The liver performs many essential functions, including cleaning the blood, synthesizing proteins, producing hormones, and aiding digestion. Some manufactures of liver supplements claim that their products will detoxify and rejuvenate the liver.
Although the liver acts as the body’s primary detoxification and filtration system, supplement manufacturers like to suggest that the liver could use a detox of its own.
In this article, we take a look at the research behind liver supplements to figure out if these products work.
Liver supplement advertisements may claim that these products do the following:
- detoxify the liver and kidneys
- promote overall liver health
- optimize liver function
- protect liver cells from inflammation
- promote the production of bile
- increase metabolism and promote weight loss
- support respiratory and immune system function
Taking herbal and dietary supplements for any reason may do more harm than good. Available data suggest that herbal dietary supplements are responsible for
According to a study involving the Drug-Induced Liver Injury Network (DILIN), herbal dietary supplements may cause
Liver injury from these supplements can
- reduced blood clotting
- abdominal swelling
- jaundice, or yellowing of skin and eyes
- encephalopathy or brain damage
People with drug-induced liver injury may require a liver transplant.
The researchers behind the DILIN study found that liver transplant and death occurred more frequently in people who took herbal dietary supplements than those taking pharmaceutical medication.
Many liver supplements contain a combination of herbal ingredients, vitamins, and minerals.
Milk thistle, also known as silymarin, is the most common herbal supplement for liver problems in the U.S. Milk thistle extract contains approximately
Silibinin acts as an antioxidant, neutralizing free radicles that contribute to inflammation.
The researchers behind one
However, the findings of a Cochrane Review and a
The authors of the Cochrane Review note that the vast majority of the studies under review used weak methodologies.
Zinc is an essential trace element that promotes cell division, DNA synthesis, and immune function. Chronic liver disease can lead to zinc deficiency.
Another older 2012 study suggests that zinc supplementation may help protect the liver from oxidative stress due to hepatitis C viral infections.
More research is needed, however, to support the use of zinc in treating hepatitis C or other liver diseases.
Licorice root contains an active compound called glycyrrhizic acid, which may help
According to one
According to the findings, a higher proportion of individuals in the glycyrrhizin groups showed significant reductions in symptoms in comparison to the control group.
However, the current evidence is too limited to support the use of licorice root for treating or preventing liver disease.
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digest and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), high doses of licorice root consumed over a long period can lead to heart and muscle complications.
The liver is a complex organ that performs a range of essential functions.
A healthy liver removes waste from the blood, metabolizes fat, and synthesizes hormones. A damaged, diseased, or malfunctioning liver can lead to dangerous, even life threatening consequences.
Hepatitis refers to self-limiting or chronic inflammation of the liver.
Signs of a malfunctioning liver include:
- loss of appetite
- unintentional weight loss
- nausea and vomiting
- dark yellow urine
- gray stools
- discomfort in the upper right part of the abdomen
People who have advanced liver damage may experience:
- bleeding and bruising easily
- edema, which causes swelling in the lower legs, ankles, and feet
- fluid retention in the abdomen
- itchy skin
- jaundice or yellowing of the skin and eyes
- confusion or difficulty thinking
- memory loss
- personality or mood changes
There is not enough scientific evidence to fully support the use of supplements for treating or preventing liver disease. However, the following lifestyle choices can help keep the liver healthy:
Limit saturated fat intake
High levels of triglycerides and cholesterol in the blood can create fat deposits around the liver, which may lead to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and long-term liver damage.
Limit alcohol use
The liver produces toxic chemicals, such as acetaldehyde, when it metabolizes alcohol.
A person can reverse the effects of steatosis if they stop consuming alcohol. However, continuous binge drinking can lead to chronic steatosis and chronic liver disease.
Minimize exposure to toxins
The liver breaks down toxic substances in the blood.
Exposure to environmental toxins, such as cleaning products, pesticides, and tobacco smoke, can damage the liver as it filters these substances from the blood.
Avoid chronic drug use
The liver metabolizes medications and drugs in the blood.
Chronic use of illicit drugs, such as heroin and cocaine, can lead to liver inflammation and damage.
Prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications can also contribute to drug induced liver injury.
According to the
- antibiotics, such as amoxicillin and erythromycin
- acetaminophen, which is an OTC pain and fever reducer
- cancer drugs, such as mercaptopurine, lapatinib, and pazopanib
- antianxiety and antidepressant medications, including duloxetine and nortriptyline
- immunosuppressants, including cyclosporine and methotrexate
People should see their doctor if they experience symptoms of liver disease or if they believe they may have had exposure to a hepatitis virus.
Most people remain asymptomatic in the early stages of liver disease. Doctors can detect early signs of liver damage during annual checkups and routine screening appointments.
Anyone who has a family history of liver disease or who exhibits one or more risk factors can speak with their doctor about lowering their risk for liver disease.
Current research suggests that milk thistle, zinc, and licorice root extract possess anti-inflammatory properties that may prevent liver damage from infections and exposures to toxins. However, all these substances also carry health risks.
However, doctors and researchers do not recognize liver supplements as effective due to the limited available evidence.