The holidays are a time for family, friends, and relaxation. They’re also a time for overindulgence in foods that aren’t all that great for you, as well as a little more alcohol than usual. Many people – even those who don’t tend to consume large amounts of alcohol during the year – end up drinking more during the holidays.
While alcohol can be safely consumed in moderation, larger amounts can hinder your liver’s ability to do its job. The liver itself is one of the most important organs in your body because it acts as a natural filter and helps to store and release energy from the food that you eat. It’s also the organ responsible for removing toxins and waste from the bloodstream. So, how can you have an indulgent holiday season without worrying about your liver health? Let’s talk about using supplements to boost liver health over the holiday period.
Why is liver health so important?
As mentioned above, the liver is one of the most important organs in the body. Everything that goes into your body is processed by the liver – that means food, beverages, the air that you breathe, and even topical creams or ointments that you put on your skin eventually make their way to your liver to be processed.
Your liver also performs over 500 functions in the body that keep you healthy, such as regulating hormones, fighting off infections, clearing out toxins, and helping to clot blood. If the liver is not running the way it should, this filtration process (and every other job it has to do) becomes compromised, and this can lead to chronic disease, illness, and – in the worst-case scenario – death.
How can I improve my liver health quickly?
While there is no quick fix for a malfunctioning liver, there are some things that you can do to help prevent further damage. For example, eating certain foods can promote better liver health, such as:
- Blueberries and cranberries
- Beetroot juice
- Cruciferous vegetables
- Fatty fish
Boosting your intake of these foods right before the holidays may not give you a superhuman liver, but if you continue to consume them on a regular basis, they can promote good liver health so that if you do happen to overindulge, your liver will be able to handle it.
What can you take to strengthen your liver?
There are many supplements on the market geared towards liver health. While no two supplements are the same, there are a few common ingredients that are used because they have been proven to prevent damage or improve liver function over time.
In herbal medicine, milk thistle is the most recommended supplement for people who suffer from liver complaints. The claim made by many is that it can help to reduce liver inflammation and restore overall function.
The ingredient in milk thistle that offers benefits to the liver is silymarin, a natural plant chemical compound. Research has shown that silymarin can lead to the regeneration of liver tissue, decrease inflammation, and act as a protector of liver cells because of its antioxidant properties.
Licorice root is used for a variety of ailments, but when it comes to the liver, one of its active compounds (glycyrrhizic acid) is what makes it so viable as a liver health booster. Studies have shown that this compound can help to regenerate damaged liver cells as well as reduce liver inflammation.
One study done on rats looked at how licorice root affected alcohol-induced liver inflammation. The results showed that inflammation and fat accumulation in the liver of the rats was reversed after using licorice root extract.
Dandelion root has also been used to treat ailments of the liver, though research surrounding its effects is minimal at best. It is thought that dandelion extract, in particular, can reduce stress on the liver and make its job of producing bile easier. Research has also found that it may be able to cure certain liver disorders, although more research is needed to validate these claims.
Zinc is an essential mineral that the body needs for a variety of different functions, and many supplements for liver health contain zinc. Studies have found that this element may be a key player in reducing or preventing oxidative stress on the liver that is generally caused by infection. However, there is little evidence to support that zinc can be used solely as a form of treatment for a liver disorder.
Artichoke leaf is another active ingredient in many liver supplements. Claims state that the ingredient can help to reduce damage to liver cells by acting as an antioxidant. Although research is scarce, some studies have found that artichoke leaf has the ability to reduce certain markers connected to liver disease.
No two supplements are alike, and some are better than others when it comes to supporting liver health over the holidays. The best way to choose a supplement to support liver health is by reading the ingredients, speaking to your doctor, and being aware that although a supplement may help, it cannot cure or prevent liver damage on its own.