There are hundreds of pharmaceuticals which can cause acute liver damage, and others which are definitely not kind to this extremely important organ of the body (which is in charge of over 500 bodily functions). Many people eschew prescription drugs altogether due to bodily damage like this, but if you are still weaning yourself from the traditional medicinal paradigm or you must take a prescription drug for some other reason, here are 4 ways to protect your liver since it becomes highly compromised when taking most pharmaceuticals.
(Just don’t forget to confirm with your doctor that the following will not negatively interact with any medications you may be taking).
1. Milk Thistle
Used for over 2000 years as a medicinal herb, namely for liver, kidney and gallbladder problems, milk thistle is a must-have for any liver cleanse diet. This herb has been helpful in protecting it from other medications due to a flavonoid called silymarin and can even protect the liver from over-the counter Tylenol. Milk Thistle is also a super-powered antioxidant which protects the body from oxidative stress damage.
One of the ways in which milk thistle protects liver cells is by preventing a reduction in the concentration of glutathione in the body. This is an amino-acid like compound which neutralizes toxins. In many studies, milk thistle has been shown to increase glutathione levels by more than 35%. This compound is so helpful to the body that it actually alters the outer membranes of cells, making them impervious to many toxins that would otherwise find their way into the cell, while promoting the formation of newer, healthier cells to replace old, tired ones.
The only caution when taking milk thistle with some medications is that it may interfere with methadone, some antibiotics, anti-seizure or cardiac medications. Ask your doctor to be sure.
This often over-looked compound is absolutely vital to your liver’s health. Also known as N-acetyl Cysteine (NAC), this life-saving amino-acid derived wonder has been co-opted by the pharmaceutical industry, but in its pure form, it can help alleviate acute liver distress due to the use of acetaminophen and other pharmaceuticals. All NAC is comprised of is a slightly modified version of the sulfur-containing amino acid, cysteine.
“NAC has been used in conventional medicine for more than 30 years, primarily as a mucolytic (mucous-thinner) inhaled to manage conditions such as cystic fibrosis, in which mucous is abnormally thick and tenacious. While there is little in the scientific literature to support its use as an inhalant, NAC administered in this form remains highly popular among experienced pulmonary speclialists.”
When NAC is taken orally, it has the ability to replenish the natural levels of glutathione, which, as we have seen herein, helps to restore cells’ ability to fight oxidative damage, especially in the liver.
Further, we also know that when sulfur compounds such as those found in cruciferous vegetables are taken regularly, the body increases the levels of three important enzymes: glutathione transferases, NAD(P)H, quinone reductase, and glucuronosyltransferases, which all support the body in clearing toxic compounds from the body, including carcinogens.
3. Alpha Lipoic Acid
Sometimes called a miracle nutrient, alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) is like a vitamin, benefiting every cell of the body. It is produced naturally in small amounts by our bodies, but can be supplemented for additional healing benefits. It is found naturally in brewer’s yeast, spinach and some meats. Alpha-lipoic acid is a powerful antioxidant which can treat diabetic neuropathy (nerve-damage caused by diabetes), prevents cataracts, boosts the immune system, slows the progression of Alzheimer’s and definitely supports a healthy liver.
“The structure of the alpha-lipoic acid molecule differs from all other antioxidants, allowing it to penetrate and protect tissues that otherwise cannot benefit from antioxidants, such as the brain, liver and nerves.” – TheBreathofLife
The fourth way to support the liver is by making sure you get enough dietary fiber. Not only do additional fibers in your diet help to move digested matter through the digestive system and decrease the load of toxin-removal from the liver, but soluble fiber will actually bind to bile acids, made by the liver. This reduces the amount of bile reabsorbed in the intestines, and increases the bile that you get rid of when you use the restroom. To make up for the loss in bile acids, the liver makes more, utilizing LDL cholesterol fro the blood to do so – this thereby reduces your LDL cholesterol levels while helping to boost liver health. (Check out some health benefits of fiber here).
A healthy liver is the foundation for a healthy body. Make sure you are protecting yours, especially when on any prescription drug.
Christina Sarich is a humanitarian and freelance writer helping you to Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World. Her latest book is Pharma Sutra: Healing the Body And Mind Through the Art of Yoga.