How much do you know about your liver? Do you know what it does on a daily basis to keep you healthy?
Your liver is actually the largest organ within the body (your skin is the largest organ you have). While it performs many vital functions, the livers main job is detoxification, filtering out the good from the bad found in the food you consume that makes its way into our bloodstream. It also helps the body properly break down and digest food, to get all the essential nutrients out of it and helps the body convert the food into energy.
However, like anything that cleanses, the liver itself needs a cleanup every now and then to help it keep doing its job properly. Cleansing the liver and providing nutritive support for it is of utmost importance to maintaining health. This is where milk thistle comes in.
Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) has been used for more than 2,000 years in both the United States and Europe for its healthful benefits. The dried fruit of this plant is typically used to make medicine and the active compound within milk thistle that provides its benefits is silymarin, a flavonoid. Flavonoids are powerful antioxidants, which protect the cells of the body against free radicals and other toxins, which can cause oxidative stress and damage to the vital organs.
Milk thistle, therefore, protects the liver from this type of damage, while also reducing inflammation. Taken regularly, it may be able to help prevent and/or slow the progression of cirrhosis of the liver (scarring of the liver), that is a result of either alcohol consumption or some medications. Milk thistle may also help prevent the development of gallstones, due to its effect on bile.
Milk thistle supplements are either labeled as milk thistle or as silymarin. You can also find this ingredient in blends specific to liver health. The average dose is between 420 and 600 mg of silymarin, so make sure that is mentioned in the nutrition facts when looking for a supplement.
If youre already being treated for a medical condition, especially one that involves the liver, its best to check with your doctor before adding milk thistle, or any other supplement, to your daily routine. Although some early research indicates it may support healthy breast milk flow, its not recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding to take milk thistle at this time.
Milk thistle supports a healthy liver naturally, with only some reports of mild digestive upset being the main side effect.