote liver tissue health. Additionally, barberry and greater celandine contain isoquinoline alkaloids, including berberine. These compounds support liver cell health and healthy liver enzyme activity in the presence of toxic compounds, at least in part by boosting natural antioxidant defenses and promoting cell membrane integrity and function. Research shows that among workers exposed to toluene and/or xylene (gasoline constituents), silymarin promoted healthy liver enzyme activity and platelet function. It also helped stimulate healthy liver cell growth by promoting healthy ribosomal protein synthesis.

Another very important role of the liver is to produce bile salts, which are crucial for proper fat digestion and detoxification. After a meal, bile salts surround and emulsify the fat, allowing lipase enzymes access to the fatty acids for breakdown and absorption. Bile also binds and carries toxic compounds through the gastrointestinal tract for excretion in the feces. A high-fiber diet is important to promote timely elimination, preventing toxic compounds from being reabsorbed. Artichoke, curcumin, and greater celandine stimulate bile flow, to help promote detoxification.

Many herbal extracts also promote liver cell health by maintaining a healthy inflammatory response. Research indicates that curcumin and barberry alkaloids promote healthy cyclooxygenase-2 enzyme activity, while silymarin supports healthy lipoxygenase enzyme activity. Additionally, these compounds support healthy prostaglandin, leukotrienes, and thromboxane metabolism.

Many of these liver-supportive ingredients can be found in LVR Formula from Pure Encapsulations, as well as other liversupporting dietary supplements. Because the liver plays such a critical role in protecting us from the daily, unavoidable exposure to toxins, maintaining liver function is essential for optimal health.