Thursday, 28 May 2015

The Best Foods For Liver Health

We are living in increasingly toxic times, where the need for detoxification and liver support is fast becoming essential in order to obtain optimal health and well-being.

Supporting the liver and bodies detoxification systems with natural healthy foods is an excellent way to improve overall health and to aid the elimination of toxic substances.

A sluggish liver overburdened by too much processed junk foods, alcohol, cigarettes, drugs and other toxins can cause lowered vitality and poor health.

There are many foods, herbs and botanicals, which have a natural affinity for supporting the liver through their various nutrients, phyto-chemicals and other beneficial alkaloids.

Here are some of my favorite foods for maintaining a healthy liver.

The Best Foods For Liver Health

1. Milk Thistle

Milk Thistle(Silybum marianum) is a popular herbal remedy for supporting liver health and numerous studies verify the liver-protective benefits.

Traditionally Milk Thistle is recommended to treat liver problems such as cirrhosis, jaundice, hepatitis, and gallbladder disorders.

The main active component of Milk Thistle which is responsible for the much of its health benefits, is a flavonolignan complex called silymarin.

Milk Thistle has been shown to protect the liver from damage by toxins, alcohol, drugs, amanita mushroom poisoning and other toxic compounds.

Studies also show that Milk Thistle can significantly speed up the regeneration of liver cells.

Other health benefits that studies show milk thistle can help with include lowering cholesterol, helps intestinal problems, lowers blood sugar, reduces the growth of cancer cells, protects the body from the damage from radiation and has antioxidant properties.

2. Cruciferous Vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage are excellent choices for supporting liver health.  In fact you won’t find a better food group that helps to support the livers detoxification capabilities.

Cruciferous vegetables contain phyto-nutrients called isothiocyanates (ITCs) including sulforaphane, which help to support Phase II detoxification activity, whilst regulating Phase I.  These detoxification systems are very important to help neutralize many toxins.  Inadequate detoxification of toxins, can significantly increase one’s risk of developing cancer and other diseases.

Cruciferous vegetables such as Broccoli are absolutely packed with nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and many other health promoting phyto-nutrients.   Cruciferous vegetables are also a great source of sulfur, which again helps to support the bodies detoxification systems.

Light cooking such as steaming helps to inactivate the majority of goitrogenic compounds found in cruciferous vegetables.  Goitrogens are substances that interfere with the thyroids ability to uptake iodine.  Large intake of raw goitrogenic foods should be consumed with caution, especially if one has an existing thyroid disorder.

3. Bupleurum Root

Bupleurum Root (Bupleurum Chinensis) is a pungent bitter herb, which is excellent for cleansing the liver.  
Bupleurum is one of the few herbs which don’t need to come in contact with the back of the tongue in order to cleanse the liver, such as the case with bitter herbs.

Bupleurum is an important herb in TCM(traditional Chinese medicine) and is used as a tonic for the liver and circulatory system.

Bupleurum can also raise dopamine levels, which may be of benefit for certain types of depression caused from low dopamine levels.

4. Onions & Garlic

Onions and garlic are another two foods that one should be including regularly in their diet regardless of the liver support benefits.
Onions and garlic have a wealth of scientific research on their various health benefits, which include anti-biotic/microbial, anti-inflammatory, digestive health, liver support, promotes cardiovascular health and may even reduce the risk of developing certain cancers such as those of the stomach.

Garlic is rich in a number of powerful sulfur compounds such as thiosulfinates(allicin), sulfoxides(alliin) and dithiins(ajoene).  Scientific research has shown that these sulfur compounds such as allicin that garlic contains has a number of health promoting benefits including supporting liver health.

Studies show that garlic can protect the liver from toxins, reduce fat accumulation in the liver, protects against liver cancer cells and is a boon to metabolic health by lowering cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar.

As briefly explained above, one of the major roles of sulfur in the body is to support detoxification and many toxin savaging antioxidants such as Glutathione require sulfur for synthesis.

Garlic is also an excellent source of the mineral selenium, which is another nutrient that increases the action of antioxidants such as glutathione and supports liver health.

