“Is life worth living? It all depends on the liver” – William James
The liver is thought of as the ‘seat of anger’, housing our darkest emotions, which is why liver problems are associated with resistance to change, fear, anger, and hatred. But regardless of its symbolical meaning, one thing is certain: if you have a sluggish liver, you are feeling miserable.
You can think of a sluggish liver as a subclinical liver dysfunction brought on by a lifetime of eating the Standard American Diet (SAD!) and/or too much toxicity. Even though genetics play a role and anyone with a liver disease can have a sluggish liver, for the first time in our evolutionary history we are being exposed to unprecedented levels of toxicity and we are consuming the highest intake ever of carbohydrates (sugar), both of which strain our livers to the max.
The body eliminates hazardous toxins – heavy metals, pesticides, solvents, and microbes – by neutralizing them or by excreting them through the urine, feces, lungs (breathing), and skin (sweat). Toxins that the body is unable to eliminate accumulate in the tissues, typically in our fat cells.
The liver is the detoxification organ par excellence and the body’s ability to eliminate toxins largely determines its health. Many diseases, including cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other chronic age-related conditions, are linked to a sluggish detoxifcation system.
The liver detoxifies toxins through two main phases.
Phase I detoxifcation enzymes are known as cytochrome P450. It is made up of 50–100 enzymes that neutralize toxic chemicals by transforming them into a less toxic form. Chemicals that can’t be neutralized are changed into an intermediate form. Unfortunately, many of these intermediate forms are more toxic and potentially more damaging than the original toxin. Also, as the phase I enzymes neutralize toxins, they produce inflammatory free radicals. If there aren’t enough antioxidants (i.e. gluthatione, vitamins, etc) to deal with these free radicals, our health becomes compromised.
Phase II detoxifies toxins that the phase I enzymes turned into intermediate form by attaching chemicals to the structures. This process is called conjugation and it neutralizes toxins, making them more likely to be excreted through urination or defecation. A malfunctioning phase II detoxification system can cause all sorts of chronic illnesses. Some examples of conjugation includes glutathione conjugation, methylation and amino-acid conjugation. Low-protein diets and a lack of digestive enzymes inhibit this process because they don’t provide enough raw materials for conjugation.
The liver also plays an essential role in hormonal balance, the immune system, digestion, protein synthesis, cellular nutrition and many other functions. This explains why a person with a sluggish liver can have a variety of symptoms:
– Irregular or heavy menstruations.
– PMS symptoms, including breast soreness and sensitivity, depression, hypoglycemia and irritability.
– Mood instability and irrational anger and temper flare-ups (“what am I, chopped liver?!”).
– Nausea, dietary fat intolerance, foul smelling gas, swollen belly, loss of appetite, constipation and diarrhea.
– Aching joints and muscles, sore feet.
– Psoriasis and other skin problems, hair loss, and slow wound-healing.
– Headaches, insomnia, difficulty awakening, poor memory, and difficulty concentrating.
– Strange or opposite reactions to drugs, multiple chemical sentivities and multiple allergies, asthma, hives and eczema.
– Chronic fatigue syndrome, depression.
Fortunately, there is a natural and effective way to boost our liver function.
Milk thistle is a flowering plant of the daisy family native to the Mediterranean regions of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, which has been used since Greco-Roman times as a herbal remedy for many diseases, particularly liver problems. Supplements are a standardized preparation of 70 to 80% silibinin, silychristin, and silydianin, collectively known as silymarin. This concentration is required because silymarin is poorly absorbed (20–50%) from our digestive tract.
The silymarin complex, particularly the silibinin component of milk thistle, protects the liver in a direct and indirect way. It protects the liver from free-radical damage. It prevents certain toxins from entering liver cells and even neutralizes toxins that have already penetrated the liver. It is able to regenerate liver cells that have been injured, prevent fibrosis and prevent fatty liver.
Over 30 years ago, intensive research on the liver-protecting properties of milk thistle began in Germany where it was approved for the treatment of alcohol-induced liver disease and other diseases of the liver.
Milk thistle treatment can be effective even several hours after initial poisoning occurs. It can also prevent the damage caused by certain drugs such as acetaminophen, antidepressants, antipsychotic, cholesterol-lowering and anticonvulsive drugs.
Silymarin can raise glutathione levels in liver cells by as much as 50%. Glutathione is the most important liver-protecting antioxidant, becoming depleted if we are exposed to high levels of toxins on a daily basis. Silymarin also increases the activity of another antioxidant known as supraoxide dismutase (SOD).
Other than the liver, milk thistle has been shown to be protective for our kidneys and brains against toxins, free-radical damage and inflammation.
There are no known contraindications or interactions with other drugs for milk thistle and the only occasional side effect is a mild laxative effect. No restrictions during pregnancy and lactation are known.
The normal dosage is 420 mg in three divided doses (80% silymarin content) daily.
Dr. Gaby’s Recommended Sluggish Liver Protocol
- Milk thistle 140mg (with 80% silymarin) three times a day
- Alpha lipoic acid 100mg twice per day
- Vitamin E 800 IU per day
- Vitamin C 4-6 g/day
- Magnesium 400-1200 mg/ up to bowel tolerance (cut out one dose until diarrhea disappears)
- Digestive enzymes