Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) has become the most common chronic liver disease in the U.S. — and you don’t have to drink too much alcohol (or any at all) to develop it.
According to the American Liver Foundation, roughly 25% of American adults have NAFLD. Some other organizations put the number closer to 40%. While alcohol abuse, rapid weight loss, and/or malnutrition can up your chances, diet appears to play the most significant role, as obesity, high triglycerides, and diabetes all raise your risk of NAFLD.
NAFLD is a condition involving a buildup of fat cells in the liver. Without causing obvious symptoms, NAFLD can silently damage your health in several ways, including increasing your odds of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and reproductive issues (in men and women). It can also lead to more serious liver diseases such as liver cancer and cirrhosis.
Even your cognitive function may suffer — a recent study in Neurology linked NAFLD to a higher rate of all-cause dementia. “The association observed in our study is consistent with a recent large Korean study of approximately 6 million individuals aged 40 years or older, which indicated an association between NAFLD and developing dementia,” say the researchers.
Why Your Liver Deserves More Attention
The liver is the body’s second largest — and arguably hardest working — organ, yet many of us rarely give it a thought unless something goes wrong.
Shaped like a cone, the liver performs endless tasks within the body (as many as 500 essential and wide-ranging functions!).
Even if part of your liver is removed or damaged, it keeps working. And it is the only organ in your body that can regenerate itself. Without a properly functioning liver, many of your bodily functions would be compromised, leading to serious health issues. Some of the liver’s key duties include:
- Filtering harmful toxins and chemicals from the bloodstream
- Regulating the metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins
- Storing and releasing glucose for energy
- Producing bile to aid in digestion
- Helping to regulate blood clotting
- Supporting immune health by making important proteins that help prevent infection and inflammation
- Breaking down nutrients
- Manufacturing hormones
- Producing key antioxidants — like the “master” antioxidant glutathione, which your body needs to detox and defend against toxins, free radicals, and oxidative stress
Essential Ingredients for a Healthy Liver That You Can’t Afford to Ignore
Our livers are more compromised than ever today, thanks to unhealthy food choices, rampant pesticide use, increased OTC, prescription, and recreational drug use, sedentary lifestyles, and more.
Diet is the most crucial factor here, as highly processed foods are among the worst offenders when it comes to liver health. Sugar may also be a significant contributor to the disease — a study in the JAMA Network revealed that removing drinks and foods with added sugars from the diet helped reverse NAFLD in children.
Beyond that, using gentle liver detox supplements can help defend your liver against threats like environmental toxins, unhealthy fats and sugar, alcohol, and other damaging compounds. Certain nutrients can also help to enhance your natural liver detox activity, support antioxidant production, improve digestion and metabolism, clear up skin issues, and boost energy production.
More than Milk Thistle: The Other Nutrients You Need for a Complete Liver Detox
Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is a wonder herb and the most well-known botanical for liver support. Native to the Mediterranean, milk thistle comes from the aster or daisy family and is related to artichoke, another liver-friendly herb.
Milk thistle has two secret weapons — silymarin and silybin. These active ingredients have been shown in multiple studies to provide targeted liver and detox support. Published data shows that milk thistle extracts help repair damaged liver cell functions, provide powerful antioxidant protection, increase fat metabolism, balance blood sugar, reduce inflammation in the liver, and support healthy immune responses and liver function.
There is no question that milk thistle is skilled at cleansing the liver but combining it with other key nutrients will deliver maximum benefits for your long-term liver and gut health.
A liver detox formula that combines key liver-friendly nutrients is much more effective than what you will get from a single supplement. These other ingredients include the following:
Alpha Lipoic Acid
This powerful antioxidant helps boost the performance of other antioxidants in the body, including glutathione, aka the “master antioxidant.” It also helps defend liver function against oxidative stress and fatty liver, while improving cellular mitochondrial function and energy production.
Dandelion Leaf and Root
This common weed is an excellent liver cleanser. Dandelion improves gut health and digestive function and supports a healthy gallbladder. This mineral-rich herb also reduces stress on the liver, improves the liver’s ability to filter the blood, and increases the production of bile, which helps digest fat.
Cilantro leaf has been shown to help “bind to” toxins in the liver and digestive tract and safely remove them from the body. At the same time, this herb from the Coriandrum sativum plant helps promote healthy inflammation responses and balanced cholesterol levels. It also provides powerful antioxidant support for enhanced liver detox and health.
This highly active form of sulfur supports cellular detoxification and defends liver function against chemical compounds and toxic substances. As a supplement, it is also helpful for joint health and tissue repair.
This trace mineral is essential for liver enzyme activity, which plays a key role in all stages of liver detoxification and toxin metabolism.
N-acetyl Cysteine (NAC)
This powerful and well-researched amino acid works in part by boosting the body’s production of glutathione. It also tames overreactive inflammation responses in the liver, improves glucose metabolism, and helps neutralize toxins in the liver.
With a powerful blend of diet changes, milk thistle, other liver-detox ingredients like dandelion, zinc, and MSM, you can optimize your liver function and detox pathways, and reduce your risk of NAFLD. Your body will release toxins from cells and tissues more efficiently and produce energy more readily. A clean liver is essential for your feeling and looking your best every day.
- Statistic on NAFLD: https://liverfoundation.org/liver-diseases/fatty-liver-disease/nonalcoholic-fatty-liver-disease-nafld/, https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/liver-disease/nafld-nash
- Ying Shang, Linnea, Widman, Hannes Hagstrom. Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease and Risk of Dementia: A Population-Based Cohort Study. Neurology. 2022 August 99(6).
- Jeffrey B. Schwimmer, MD, Patricia Ugalde-Nicalo, MD, Jean A. Welsh, et al. Effect of a Low Free Sugar Diet vs Usual Diet on Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease in Adolescent Boys: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Network. 2019;321(3):256-265.
- Abenavoli L, Capasso R, Milic N, Capasso F. Milk thistle in liver diseases: past, present, future. Phytother Res. 2010 Oct;24(10):1423-32.
- Atalay E, Ozdemir MT, Tur BK, Erdogdu HI, Sisman The effect of alpha lipoic acid on oxidative parameters and liver injury in rats with obstructive jaundice. Bratisl Lek Listy. 2019;120(11):843-848. doi: 10.4149/BLL_2019_140. PMID: 31747765.
- Malgorzata Kania-Dobrowolska and Justyna Baraniak. Dandelion (Taraxacum officinaleL.) as a Source of Biologically Active Compounds Supporting the Therapy of Co-Existing Diseases in Metabolic Syndrome. Foods 2022 Sep; 11(18): 2858.
- El-Serafi I, Remberger M, El-Serafi A, et al. The effect of N-acetyl-l-cysteine (NAC) on liver toxicity and clinical outcome after hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. Sci Rep. 2018 May 29;8(1):8293.