Supplements to Improve Liver Function

The liver is the biggest organ in the human body, weighing about three pounds, states American Liver Foundation. It sits on the right side of your body under your ribs and serves several functions. For instance, it acts as the main detoxifying organ in the body, metabolizes food, stores energy and helps build muscle. When your liver is damaged, it cannot carry out its functions properly. Some supplements can help restore the liver, however, consult a doctor before taking a supplement.

Milk thistle helps to heal and protect the liver. (Image: Angela-DukatPhotos/iStock/Getty Images)

Milk Thistle

Milk thistle is well-known for its ability to heal and protect the liver. It belongs to the Asteraceae or daisy family and is native to the Mediterranean region. Milk thistle seeds contain antioxidants known as flavonolignans, and its active ingredient, silymarin, is a combination of these flavonolignans, states the University of Washington. Silymarin helps to protect the liver from toxins and pollutants and makes milk thistle an effective treatment for conditions such as hepatitis, cirrhosis and chronic liver disease. According to "The Cleveland Clinic Guide to Liver Disorders," your body cannot easily absorb milk thistle, so it's best taken in capsule form. However, it's also available in tincture form.

Alpha-lipoic Acid

Also known as thioctic acid, this antioxidant substance strengthens the liver's ability to detoxify the body, according to Earl L. Mindell, author of "Prescription Alternatives." The human body makes alpha-lipoic acid and it's found in every cell, helping to convert glucose into energy, states the University of Maryland Medical Center or UMMC. As an antioxidant, it combats free radicals and protects the liver from cell and tissue damage. Alpha-lipoic acid has been used in combination with silymarin to treat people who've consumed Amanita, a poisonous mushroom that causes liver damage, according to UMMC. Alpha-lipoic acid supplements are available in capsule form.

Selenium

This trace mineral -- which means it's a mineral that occurs in very small amounts in your body -- has antioxidant properties and protects liver cells from damage, according to Sandra Cabot, a doctor specializing in liver dysfunction and author of "The Liver Cleansing Diet." Cabot adds that selenium may also help fatty liver disease and treat viral infections and autoimmune diseases of the liver.

Also, according to the Linus Pauling Institute, chronic infection with hepatitis B or C greatly heightens the risk of developing liver cancer. However, over an eight-year period, selenium supplementation was able to reduce the occurrence of liver cancer by 35 percent in Chinese populations at high risk for developing hepatitis B and liver cancer. Selenium is available as a supplement on its own or in combination with other minerals and vitamins.

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