Include both of these foods liberally in the diet.  To increase the medicinal health benefits, crush or chop the garlic and let it sit for 10-15 minutes before consuming.

5. Turmeric Root

Turmeric(Curcuma longa) is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant, which is a member of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae.
Research shows that Turmeric can increase detoxification systems in the body, in addition to its potent anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties.

Much of the studies are focusing on Turmeric’s potential as a natural anti-cancer agent and to prevent the growth of various cancers, however Turmeric is also an amazing food for cleansing the liver.

Turmeric has a triple action on health in that it supports detoxification of harmful toxins, whilst reducing inflammation and oxidative stress, all three are key factors in the development of many diseases.

One of the main active components of turmeric is a phyto-nutrient called curcumin, which research suggests is very poorly absorbed by the body.  There are a few methods to increase the bio-availability of curcumin however, the first is to pair turmeric with black pepper, which studies show significantly increases the uptake and utilization.

Another method is to pair curcumin with a fat-loving molecule such as phosphatidylcholine, which once again significantly increases the bio-availability and also has benefits to liver health itself.

Curcumin X4000 Capsules are a high quality supplement that studies show is 45% better absorbed than regular curcumin 95% supplements.  Helpful if one wishes to use therapeutic dosages of turmeric and curcumin.

6. Free-Range Eggs

We talked about some of the plant sulfur compounds above that help to support the detoxification pathways in the body.  However there are other nutrients called sulfur bonded amino acids, such as taurine, methionine and cysteine, which are critical to proper detoxification and liver health.

These sulfur bonded amino acids are found in high concentration in free range eggs.

One of cysteine’s main functions is as a pre-cursor to the antioxidant Glutathione, a compound which is vital for a healthy functioning immune system and liver.  Quite simply without cysteine the body cannot produce Glutathione.  Glutathione is often referred to as the “master antioxidant” which helps to neutralize free radicals and aid the detoxification of many other toxins such as heavy metals.

Taurine is another interesting nutrient that studies show to promote the flow and production of bile, a bitter greenish-brown alkaline fluid which aids digestion and is secreted by the liver and stored in the gall bladder.  Adequate bile flow is another detoxification method that the liver uses for removing toxins such as heavy metals from the body.

Many vegetarians and in particular strict vegans don’t get enough of these crucial sulfur nutrients.  In fact studies show that many vegans are deficient in the amino acids taurine and methionine.

7. Beets

Beets contain a compound known as betaine or TMG(Tri-Methyl-Glycine), which supports a vital process in the body known as methylation.  Methylation is the primary method of removing toxins in the phase II detoxification system.

Methylation converts toxins into compounds which are more easily eliminated by the body.  Without adequate methylation, detoxification potential is severely impaired and this increases the burden on the liver.

Eat foods such as Beets regularly to provide rich sources of TMG/methyl-donors.  Other foods which provide TMG include broccoli and quinoa.  The supplement TMG(Tri-Methyl-Glycine) can be very helpful to support methylation by providing methyl-donors in higher therapeutic quantities.

TMG also has many other benefits some of these include anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, aids the production of neuro-transmitters and hormones, supports the methylation process, aids liver detoxification, protein synthesis, lowers homo-cysteine, which is a problem factor in the development of cardiovascular disease.

8. Bitter Herbs

Bitter herbs such as Gentian, Artichoke Leaf, Dandelion etc have a long history of supporting digestive and liver health.  Bitters refer to any food or herb with a strong bitter taste.

Traditionally bitters have been recommended for thousands of years to cleanse the liver, balance hormones, stimulate appetite and prevent indigestion especially after heavy meals.  Digestive bitters are very popular in Europe.

When the bitter tasting foods come in contact with the back of the tongue it stimulates the vagus nerve, this in turn stimulates the release of many digestive juices such as stomach acid, pancreatic digestive enzymes and bile.

Improving the flow of bile helps to naturally cleanse the liver, aiding in the removal of many harmful toxins.  Sluggish or bile flow insufficiency isn’t uncommon, bitters are a safe and natural remedy for most individuals.

Always consult a professional before taking any herbs or making any significant lifestyle changes.

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