Your liver is a vital organ that performs hundreds of biological processes to keep you healthy, like filtering toxic substances from your bloodstream and storing energy.
However, nutrient deficiencies, chronic diseases, and lifestyle factors like alcohol can damage your liver over time.
So, what is the best way to maintain a healthy liver, and which liver support supplements are backed up by medical science?
Your liver is one of the most important organs in your body, as it acts as your body’s natural filter in addition to storing and releasing energy from food. Because the liver is so essential for your health, there has been lots of research into healthy liver supplements and treatments to keep it in tip-top shape.
Nowadays, there are hundreds of superfoods and supplements claiming to contain liver repair vitamins and nutrients to improve your liver health, so how do you choose the one that’s right for you? In this article, we’re looking at ways to maintain liver health, the science behind liver supplements and recommending some of the best vitamins and minerals for liver health.
How to Maintain a Healthy Liver
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and a few small lifestyle changes can go a long way to maintaining the long-term health of your liver. Rather than turning to vitamins for fatty liver disease, you can help maintain a healthy liver by adopting these lifestyle changes:
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Being overweight increases your risk of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD), and too much fat in your liver can cause inflammation, damaging your liver.
Your liver is vital for filtering toxins and regulating nutrient levels in your blood, but it needs plenty of water to function, so staying hydrated helps regulate levels of toxins and nutrients like vitamin C in the liver.
Regular exercise helps you maintain a healthy weight, burn triglycerides and reduce liver fat, helping keep your liver healthy and working efficiently.
Avoid Toxic Substances
Your liver works to filter out harmful substances from your blood, so try to minimize your exposure to toxins in cleaning products, aerosols, insecticides etc. to maintain a healthy liver.
Drinking is fine in moderation, but excessive alcohol consumption causes liver damage, depletes liver vitamins and minerals, and can cause chronic liver disease in extreme circumstances.
Say No to Drugs
Now we know you’ve probably heard it all from D.A.R.E, but remember to say no to drugs, as they can directly damage your liver.
NOTE: If you don’t know what D.A.R.E is, ask your parents.
Practise Safe Sex
While your liver is probably the last organ you think about when climbing into bed with a special someone, hepatitis B and C are sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) that can cause liver damage, so remember to practise safe sex with your partner(s).
Eat a Balanced Diet
Substances like fat and refined sugars are harder for your liver to process, so you should try to eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables and nutrients like vitamin D for liver health.
Foods that Support Liver Health
In addition to managing risk factors for liver disease (such as alcohol consumption), certain foods and drinks may help improve your liver health. These foods and drinks are high in beneficial compounds like essential minerals and vitamins for liver repair, so consider adding these items to your diet if you’re worried about your liver:
Studies show that drinking coffee helps lower the risk of cirrhosis (permanent liver damage), liver cancer and inflammation, as it prevents the buildup of fat and collagen and reduces inflammation.
Studies show that drinking green and black tea can improve overall liver health, but there have been several reports of liver damage caused by liver support supplements containing green tea extract, so it’s probably best to take your tea in cups rather than pills.
Grapefruit is high in antioxidants like naringenin and naringin that protect the liver by reducing inflammation and protecting cells.
Blueberries and Cranberries
Blueberries and cranberries contain anthocyanins, antioxidants that give the berries their distinctive colors and are linked to many health benefits like improved liver health whether you eat them fresh, drink their juice or take them in healthy liver supplements.
Grapes, especially purple and red varieties, contain various beneficial compounds, such as reservatrol, which can lower inflammation and improve liver function, though most studies used grapeseed extract which can be found in liver repair vitamins.
Beetroots are a natural source of nitrates and antioxidants called betalains that are shown to reduce inflammation and oxidative damage in the liver and increase natural detox enzymes.
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, kale and cabbage are high in fiber, beneficial plant compounds and vitamins for fatty liver that can help protect your liver from damage, making them a healthy addition to any diet.
Nuts are high in healthy fats and nutrients like the antioxidant vitamin E, and a 2019 study linked diets high in nuts to lower risks of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD).
Fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel contain omega-3 fatty acids, healthy fats that help reduce inflammation and liver fat, helping regulate chemicals like vitamin C in the liver and contributing to overall liver health
Olive oil is a healthy fat with many health benefits, including reduced fat accumulation in the liver and improved insulin sensitivity which help support a healthy liver.
Signs of Liver Problems
Most liver problems don’t present obvious symptoms in the early stages, but they are a lot easier to deal with if you can recognize the symptoms and catch them early on. If you’re concerned about your liver health or suspect you don’t get enough vitamin d for liver health, look out for these common symptoms of liver problems:
While the symptoms of liver disease will vary depending on the cause, there are a few common signs that indicate some kind of liver issue, such as an imbalance of liver vitamins and minerals:
- Bruising easily
- Itchy skin
- Decrease in appetite
- Swollen abdomen, legs or ankles
- Dark urine
- Jaundice (yellow skin and eyes)
- Abdominal pain
- Aching joints and muscles
If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s better to follow up with your doctor than ignore the possible signs of liver damage, as early treatment is the best way to deal with liver disease.
How Long Does it Take for Your Liver to Repair?
In recent years, many supplements and vitamins for fatty liver claim to ‘detox’ your liver and help you recover from a weekend binge or lose weight. However, you may be better off making healthy lifestyle changes, as your liver is incredibly resilient and can regenerate damaged cells on its own, especially if you give it a ‘rest’ from dealing with toxins.
Although it depends on your liver health and lifestyle, experts estimate that your liver will begin to repair itself a few days after starting your detox, taking approximately four weeks to repair itself. Unfortunately, prolonged exposure to toxins will eventually cause liver scarring (or cirrhosis), which is permanent and cannot be cured with any amount of liver vitamins and minerals or detox programs.
If you notice any signs of liver problems, you should speak to your doctor, as early treatment and prevention are key to treating liver disease, rather than trying to detox yourself.
Do Liver Supplements Work?
Hundreds of products claim to support liver health by ‘detoxifying’ or ‘regenerating’ your liver, but do they live up to expectations? Many of these liver repair vitamins and supplements claim to undo the damage of toxins like alcohol, improve the function of your liver, or stimulate liver growth, though there isn’t much scientific evidence to support those claims.
Human trials of the active ingredients in healthy liver supplements (such as milk thistle extract) have produced mixed results. While they may help people with liver disease, there is little evidence that they support liver health in other cases. Ultimately, the variety of used makes it hard to give a simple answer, which is why we have evaluated common ingredients in these supplements below.
Popular Ingredients in Liver Supplements
The active ingredients of liver supplements can vary wildly, as many brands contain herbal extracts, minerals, vitamins or a combination of all three to try and improve liver health. So you don’t have to experiment with taking licorice root and vitamin D for liver health, we’ve identified some of the most common ingredients in liver supplements and highlighted their health benefits:
Milk thistle is widely used to treat liver disorders, and its active ingredient – silymarin – may help regenerate liver tissue and reduce inflammation, though human studies have been inconclusive.
L-cysteine is an amino acid that helps your body produce the powerful antioxidant glutathione and is used in hospitals to treat acute liver failure, so it may help prevent liver disease when taken as a supplement.
The ‘sunshine vitamin’ is a well-known antioxidant that may help protect your liver against inflammation and oxidative damage, though there are few studies on the effects of vitamin C in liver health.
Many people with chronic liver disease are deficient in vitamin D, so supplementing with vitamin D for liver health may help support your overall health or at least address nutritional deficits linked to liver disease.
Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA)
ALA is an antioxidant that can help reduce inflammation when taken as a supplement, potentially benefiting liver and kidney health.
Artichokes are high in fiber and antioxidants, and some studies show that supplementing with artichoke leaf extract may support healthy blood pressure and regulate liver enzymes.
Curcumin – the active ingredient in turmeric – is a powerful antioxidant, so taking turmeric liver support supplements may help protect your liver against inflammation.
Zinc is a trace element with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects that may protect your liver from oxidative damage and can even help with hormonal balance and male fertility.
Licorice root is one of the world’s oldest herbal remedies and may help reduce inflammation in the liver and regenerate damaged liver cells, making it a great addition to other vitamins for liver repair.