A silent epidemic of liver disease is affecting millions of Americans
(NaturalHealth365) With national rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes continuing to soar, liver disease has been largely ignored by the mainstream media.
And, the problem is widespread. In fact, experts say that nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) currently affects between 30 and 40 percent of the American population. Shocking, to say the least.
Unfortunately, because symptoms of liver disease – in the early stages – can be so mild or unnoticeable, many people don’t even realize they have it. But this ‘silent’ disease can have deadly consequences.
Keep in mind, about 25 percent of the time, NAFLD progresses to a more serious condition known as nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH – which can cause liver scarring, liver failure and even liver cancer.
How to prevent HUGE health problems: Avoid liver disease naturally
As you continue to read here: we’ll reveal how proper nutrition can help you to avoid liver disease. But, first, we must understand the scope of the issue.
The liver is responsible for neutralizing and eliminating toxins and waste products – such as ammonia – that would otherwise accumulate in the blood. In addition, it produces the bile needed to digest fat, stores essential vitamins and minerals, and breaks down and detoxifies alcohol, medications and environmental toxins.
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But liver function can be compromised by NAFLD, which is defined as a condition in which fat constitutes more than 5 percent of the liver. As the name suggests, NAFLD can occur in people who consume few or no alcoholic beverages.
Excessive consumption of processed sugars and conventionally-raised fatty foods will increase your risk of liver disease – along with being overweight and living a sedentary lifestyle.
In addition, the use of prescription and over-the-counter medications can contribute to NAFLD.
Warning: NAFLD can progress to steatohepatitis
NAFLD can be thought of as a warning light on a car’s dashboard – or, even more accurately – a yellow traffic light that signals the need for caution. If not arrested, NAFLD can progress to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH – defined as fat comprising 10 percent of the liver.
Symptoms of NASH can include fatigue, dark urine, weight loss, lack of appetite, jaundice (yellowing of skin or eyes) and pain in the center or right upper part of the belly.
Although NAFLD is becoming increasingly more common, the good news is that liver cells have an amazing ability to regenerate. NAFLD can be not only prevented, but treated – and even reversed – with simple lifestyle changes and nutritional protocols.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the most effective supplements and nutrients for liver disease. As always, check first with your integrative doctor before trying them.
Silymarin in milk thistle helps restore liver cells
When it comes to herbal interventions for liver disease, milk thistle just might be the all-time MVP.
Its active principle, silymarin, has been shown to detoxify the liver, reduce oxidative damage caused by free radicals, decrease liver inflammation, regulate the metabolism of fats and help to clear the blood of toxins.
Silymarin has even been shown to be effective in reducing the growth of liver cancer cells, and has helped prolong survival rates in clinical studies of patients with liver cancer.
In addition, silymarin improves insulin resistance – thereby combating diabetes, another threat to liver health. Because it is capable of rebuilding liver cells, silymarin can reverse the damage from alcohol consumption, pesticides and heavy metals.
Look for non-GMO milk thistle products that have been standardized to contain 70 to 80 percent silymarin. Integrative healthcare providers usually recommend between 280 mg and 450 mg a day for liver support.
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Curcumin in turmeric combats NAFLD
Turmeric, a liver support mainstay in both the Ayurvedic healing system and Traditional Chinese Medicine, is a common kitchen spice that lends the tangy flavor and distinctive yellow coloration to curry dishes and mustards. It owes its therapeutic value to the presence of curcumin, an antioxidant flavonoid.
Randomized clinical trials have supported the ability of curcumin to reduce liver fat, cut inflammation, support healthy bile production and promote detoxification.
Although it’s almost impossible to consume enough turmeric for therapeutic effects, no worries – curcumin is available as a supplement. The ‘standard’ recommended amount is around 450 mg to 1000 mg a day for liver support.
Glutathione: The body’s ‘master’ antioxidant is crucial for liver health
Glutathione is found in every cell, but is particularly concentrated in the liver – where it is essential to detoxification. But – as is the case with so many precious, life-sustaining compounds – levels drop with normal aging (and with chronic disease).
However, most experts say the best way to boost glutathione levels is not through supplements, but through eating optimal amounts of foods that are rich in glutathione’s three “building blocks” – the amino acids cysteine, glycine and glutamic acid.
Eggs, garlic and non-denatured whey protein are particularly valuable for boosting glutathione levels, as are cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Other good sources are asparagus, spinach, avocado, squash and green tea.
N-acetyl cysteine renews glutathione
N-acetyl cysteine, or NAC, is a supplementary form of cysteine. It is so essential to liver function that medical professionals rely on it in hospital settings to treat life-threatening acetaminophen overdoses.
NAC’s high rate of success is due to the fact that this amino acid restores and replenishes levels of glutathione that have been depleted by toxins. And, clinical studies have shown that NAC can substantially improve liver function in patients with NAFLD.
The usual dosage for treating NAFLD is 500 mg to 1,000 mg a day.
Vitamin C can prevent and treat fatty buildup
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a powerful antioxidant and immune system booster.
This essential vitamin has protective effects against oxidative damage to the liver – and can help reduce accumulated fat. According to one study, doses as low as 500 mg of vitamin C a day can help prevent fatty buildup – while dosages of 5,000 mg help to actively flush out fats.
An integrative physician might suggest amount of 1,500 mg a day for liver support. As a side note, vitamin C pioneer Dr. Linus Pauling typically advised somewhat higher dosages, in the area of 2,500 mg to 10,000 mg a day.
Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) enhances the effects of glutathione
This vitamin-like compound is water-soluble, meaning that it can easily penetrate cell membranes for therapeutic effect. A potent antioxidant, ALA works hand-in-glove with glutathione to neutralize and eliminate toxic heavy metals and scavenge harmful free radicals.
Studies have shown that ALA can decrease the scarring associated with liver injury. A typical dosage for liver support is 100 to 300 mg a day.
Show your liver some love with an organic diet
Eating foods that are high in beta-carotene, such as sweet potatoes, squash and carrots, is a wise move when it comes to avoiding liver disease. Beta-carotene is converted by the body to vitamin A – which is indispensable for flushing out toxins and reducing fat in the liver.
Potassium-rich foods, such as bananas and beet greens, are also beneficial to the liver.
Don’t forget: For best results, opt for foods that are certified organic, as much as possible. These can help to greatly lower your toxic burden – thereby reducing stress and strain on the liver.
And, finally, sharply reducing or eliminating alcohol, refined sugars, fried or fatty foods, processed foods or fast (junk) foods is an excellent way to ‘love your liver.’
Sources for this article include:
Food & Nutrition
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