The liver is the key organ in the hepatic system and plays a unique role in metabolism. Many toxins are filtered through the liver. This causes liver diseases and dysfunctions if there is too much build-up. In other words, the liver is not able to remove all toxins out of the body fast enough to keep up with the intake. To support the liver and overall hepatic system, natural approaches for liver dysfunction treatments are discussed.
Supplements of Chronic Hepatitis
Chronic hepatitis is a long term inflammation of the liver. It results from the buildup of viral and toxic agents. Inflammation must also last for at least 6 months. Specifically, there are three types of hepatitis: hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. Hepatitis C is the most common and the only curable form of hepatitis.
Some supplements to consider are selenium, vitamin C, and vitamin E.
Selenium is a potent antioxidant that aids in regulating tissue redox reactions, inflammation, and immune responses. In patients with chronic hepatitis C, there were low levels of selenium. In a Taiwanese study conducted between the late 1980s and early 1990s, patients with higher selenium levels were 38% less likely to develop chronic hepatitis C compared to patients with lower selenium levels. The typical dosing of selenium is 200 microgramme/day as forms of high-selenium yeast or L-selenomethionine. However, side effects include hair and nail brittleness and loss, rash, fatigue, irritability, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Vitamin C is also a natural approach. It is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory supplement that helps limit oxidative stress and inflammation. In a 2008 study, patients were observed with an inverse relationship of vitamin C and aminotransferase levels (AST). AST is an important biomarker for the liver. Common dosing of vitamin C is 200 to 250 mg twice daily with a maximum of 2000 mg/day. However, some side effects of high dose vitamin C include iron overload, bloating, and diarrhea. Also, it is contraindicated in patients with a history of kidney stones or kidney disease.
Furthermore, vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that works as an antioxidant. It works by optimizing glutathione levels, which are important for the antioxidant process. In two small studies, higher vitamin E levels resulted in reduced alanine transaminase (ALT) levels in about one-half of patients. ALTs are another biomarker of the liver. Dosing of vitamin E is 400 IU/day with a maximum dose of 1500 IU/day. However, adverse effects include interactions with antithrombotic drugs and some herbs. For those experiencing a vitamin K deficiency, high-dose vitamin E should be avoided. Overall, patients with chronic hepatitis C should avoid iron supplementation and excess vitamin A.
Botanicals for Chronic Hepatitis
Botanicals to consider for those with chronic hepatitis C are Silybum marianum and licorice root.
Silybum marianum or Milk Thistle
Silybum marianum or milk thistle is a common supplement for patients with chronic hepatitis C. It is an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antifibrogenic, antiproliferative, and immunomodulatory agent that stabilizes hepatocyte cells in the liver. In a small study of milk thistle and vitamin E, patients had a significant reduction in AST levels after 3 months. Overall, milk thistle may be beneficial for patients with chronic hepatitis as shown through reduced AST and ALT levels.
Typical dosing for milk thistle is 300mg three times daily or 210mg silymarin three times daily. However, extracts containing alcohol should be avoided. There may be risks of allergic reactions, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, or rash. Due to drug interactions, milk thistle should be discontinued at least 1 week prior to beginning antiviral treatment.
Furthermore, another natural therapy is licorice root. Licorice root is a form of holistic treatment in countries like Japan for many years. The active component in licorice is glycyrrhizin, an extract that has anti-inflammatory properties. However, studies do not contain cohesive results. Dosing of licorice ranges from 250 to 500mg three times a day for dry powder formulations. For powdered roots, the suggested dosing is 1 to 2g three times a day. However, side effects for high dose licorice include water retention, high blood pressure, and reduced potassium levels. As a result, blood pressure should be taken regularly to observe any drastic changes in levels.
Supplements for Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease occurs when fat in the liver has accumulated with no outside toxins contributing to build up. An example of an outside toxin is alcohol. Suggestions for lifestyle modifications like weight management, exercise, and nutrition are important therapies for the prevention and management of metabolic syndromes and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
Supplements for metabolic syndromes are omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and coenzyme Q10.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids work by decreasing triglycerides and increasing HDL levels. The dosing for omega-3 fatty acids is 1g/day of EPA and DHA.
Furthermore, vitamin D is a supplement for preventing metabolic syndrome. Several studies conducted showed similar effects of higher vitamin D levels to reduced blood glucose. Suggested dosing of vitamin D is 300 to 2000 IU/day. However, calcium levels must be monitored in patients who are taking a combination of thiazide diuretics and vitamin D supplements because of potential for hypercalcemia.
In addition, coenzyme Q10’s mechanism of action is making energy. Increasing energy helps the management of blood sugar levels and oxidative stress. However, CoQ10 at suggested dosing of 120 mg/day but must be taken into precaution with warfarin. This interaction may decrease the effects of warfarin.
There are natural treatments for liver diseases such as chronic hepatitis and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. The liver is an important organ that helps with toxin removals and metabolism in the body. As a result, the liver cannot function properly with a buildup of toxins, which can lead to diseases and disorders. When taking natural supplements or botanicals, precautions regarding long-term use, high doses, or potential interactions with other medications or supplements must be taken into consideration. For more information about liver health and other useful dietary supplements
References 1. Piñeiro-Carrero, Víctor M, and Eric O Piñeiro. “Liver.” Pediatrics vol. 113,4 Suppl (2004): 1097-106. 2. St. John, Tina. “Chronic Hepatitis.” Integrative Medicine, by David Rakel, Elsevier, 2018, pp. 198 – 210. 3. Linkner, Edward and Corene Humphreys. “Insulin Resistance and the Metabolic Syndrome.” Integrative Medicine, by David Rakel, Elsevier, 2018, pp. 320 – 333.