A lot of times, we forget about the liver until a medical condition brings it to our attention.
We can't deny the important role it plays in our health.
For many centuries, traditional medicines have looked at the liver, even more so than the heart, as the center for physical and emotional health. The liver processes everything that we eat, drink, or absorb through the skin, therefore, playing a vital role in the body's detoxification process which requires it to be constantly exposed to harmful substances.
These substances come from toxins in food, alcohol, outside (drugs and environmental pollutants), internally-produced substances (hormones), and waste left over form protein use. The liver converts these toxins and wastes into less harmful substances so that they can be eliminated by the body.
This process is divided into two steps, Phase I and Phase II, each requiring different nutrients.
Phase I uses oxidation to break down toxins, requiring antioxidants and milk thistle to ensure this stage runs smoothly and prevents damaged cells.
Phase II occurs when the liver adds substances to a toxin to make it less harmful. Glutathione and calcium d-glucarate are extremely important in this process. However, antioxidants are important here also because they continue to neutralize the free radicals generated by the first phase. The liver also turns fat-soluble toxins into water-soluble material in phase II.
The liver is responsible for many actions. It produces the compounds that keep the blood from abnormal clotting and removes fructose and galactose from the carbohydrates, converting them into glucose which can be used for energy. It also synthesizes proteins and cholesterol and converts carbohydrates and proteins into fats, to be stored for later use. Furthermore, it makes blood protein and enzymes that are needed for bodily functions and produces urea that is eventually excreted by the kidneys. Also, it stores trace elements such as iron, copper, and vitamins A, D, and B12. Its most important job is producing bile, which helps to break down fats and fat-soluble vitamins. This fluid transports toxins from the liver to the intestines, so that they can be excreted.
A liver cleanse helps to prevent and repair damages to the liver. It supports the liver's health and Phase I and phase II of detoxification. It also increases bile production and flow along with gallbladder response. Additionally, it prevents re-absorption by adding fiber to absorb bile and toxins and it transports bile and toxins out of the body. There are specific herbs that enhance bile production and flow known as choleretic ingredients.
One of these herbs, milk thistle, has been recognized as a remedy for liver problems since the days of ancient Rome. Milk thistle, which contains silymarin, is thought to be responsible for protecting the health of the specialized liver cells that remove bacteria, old bloods cells, and other toxins form the liver's blood supply. It also acts as an antioxidant as it scavenges free radicals that are produced during Phase I detoxification.
Milk thistle also fights against long-term poisoning by displacing toxins that try to bind to the liver and neutralizing those that have already penetrated the cells.
Turmeric has also been recently investigated for its ability to stimulate bile flow and support the gastric system. Scientists suspect that it may even help prevent the condition known as "fatty liver disease." Calcium D-glucarate, which is found naturally in many fruits and vegetables, is very important in phase II detoxification because it helps excrete harmful estrogen.
Additionally, many common herbs have a long history of supporting the liver and healthy bile production of flow including dandelion root extract, which helps to reduce fluid retention, burdock, which acts as an anti-inflammatory agent and an antioxidant and helps to reverse of at least stop damage done to the liver cells by alcohol.
Artichoke helps keep lipids from accumulating in the liver and stimulates bile flow into the intestines. It is also used to reduce the symptoms of many digestive disorders.
Boldo supports the liver by helping it to maintain proper enzyme levels and provide protection against toxins.
When looking for a liver cleanse, one should make sure that fiber is included. Fiber gently scrubs the intestines on its way through the colon, picking up LDL cholesterol, bile-bound toxins, and estrogen ready for excretion. It also helps the liver to recover faster from fatty liver disease and aids in the rebuilding of liver tissue. However, some types of fiber are better than others. Although all fiber can be beneficial, not all fiber is equally beneficial.
Some are great at helping the body to excrete cholesterol, but not so great when it comes to cleaning out toxins.
Oat beta-glucan is well known for its health benefits, being a staple of natural LDL cholesterol reduction for many years. Research has shown that it also does an excellent job at increasing bile excretion, which helps to further detoxify the body. Because it is a soluble fiber, it increases the binding of bile acids in the intestines, preventing the bile from returning to the liver and taking the toxins along as well.
Glucomannan, another fiber, has a great ability to lower LDL cholesterol and enhance bile excretion and balance glucose levels. When the two fibers are combined, research has shown that they have stronger bile-binding effects than other soluble fibers on their own or combined with guar gum.
The best liver cleanse should only last about two weeks. Many cleanse programs don't include fiber as part of their product. Therefore, the only way to ensure liver cleanse effectiveness is to make sure that fiber is included as part of the program. Detoxification programs are very safe for most people. However, those who are pregnant or nursing should not use detoxification products. Also, those who have known or suspected gallstone concerns should avoid liver cleanses as they activate the liver and gallbladder.
Because detoxification puts a little additional stress on all the detoxification organs, any person with kidney disease or poor kidney function should consult their health care practitioner before trying any type of cleanse.