Your liver has the all-important responsibility of filtering out toxins. It’s a tough and non-stop job, but this durable organ is up for the grueling task. It can, however, use some assistance.
There are many benefits of milk thistle, especially considering it’s one form of “fuel” that helps your liver run on all cylinders. This is becoming ever more crucial, as western diets have all sorts of impurities entering the digestive system. Your liver can only do so much before becoming overtaxed.
What Is Milk Thistle?
If you never heard of milk thistle, then you would probably assume that it’s derived from milk. No, milk thistle has no origins in dairy. It’s actually a type of flower more formally known as silybum marianum. The species is mostly native to Mediterranean regions, but is cultivated around the world and renowned for its medicinal qualities.
Its health benefits have been known for at least 2000 years. One of the earliest documentations came from Greek physician Dioscorides, who cataloged the medicinal traits of milk thistle in 40 A.D.
While it doesn’t come from milk, it did get its name due to the milky-white sap that oozes out the leaves when they’re grinded.
Milk Thistle Supercharges the Liver
So, what’s with the hype around milk thistle as a liver cleanser? The flower’s sap works by drawing toxins out the liver and protecting it from damage. It mainly works by fighting free radicals, which is also what other antioxidants like vitamin C and E are known for.
In addition, milk thistle seeds contain lipophilic extracts, which has powerful bioflavonoids that boost immune strength and reduce oxidative stress.
None of what we’re discussing are merely old wives’ tales. There are actually numerous scientific studies to back up these claims. A 2010 report verifies that milk thistle is a legit antioxidant for inhibiting free radical production. The report also backs up milk thistle as a valid remedy for treating alcohol-induced liver diseases and chronic hepatitis. Another study confirmed that milk thistle may protect liver and kidney cells from the toxic effects of pharmaceutical drugs, including the toxic effects of chemotherapy. The study also affirmed no side effects except in the rarest instances.
Furthermore, a separate study also showed that milk thistle may be effective for treating a number of cancers, including colon, prostate and breast cancer.
How Milk Thistle Combats Liver Disease
We’re going to get a bit scientific here as we explain the specific mechanisms of milk thistle for restoring liver health. There are actually multiple processes at work rather than just a single pathway. Consider these ways that thistle aids in function of the liver:
- Milk thistle protects liver structural cells and prevents them from hardening into fibrous, muscle-like cells. This is vital for offsetting fibrosis, which is the first stage of advance liver disease.
- Milk thistle inhibits certain enzymes, such as COX, 5-LOX and NFkB, which are responsible for dangerous cytokine production. Plus, thistle boosts the liver’s ability to make new proteins for repairing existing damage.
- Milk thistle’s antioxidants reverse the oxidation of fats in liver cell membranes. Oxidation causes the contents of liver cells to leak into the bloodstream.
- Milk thistle blocks Phase-1 liver enzymes. These enzymes activate the toxins in the body and convert them into oxidative substances, making it hard for the liver to dispel from the system.
How the Liver Functions and Why It Needs Help
Even after explaining the role of milk thistle, some people remain steadfast in their belief that the liver is resilient enough to handle all the detoxification process on its own. If that were the case, liver cancer cells wouldn’t be a thing. Yet liver cancer claims about 28,920 American lives every year, according to Cancer.net.
We want to explain how the liver works. This way, it’s easier to understand why the liver can only do so much without contribution on your end.
Your liver is a multi-functioning organ. Aside from removing toxins, it also performs these vital tasks:
- Separates food’s macro and micronutrients from chemicals and other waste.
- Converts amino acids into proteins for building enzymes and muscle mass.
- Produces bile to help your intestinal tracts digest fatty foods.
- Stores sugar in the form of glycogen and retains it for later use. It also converts glycogen into glucose when the body requires a quick burst of energy.
- Converts vitamin D into a usable form where it can aid in calcium absorption and immune function.
- Breaks down and deactivates certain hormones, such as cortisol and estrogen.
In essence, the liver acts like a 24/7-functioning factory that never closes shop for the day. The above liver functions are just the tip of the iceberg. According to some sources, this organ alone is believed to be responsible for over 500 life-sustaining functions!
As far as toxin removal goes, the liver does this job through a two-fold process. First, it uses oxygen and enzymes to burn fatty toxins into a more water-soluble substance. Second, the liver binds processed toxins with amino acids or sulfur where they can be eliminated through urine or bile.
Both processes must work in sync. If one or both processes are out of balance, the toxins remain circulating in your body for prolonged periods.
The liver can get out of balance due to factors that include a poor diet, bad air quality and lack of good nutritional intake. The last point is especially important and why a natural compound like milk thistle helps keep the liver working in a harmonious balance.
When the liver is overtaxed, it generates more free radicals and inflammatory cytokines that damage the cell membranes of the liver. This leads to liver disease in its various incarnations, such as cirrhosis, hepatitis and hemochromatosis (iron overload).
Clean Up Your Liver, Clean Up Your Health
You would have succumbed to toxins long ago if it weren’t for your liver. You owe it to this hefty organ to aid it in any way you can. This is precisely why we included milk thistle in our new Digestive Refresh supplement, designed with the very intention of improving digestion and cleansing the liver and intestinal tract.
We highly recommend you check it out if you experience any semblance of bloating or stubborn stools.