Thanks to today’s contemporary lifestyle of fast foods, our 24/7/365 accessibility, and the growing pressures of many of us in our professional and personal lives, we have become a population of toxemics. “Toxemia” is the medical term that defines a condition in which our bodies accumulate poisonous substances to such a point that levels exceed the ability of our body systems to cleanse them away.
The liver is one of the most important components of the GI system, and may be considered as a vast metabolic factory. It processes proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, and synthesizes bile, glycogen and serum proteins that the body uses for metabolism. Most importantly, the liver is the key organ responsible for detoxification. A properly functioning liver protects the individual from both environmental and metabolic poisons.
The liver’s role in detoxification is activated through the coordinated effort of two families of enzymes, known as cytochrome p450s and conjugation enzymes. Both types of enzymes require activation, and their levels must be kept in proper balance. The enzyme families work together as a team to progressively detoxify the body. The cytochromes p450s actually generate free radicals in order to accomplish their task. Left unchecked these can become harmful. The conjugation enzymes capture these free radicals, and inactivate them and prepare them for excretion.
Once a quarter (every three months), anti-aging physicians commonly recommend that their patients embark on a detoxification program. For liver purification, important nutrients include:
Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum, Carduus marianus): Used medicinally for more than 2,000 years, the well-known 17th century pharmacist Nicholas Culpeper recommended the plant for the treatment of jaundice as well as citing its use for opening “obstructions” of the liver and spleen. The active ingredient in milk thistle is silymarin, a mixture of bioflavonoids that is the most potent liver-protecting substance discovered to-date. On an intracellular level, silymarin inhibits liver damage in four key ways, and it stimulates the production of new liver cells. Studies demonstrate that administration of silymarin improved bilirubin levels of acute viral hepatitis patients in just five days. Studies have also shown it to benefit chronic viral hepatitis patients, reversing liver cell damage, increasing protein levels in blood and lowering liver enzymes, while ameliorating the discomfort and malaise commonly associated with hepatitis.
Studies since the 1930s, conducted mainly in Germany, confirmed that silymarin works to stabilize liver cell membranes and act as an antioxidant to protect liver cells from free radical damage. Sonnenbichler and Zetl demonstrated that it helps regenerate healthy liver cells and boosts the liver’s ability to filter toxins from the blood. Results of studies by Ferenci et al and Velussi et al suggest that it may improve the quality of life, and possibly even life expectancy, of people with liver cirrhosis.
N-Acetyl L-Cysteine (NAC): A modified form of cysteine, an amino acid that is manufactured in the liver. N-Acetylcysteine is a powerful antioxidant that serves three functions: (1) it helps protect the liver from free radicals, (2) it is the nutritional precursor to the body’s own vital glutathione and (3) it can act as a Phase II detoxifier. Glutathione, another amino acid, helps rid the liver of several potential toxins. As we age, eat poorly, incur stress and infection, glutathione levels decrease. NAC has been successfully utilized in treating acetaminophen-induced liver toxicity, and confers important immune-enhancing and antioxidant properties. There is also preliminary evidence to suggest that it may help to prevent colon cancer.
Proanthocyanidins: Bagchi et al found that proanthocyanidins present in grape seed extract were far superior to vitamin C and beta carotene in preventing DNA damage in liver tissue (47% protection by grape seed extract, versus 10% by vitamin C and 11% by beta-carotene).
Curcumin: A compound found in the Indian spice turmeric, curcumin has strong Phase II conjugation activity. It is also anti-viral and a strong antioxidant. New research demonstrates that curcumin may be able to slow down and destroy the blood cancer known as multiple myeloma. Researchers at the University of Texas Cancer Center discovered that curcumin down-regulated the nuclear factor kappa-B, present in all multiple myeloma cells and suspected to be the activator of this type of cancer. The researchers suggest that curcumin may help to both prevent and treat multiple myeloma, as lead researcher Dr. Aggarwal states that that “curcumin is an agent known to have very little or no toxicity in humans.”
The liver is a miraculous component of the human body. Safeguard and maintain your body’s well-being, reduce your susceptibility to infectious diseases, and regain energy and stamina by employing a simple program to promote the health of these unseen and underemphasized organs. A physician-supervised program for anti-toxemia also serves as an anti-aging regimen, as caring for the liver increases the odds of living a longer and healthier life.
A4M. Anti-Aging Desk Reference, appearing in Anti-Aging Therapeutics volume VII, 2005.
Assessment and Management of Hepatobiliary Disease, ed. L Okolicsanyi, G Csomos, G Crepaldi. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 1987, 265-272
Bagchi D, Bagchi M, Stohs SJ, Das DK, Ray SD, Kuszynski CA, Joshi SS, Pruess HG. Free radicals and grape seed proanthocyanidin extract: importance in human health and disease prevention. Toxicology. 2000 Aug 7;148(2-3):187-97.
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