A sedentary lifestyle, accompanied by rich food and excessive alcohol, can have serious consequences for our liver. The liver is one of the most versatile and complex organs in our body. It produces bile, and plays a critical role in metabolism. Importantly, liver cells process all toxins, and make many of the substances that are vital for our body. A healthy liver regulates the glucose level – releasing as much as our body needs to match the energy requirements of our lifestyle. When we consume excess carbohydrates, the liver converts the excess glucose into glycogen – which is then stored in the liver or in the muscles for later use. Once the glycogen tanks are full, the overload is converted into fats – thus laying the foundation for obesity.
Excesses in diet and alcohol consumption rapidly lead to liver problems – which include cirrhosis, jaundice, hepatitis, and gall bladder disorders. Co-morbidity with other chronic lifestyle disorders (such as diabetes) exacerbates matters. While damage to many organs may be reversible, liver damage is notoriously difficult to handle once it sets in.
Over 2000 years ago, ancient Greece discovered the wonders of Milk Thistle – a detoxifying herb. It has been used since to treat liver and gall bladder diseases, and to protect the liver - especially hepatotoxicity induced by alcohol, or by indiscriminate use of medical drugs. Various studies have shown that it helps reduce oxidative stress, liver cirrhosis and hepatitis C - an infectious disease that’s the leading cause of liver induced morbidity in the world. Milk Thistle has powerful chemopreventive properties too, and is increasingly being used as an adjunct therapy in treating cancers.
Tip of the week
All parts of the Milk Thistle plant are usable. For example, the leaves can be eaten as greens—when young and tender—and the roots can be consumed boiled or steamed.
Most of the health benefits are attributable to the seeds. They can be ground and then added to culinary preparations, or to a beverage. When roasted, they can be used as a coffee substitute. Milk thistle can be taken orally in nutritional supplements, or in tea. It can combine well with other herbs.
Nature’s Wonder Food of the week :
Milk Thistle or Silybum marianum is a plant with bright purple flowers, and is native to the Mediterranean region. Over the years it has been naturalised in many other regions that have dry rocky soil and abundant sun.
The plant is a veritable powerhouse of phytonutrients. Some of the more important ones are the Flavolignans. Together, all the phytonutrients can help increase glutathione levels in liver cells by as much as 50 per cent. Glutathione has multiple functions – it is the major anti-oxidant produced by the cells, and is critical in the synthesis and repair of DNA and proteins. It impacts almost every system in our body - especially the immune system, the nervous system, the gastrointestinal system and
Milk thistle, combined with traditional treatment, may even help manage diabetes.
While there has been some scepticism, the role of milk thistle in managing liver cirrhosis and chronic hepatitis is now widely accepted. While minimal side-effects have been reported, women who are breastfeeding or pregnant should avoid using it. υ
Registered Holistic Nutritionist
(Canadian School of Natural Nutrition) For education purposes only; always consult a healthcare practitioner for medical conditions