Avoid liver disease and improve digestive disorders with artichoke extracts
(NaturalHealth365) No doubt, chronic liver disease is on the rise in the United States. In fact, the American Liver Foundation reports that millions of Americans suffer from this avoidable health problem – with 30,000 Americans dying of liver cancer (every year!).
These troubling statistics highlight the ongoing need for the development of safe, natural therapies that can help treat – and prevent – liver disease. According to recent research, artichoke extracts may be able to do just that, helping to stave off the damaging effects of environmental toxins, processed foods, and alcohol while improving liver function as well.
You can eliminate the threat of liver disease – naturally
Perhaps it’s not so surprising that artichoke, scientifically known as Cynara scolymus, has beneficial actions on the liver. It is closely related to milk thistle, which has long been valued by natural healers for its liver-protecting effects.
While prescribing a vegetable-rich diet has been an established part of treatment for liver disease in Europe since the eighteenth century, doctors in the United States have lagged behind their European counterparts in appreciating the beneficial effects of vegetables – particularly artichokes – on a damaged liver.
But that is beginning to change, as emerging studies continue to show the therapeutic value of artichoke extract.
Modern biomedical research has confirmed the benefits and effects of artichoke
Artichoke helps alleviate chronic liver disease by reducing amounts of excess cholesterol and fats in the liver. In addition, artichoke extracts also have pronounced antioxidant properties that protect liver cells, as demonstrated by a study in which artichoke extract given before exposure to a known liver toxin helped to prevent liver injury.
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Artichoke extracts have even been shown to inhibit human liver cancer cells. But the benefits of artichokes for the liver don’t end there.
Artichoke’s constituents promote the production and proper function of bile
Bile, a fluid produced by the liver, is essential for the digestion of fats and fat-soluble vitamins; it is also responsible for flushing toxins from the body. Researchers say that a phenolic acid found in artichokes, cynarin, can help the liver accomplish both of these tasks.
Other artichoke constituents are beneficial as well. Artichokes are rich in an antioxidant flavonoid known as silymarin – the same flavonoid found in milk thistle — which protects liver cells from damage while promoting detoxification. Artichokes also contain chlorogenic acid, a potent enhancer of bile production.
In addition, both silymarin and cynarin can help to regenerate liver cells.
How artichokes can improve digestive disorders – which are directly linked to liver health
Effective liver function is necessary for gastrointestinal health, as proper digestion can’t occur without good bile flow. Bile flow can be inhibited by many factors, including gallstones or gallbladder disease, viral hepatitis, certain chemicals and drugs, and excessive alcohol ingestion – the most common cause of impaired liver function in the United States.
The early stages of liver dysfunction can cause digestive complaints, including bloating, nausea , abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea and constipation. Discomfort immediately after meals, with an intolerance to fatty foods, is another red flag that your digestive symptoms may be liver-related.
Because artichokes improve production and function of bile, they have the potential to alleviate some digestive disorders. As a good source of fiber, artichokes aid in digestion. In addition, artichokes are rich in beneficial antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents such as beta carotene, quercetin, lutein rutin and gallic acid.
Some amazing scientific facts about digestive health and consuming artichoke leaf extract
In a study published in Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics in 2003, 247 subjects with digestive complaints – including bloating, nausea, lack of appetite, diarrhea and constipation – were treated with either artichoke leaf extract or placebo for 6 weeks. The artichoke group experienced significantly greater improvement of symptoms compared with the placebo group.
In another clinical study, researchers found that artichoke leaf extract caused improvement of symptoms in 50 percent of patients complaining of digestive problems.
And, in a 2015 study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine , a study involving artichoke leaf and ginger caused a marked reduction in dyspeptic symptoms in 63.1 percent of the treated cases. In addition to increasing extract bile acid secretion, the combination also helped to accelerate gastrointestinal transit and alleviate bloating – while causing a significant decline in cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Unlike traditional drugs used for indigestion, the combination caused no side effects, and researchers concluded the combination was “efficacious in the treatment of functional dyspepsia.”
What’s the best way to get the health benefits of artichokes?
If you suffer from digestive or liver problems, it may be helpful to incorporate artichokes into your diet. Simply steam them with a little grass-fed butter, a dash of sea salt, and a squeeze of lemon – then enjoy the mild, sweet and nutty flavor of the hearts and the bottoms of the basal leaves.
In order to reduce risk of exposure to liver-damaging pesticides, opt for fresh, organic artichokes.
Avoid marinated artichoke hearts, which tend to be loaded with sodium and unnecessarily high amounts of oil.
If you opt to supplement with artichoke extract, use a formula standardized to provide at least 3 percent, and preferably 15 percent, of caffeoylquinic acid.
Important note of caution: in some cases, artichoke and artichoke extracts can worsen liver and gallbladder disease. University of Maryland Medical Center warns that increased bile production could cause a gallbladder attack if an obstruction is present in a bile duct.
So, before using artichokes or artichoke extracts for liver or digestive health, make sure you get the green light from an experienced, integrative medical professional.
Sources for this article include:
Food & Nutrition
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