Keys to a healthy liver
Updated: Jan 18
Take the letter R off the end of the word LIVER – it now says LIVE!
Yes, you live longer and live better if you look after your liver.
The liver is the most powerful metabolic organ in the body and the Chinese medical theorists call the liver “The General of the Army of the Body”. The liver is the most strategic organ in the body because if it works well it will enable all the other organs and systems in your body to work better.
It was reported that liver disease accounts for approximately 2 million deaths per year worldwide, and most causes of liver diseases are preventable. A healthy liver protects you against cancer, obesity, dementia, diabetes and premature aging.
What does your liver do?
The liver detoxifies
The liver converts toxic ammonia into urea, which can then be safely eliminated by the kidneys. Ammonia is an end product of protein metabolism, which the buildup will cause brain dysfunction. The liver removes and breaks down harmful toxins and drugs from blood each day. In other words, the liver works as a filter to remove unhealthy cells, cancer cells, dead cells, bacteria and other microorganisms from the bloodstream so that they can be destroyed in the liver (1).
The liver helps sugar metabolism
The liver acts as the body’s glucose reservoir and helps to keep your circulating blood sugar levels and other body fuels steady and constant. The liver both stores and manufactures glucose as according to the body’s need. Hormones insulin and glucagon are responsible to signal the liver to store or release glucose. This is important to stabilize blood sugar levels and reduce cravings for sugary foods, which is critical to prevent and treat diabetes (2).
The liver controls fat metabolism
The liver is very active in oxidizing triglycerides to produce energy by breaking down many more fatty acids that the hepatocytes need. The liver keeps your blood fats in the healthy range. A healthy liver makes the good cholesterol and decrease the bad cholesterol. The liver also burns fat to keep your weight under control (3).
The liver protects your immune system
The liver filter contains many immunologically active cells, which acts as a ‘sieve’ for proteins carried to it from the blood, forming an important barrier between us and the outside world. The liver’s default immune status is anti-inflammatory or immunotolerant, however, under appropriate conditions, the liver is able to mount a rapid and robust immune response. The dynamic interactions between numerous populations of immune cells in the liver are key to maintain the overall tissue health (4).
What can we do to protect our liver?
Following a healthy diet and lifestyle is the key to protect our liver. Some may also consider using a supplement. Some of the popular supplement ingredients are as follow:
Milk thistle is not uncommon in treating liver disorders. It is the herbal ingredient most often used. Containing the active substance silymarin, it has been reported that silymarin helps to regenerate liver tissue, reduce inflammation and protect liver cells from damage by acting as an antioxidant. Some clinical trials have shown to slightly reduced certain liver enzymes, markers of liver damage, in people with liver disease (5).
Phyllanthus niruri is a plant possessing several pharmacological properties, which has been used for the treatment of liver related disorders and long been recognized to be safe and efficient. It is also known to possess anti-inflammatory properties, as well as antioxidative traits, thereby preventing the damage to the liver and leakage of liver enzymes GGT (gamma-glutamyl transferase) and ALP (alkaline phosphatase) (6).
Pharmacological studies indicate that dandelion extracts have hepatoprotective effects against chemical agents due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities. It has been used in folk medicine of China, India and Russia as liver tonic, as it has the ability to increase the flow of bile, which helps to carry away waste in the liver as well as breaking down fats (7).
Other than balance diet and liver supplements, exercising regularly also helps one to stay out of the danger zone for liver problems. Liver disease can happen to anyone, from infants to elderly. Start protect and care for your liver today!
1. Grant DM. Detoxification pathways in the liver. J Inherit Metab Dis. 1991;14(4):421-30. doi: 10.1007/BF01797915. PMID: 1749210.
2. Adeva-Andany MM, Pérez-Felpete N, Fernández-Fernández C, Donapetry-García C, Pazos-García C. Liver glucose metabolism in humans. Biosci Rep. 2016 Nov 29;36(6):e00416. doi: 10.1042/BSR20160385. PMID: 27707936; PMCID: PMC5293555.
3. Alves-Bezerra M, Cohen DE. Triglyceride Metabolism in the Liver. Compr Physiol. 2017 Dec 12;8(1):1-8. doi: 10.1002/cphy.c170012. PMID: 29357123; PMCID: PMC6376873.
4. Kubes P, Jenne C. Immune Responses in the Liver. Annu Rev Immunol. 2018 Apr 26;36:247-277. doi: 10.1146/annurev-immunol-051116-052415. Epub 2018 Jan 12. PMID: 29328785.
5. Abenavoli L, Capasso R, Milic N, Capasso F. Milk thistle in liver diseases: past, present, future. Phytother Res. 2010 Oct;24(10):1423-32. doi: 10.1002/ptr.3207. PMID: 20564545.
6. Baskaran, M., Periyasamy, L., Rajagopalan, R., 2010. Effect Of Phyllanthus Niruri On Alcohol And Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Induced Oxidative Stress In Liver. Int J. Phar. And Phar. Sc., 2(4).
7. Mahboubi, M., Mahboubi, M., Hepatoprotection by dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) and mechanisms, 2020. Asian Pacific J. Tropical Biomedicine, 10:1, 1-10.