Milk Thistle – Helping our Liver Detox

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Toxins and chemicals are found everywhere anymore.  Milk thistle can offer support for our liver, which performs more than 300 critical metabolic functions beyond just detoxifying our body. Milk thistle can aid other health issues as well, it is combative against cancer, diabetes, gastrointestinal problems, metabolic syndrome and seasonal allergies.  Let’s begin with The Truth About Cancer and then we will check out what has to share as well.

Why Your Liver Needs Milk ThistleYour body’s primary line of defense against toxins is the liver, which performs more than 300 critical metabolic functions beyond just detoxification. Without our livers, we would very quickly die, which is why we need powerful, liver-protective herbs like milk thistle (Silybum marianum) in our lives. The health benefits of milk thistle are extensive, and include protection against the various metabolic burdens that cause liver damage and liver failure. One of the most powerful liver-protective herbs known to man, milk thistle has a solid track record in the scientific literature of exhibiting antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antifibrotic (preventing tissue scarring) properties. Milk thistle seeds, and extracts made from these seeds, have long been used as a natural therapeutic to guard against liver damage.

Recent research published in the journal Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology affirms that silymarin, a lipophilic extract made from milk thistle seeds, mitigates oxidative stress resulting from both alcoholic and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Silymarin contains three compounds − silybin, silydianin, and silychristin − that work together to prevent toxins from overburdening the liver. This in turn helps prevent a cascade of other liver failure-related diseases from forming. These include conditions like atherosclerosis, neurodegenerative disease, and cancer.

Other milk thistle compounds like silibinin perform similar functions. They help to counter the toxic effects of mycotoxins, organic solvents, pharmaceutical drugs, ethanol, and other substances to which humans are routinely exposed in the modern world.  The ability of silymarin to directly alter the membranes of liver cells gives it a unique ability to stimulate cell regeneration. This means it has the potential to reverse liver damage that’s already occurred. Its antioxidant potential has also been shown to not only stop inflammation but trigger the formation of glutathione. Glutathione is the body’s “master” antioxidant that, based on its immense mechanistic actions, holds the key to vibrant health and longevity.

Milk Thistle as a Cancer Treatment – Published studies on milk thistle’s anti-cancer potential show its effectiveness against cancers of the skin, prostate, liver, lung, breast, colon, cervix, and ovaries.  Milk thistle is also powerfully chemoprotective (meaning it protects against damage from cancer drugs). This is why it’s often used as an adjunct in conventional cancer care to help mitigate the toxic effects of chemotherapy and radiation.  The silymarin component of the herb offsets the growth and persistence of various types of cancer cells, including those associated with prostate, skin, and liver cancers. Likewise it exhibits general anti-metastatic activity, meaning it helps prevent cancer cells from spreading throughout the body and infecting other organs.

Now let’s check out how milk thistle relates to Glutathione and what Side Effects may occur with milk thistle use.

Milk Thistle and GlutathioneSilymarin, the active ingredient in milk thistle, is an antioxidant that can protect against depletion of glutathione, which is a “master antioxidant” that’s extremely useful at helping prevent disease formation. Glutathione is found naturally in the human body, as well as in some plants, mushrooms, fungus and algae. Its biggest role is to help fight oxidative stress that leads to such diseases as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and neurodegenerative diseases.  It can help prevent damage to important cellular components caused by reactive oxygen species, such as free radicals.

One of the biggest milk thistle benefits is that it preserves glutathione. The modern American diet, pollution, toxins, medications, stress, trauma, aging, infections and radiation all work to deplete liver capabilities and also glutathione in the body. Milk thistle helps increase glutathione levels by improving liver detox functions. Milk thistle strengthens the liver cell walls, buffering them from invading toxins, and supports liver regeneration and glutathione formation.

Recommended Dosage of Milk Thistle – Because milk thistle is categorized as a supplement, rather than a drug, it’s not subject to the same oversight and quality control from the FDA that standard drugs are. The amount of active ingredients can vary widely depending on the different preparation methods used and the brand. Currently, there are several different compounds available on the market, all recommending different doses.  Dosing hasn’t been nationally standardized yet at this time, but most people do best consuming between 20-300 milligrams daily.

Milk Thistle Side Effects – Milk thistle is considered safe and well-tolerated, with very few cases of side effects ever reported. The most common side effects aren’t serious and include gastrointestinal upset, such as a mild laxative effect. When taken within the recommended dose range, milk thistle is thought to be effective and mostly free of allergic reactions and interactions. (10)

One thing to note is that in certain situations, antioxidants like those found in milk thistle have been shown to possibly interfere with the efficacy of some cancer chemotherapy drugs by protecting cancer cells from cell death. This means that understanding appropriate doses and examining blood concentrations is important before milk thistle could be used as a true anti-cancer therapy.

Feature Image Source: Flickr


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