The liver is an organ of immense importance to the body. It plays a key role in the metabolism of cholesterol and glucose, in the breakdown of hemoglobin, and in the synthesis of blood clotting factors among other important physiological functions.
Accumulation of toxins in the body: a continuous process
Your body is in continuous interaction with the environment. Inevitably, toxins get access into the body from food, drugs, cosmetics etc..
The body has an inbuilt capacity to recognize any foreign substance and get rid of it. This is where the liver plays a role. The liver is tasked with the removal of most toxic matter from the body. Sometimes the state of a toxin is very harmful and the liver converts it into a safer compound that is less likely to cause damage. The toxin is then excreted from the body in its milder form.
The liver may get overwhelmed by the accumulated toxins
In the effort of ridding the body of toxins, the liver may become ‘overwhelmed’. This occurs when toxins accumulate at a higher rate than they are being excreted. The liver is then forced to act as a reservoir for the toxins until an opportune time comes for their excretion. This adversely affects the capacity of the liver to perform its physiological functions. The liver cells also have a shorter lifespan. In such a scenario, the liver will need a boost to enable it to rid itself of the accumulated toxins.
Milk thistle: An effective remedy to detoxify liver
Milk thistle is among many compounds that have the capacity to detoxify the liver. For many years milk thistle has been used to treat liver diseases. The fruit of milk thistle contains three potent therapeutic components collectively called Silymarin. Silymarin is composed of silydianin, silybin and silychristine.
Milk thistle has the following capabilities that contribute to the detoxification of the liver.
- It is a powerful antioxidant and therefore protects the liver from damage by free radicals. Action of free radicals on body cells damages them and results in occurrence of various diseases including cancer.
- It repairs damaged liver cells.
- Studies have also shown that milk thistle limits or prevents liver damage caused by drugs.
- It helps in treating liver disease. Patients with hepatitis B and hepatitis C show marked improvement after treatment with milk thistle.
- It prevents toxins from accumulating in new liver cells.
- It reduces the rate at which toxins are absorbed into the liver.
- There are types of mushrooms that are fatally toxic when ingested. Traditionally, milk thistle has been used as an antidote for mushroom poisoning. Modern studies have shown that milk thistle counteracts the toxic effects of mushrooms and significantly minimizes liver damage.
- It promotes protein synthesis in the liver, therefore, aiding conversion of bad cholesterol into good cholesterol.
- The liver has the capacity to grow new cells. Milk thistle accelerates the rate at which liver cells regenerate.
Availability of Milk thistle
In the market milk thistle is available in various forms. Capsules of dried herb contain about 120-140 mg of silymarin. Milk thistle is also available as a liquid extract, tincture or as silymarin phospahatidyl choline complex (easily absorbed as compared to regular silymarin). Milk thistle is generally safe. Side effects are rare and include diarrhea and stomach discomfort. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are advised against taking milk thistle.
A healthy liver is mandatory for healthy living. Efforts should be made to help in ridding the liver of accumulated toxins for a better and healthier you!