The liver detoxifies as it filters our blood, choosing between nutrients that we want to keep and breaking down and eliminating metabolites that it recognises as waste. It also produces bile which breaks down fat, making it an essential organ in weight management, digestive health and cholesterol maintenance. It plays a role in energy storage, hormone production and regulated production and breakdown of various components of our blood.
As you can see, this multifunctional role means that the liver is vital to our health and ensuring that this organ remains healthy, is vital. This is why liver function tests are regularly done when you go for blood tests with your GP. While the liver does have the ability to heal itself, it is not indestructible.
One of the most common liver problems is non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, or NAFLD, affecting up to a third of adults in the Western world. It’s generally considered a benign condition, characterised by fat building up in the liver cells rather than being broken down and eliminated.
Currently there is no medication available for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and the most widely accepted form of treatment is weight loss and physical activity. Most people suffering from NAFLD are overweight but not all, so weight management is a positive but limited method of management for this liver condition.
If you’ve been told that you have fatty liver disease, it can be concerning to be informed that there is no treatment.
Fatty liver disease is associated with high cholesterol, diabetes and heart problems. In rare cases, NAFLD can progress to more serious liver disorders, so as someone works with a lot of preventative medicine, I can understand your concern. If you feel like your diet is relatively healthy and weight loss isn’t an option for you, (perhaps due to another health condition or because you do not feel that you are overweight at all), there are a number of dietary and herbal substances you can consume to help improve your liver health.
Firstly, it probably goes without saying that alcohol consumption should be limited as well as excessive consumption of unhealthy fats. Choose leaner meats and enjoy a plant-based diet when possible, helping to feed your liver with protective antioxidants instead of greasy foods.
EPA, a component of omega 3, has been shown to significantly improve liver test results, so add some oily fish to your diet or consider an omega 3 supplement if fish isn’t to your taste. It should help with the general health of your heart and cholesterol levels too.
Herbally, it’s possible to use hepatoprotective substances, a fancy way of saying liver protectors. Herbs like milk thistle, dandelion root and artichoke (pictured) help protect liver cells from damage and promote fat metabolism through improved bile production and secretion. These herbs are safe to use and I find them particularly useful in the case of fatty liver disease, with people regularly reporting back that their blood tests are improving.
If you’re interested in trying these herbs, they are easily available over the counter, with my favoured mix being Vogel’s Milk Thistle Complex.
I take the occasional course of them myself after an overindulgent weekend of too much wine or rich food. A colleague of mine takes a Milk Thistle Complex course with the change of every season, not as a detox but to support her main detoxifying organ.
Preventative medicine is the best medicine and if you’re troubled with fatty liver disease or if you’re a fan of the occasional overindulgence, showing your liver a little love can go a long way to improving your overall health.
For more information on this or to book a consultation with Nicola, call her clinic on 01524 413733.