The liver is the most metabolically active organ in the human body. It is often thought of as a detox organ, but it has many other functions like storage of energy and nutrients, hormone production, immune modulation, and more. As the obesity epidemic continues to increase, so does poor liver health. Many Americans have some degree of "fatty liver". That means that the liver has an abnormal accumulation of fat. Some common causes are obesity and alcohol, a hepatotoxin that can damage mitochondrial function.
However, many people have fatty liver and are not obese or drink alcohol, i.e "non-alcoholic fatty liver". That's because things such as high fructose corn syrup consumption, hormone imbalance, and even having an unhealthy gut can all alter metabolic activity in the liver and generate fat production. Yes, you heard right. Having an unhealthy gut can affect the liver via production of endotoxins by bad bacteria in the gut that get absorbed and then poison the liver.
Fortunately, this condition can often be easily turned around. Food plays a critical role. Reducing excess starchy carbohydrate consumption has been shown to help. And so can key supplements, such as vitamin E, probiotics, and polyphenols. Below are some foods and supplements that can help.
- Probiotics: these have been shown to slow the progression of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and are highly recommended. They help by reducing the bad bacteria in the gut thereby reducing the "endotoxins" that can damage liver metabolism.
- Leafy greens: contain the most bio-actively forms of "methyl-folate", important for liver heath and detoxification. "Methylation" is used by the liver to help clear toxins and unwanted hormones.
- Polyphenols: berries contain good amounts of these compounds, which not only act as anti-oxidants but promote the growth of good gut bacteria. This helps to crowd out the bad bacteria so that less liver damaging "endotoxins" are produced. Elderberries have some of the highest concentrations of polyphenols.
- Vitamin E: this supplement has been shown to be protective in fatty liver, likely due to its antioxidant properties. I recommended supplementing with the complete vitamin E (all eight tocopherols and tocotrienols), instead of the typical d-alpha tocopherol form. However, even this form of vitamin E is still beneficial. Some foods high in Vitamin E are: spinach, tomato paste, nuts and seeds, eggs, avocados.
- Antioxidant rich foods: people with fatty liver will likely have a low antioxidant status in their body. This leaves the liver unprotected from free radical damage like from toxins, metabolic activity, etc.
- Turmeric: Every nutritionists favorite spice. Turmeric is a very liver protective compound.
- Beets: nutrient dense and full of antioxidants as well as "methyl donors", this amazing food is very liver protective and also promotes good digestion by supporting the gallbladder.
Need help with a diet change? HelloCheffy.com offers chefs that making delicious meals, etc. Also, check out my Gut Healing Program of my Detox Program.