Fatty degeneration of the liver is not a condition that often makes the headlines. Yet it affects more than 50 per cent of people over the age of 50. The most common symptoms of this condition are difficulty in losing weight, a potbelly or ‘spare tyre’, cellulite and a high blood cholesterol reading (which can be detected through a simple blood test). It’s vital to look after your liver and to give it a detox every so often – it’s the largest organ in your body and has many important functions. Everything that you eat, breathe or absorb through your skin must be refined and detoxified by your liver.
One of your liver’s main tasks is to regulate the metabolism of fat, and to remove excess fat from your body in the bile. Alcohol, chemicals in the home or workplace, medicinal drugs and excess waste products resulting from a poor diet (especially from processed foods) can all damage your liver. They cause excessive fat to build up within your liver, which impairs its ability to function. This means that your liver is no longer able to handle fats properly, allowing fat to start accumulating around your waistline or being deposited under your skin as cellulite.
When your liver is damaged in this way, it is also unable to regulate your cholesterol levels properly. It fails to manufacture enough ‘good’ HDL cholesterol, which allows ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol to build up in your arteries – increasing your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
To help your liver repair itself and start working properly again, simply follow the 2-week liver cleansing diet outlined below, alongside specific nutrients and herbs that help cleanse this vital organ.
Liver detox: Make sure you’re eating the right kind of fats to reverse a fatty liver
Try and limit the amount of dairy produce you consume, especially full-cream milk and cheese (remember this is just a short-term measure… these foods can be introduced back into your diet again after the 2-week liver detox). Also avoid starchy foods like potatoes, bread and rice.
Keep your intake of alcohol, salt and saturated fats low and avoid processed foods, sugar, and caffeine. Try and steer clear of drugs (however, you shouldn’t stop taking any prescription medicines without talking to your doctor first).
Instead, eat plenty of fish, meat, poultry, eggs, green vegetables, fruit, beans, nuts and seeds. Essential fatty acids are particularly
beneficial so eat more avocados and have cold-pressed oils, such as olive oil, sunflower oil and linseed oil.
Fibre is vital in helping to eliminate fats and toxins from your body in your bile – otherwise these are simply re-absorbed. And remember to drink at least two litres (eight glasses) of water a day to help flush harmful toxins from your body.
Liver detox: SAMe helps undo some of the damage that’s already been done
As well as making dietary changes, taking certain nutritional supplements during the 2-week detox can also help your liver.
There are certain natural compounds, found in foods or manufactured by your body, that are strongly ‘lipotropic’ – meaning they remove fat from your liver and allow it to function normally again.
One such substance is a derivative of the amino acid methionine, called s-adenosyl methionine (or SAMe). It is normally produced in your liver, from methionine, folic acid and vitamin B12. However, it stops being produced in sufficient quantities if your liver is clogged up with fat.
SAMe protects your liver from the effects of harmful chemicals, which must pass through your liver to be detoxified. It also promotes the flow of bile, which is essential for the digestion of fats and for the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.
Taking supplements of SAMe has been found to help restore normal liver function, even in people with more serious liver diseases such as hepatitis (Curr. Ther. Res., 1979; 25:25-32). Take 400mg of SAMe a day.
Phosphatidyl choline and inositol can remove fatty deposits from your liver
Phosphatidyl choline (PC) is essential for the healthy functioning of all the cells in your body, and is particularly beneficial for your liver (Nutr. Rev., 1994; 52(10): 327-9).
Like SAMe, PC also protects your liver from the damaging effects of toxins, alcohol and drugs. It is needed for the proper metabolism of fats and has the ability to remove fat from your liver (Crit. Rev. Biochem. Mol. Biol., 1995; 30(4): 263-273).
In fact, without PC, fats tend to become trapped in the liver, leading to fatty degeneration and the blocking of normal metabolic functions (J. Nutr. Biochem., 1990; 7(1): 332-348).
The best dietary sources of PC are eggs, liver and other organ meats, soya beans, nuts and wheatgerm. PC is also a constituent of lecithin, the name given to a group of lipotrophic compounds extracted from soya compounds. Take either one tablespoon of lecithin granules, 4,800mg of lecithin concentrate (e.g. 4 x 1,200mg capsules) or 2,500mg of pure phosphatidyl choline a day.
Inositol is another lipotrophic compound and a phospholipid that is found together with PC in lecithin. A lack of inositol has been shown to result in an accumulation of fat in the liver (Adv. Nutr. Res., 1982; 4: 107-141). Inositol occurs naturally in a wide variety of foods, such as beans, seeds, and green leafy vegetables. Take 250-500mg of inositol a day.
Liver detox: Milk thistle helps disarm toxic substances in your liver
Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is one of the most well researched and documented liver-protective herbs. It has been shown to help safeguard the cells of the liver from harmful toxins and to eliminate any toxins that are already present (Toxicol. Appl. Pharmacol., 1979; 51: 265-75).
Milk thistle seeds contain a bioflavonoid complex called silymarin, which is the active ingredient in the herb.
Silymarin has been found to regenerate injured liver cells and to alter the composition of bile in a way that prevents the formation of gallstones (J. Hepatol., 1991; 12: 290-5). To benefit, take a standardised milk thistle extract that provides you with around 420mg of silymarin a day as a treatment for liver problems, or half this dose as a preventive.
If you look after your liver properly, this not only helps you lose weight and shed those remaining few stubborn pounds you thought you’d never lose… but also does your overall health a big favour too. Maintaining a healthy liver is essential to help prevent more serious conditions, such as viral hepatitis (A, B and C), liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.
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