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5 Steps that May Regenerate the Liver Naturally

Written by Puya Yazdi, MD | Last updated:
Medically reviewed by
Genius Labs Science Team | Written by Puya Yazdi, MD | Last updated:

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In most cases, preventing any damage is impossible. Science asks the question of how to “mitigate” the damage, enhance regeneration, and find nutrients that support liver health – and that may be accomplished. Read on to get an overview of the steps that may help this process.

What is Liver Regeneration?

Overview

The Liver is the only visceral organ with high regenerative capacity. Data suggest that it can regenerate after a chemical injury or after surgical removal. About 25% of the liver mass can regenerate back to its full size [1].

Scientists say that the regeneration process allows the liver to recover lost mass without harming the viability of the entire organism [2].

Liver Toxicity

There are many possible causes of liver toxicity.

For example, liver toxicity is a serious complication in HIV patients taking HAART (Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy). In patients, the treatment of suspected HAART-related liver toxicity should first involve a withdrawal of the therapy. Limited studies concluded that nucleoside-drug-induced mitochondrial damage to the liver may improve with riboflavin or thiamine therapy [3].

Many other diseases, medications, and toxins can damage the liver.

If you have liver damage or experience symptoms of liver toxicity, talk to your doctor to get adequate diagnosis and treatment.

The steps outlined below are envisioned to complement conventional therapy when deemed appropriate.

Thus, you may try the additional strategies listed in this article if you and your doctor determine that they could be helpful. None of these steps should ever be done in place of what your doctor recommends or prescribes.

Steps that May Regenerate Your Liver

Step 1) Potentially Liver-Protective Supplements

Limited research suggests that the following supplements may protect the liver and support liver health when taken at generally safe doses:

  • NAC (helps create glutathione and may protect the liver, but more data are needed) [4]
  • Milk thistle (based on traditional uses, though clinical findings have been mixed)
  • Taurine (likely plays an important role in liver health, but its clinical value is still unknown).
  • Vit C (adequate intake has been linked with a lower risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease) [5]
  • B vitamins (adequate intake may support liver health, especially of vitamins B3 and B12) [6]
  • ALCAR (liver disorders increase the risk of liver deficiency)
  • Lipoic acid and carnosine (under investigation for liver health; insufficient evidence)

However, some studies had controversial results and large-scale clinical trials are lacking to back up the use of any of these supplements in people with liver disease. More research is needed.

And while there are lots of purportedly hepatoprotective (liver-protecting) herbs and supplements, some of them also contain liver toxins. Caution is advised.

Additionally, supplements have not been approved by the FDA for medical use. Supplements generally lack solid clinical research. Regulations set manufacturing standards for them but don’t guarantee that they’re safe or effective. Speak with your doctor before supplementing.

Step 2) Foods and Spices for the Liver

There are not enough data about liver-protective foods and spices from clinical studies.

We’ll go over foods and nutrients that may support liver health, and, thus, aid in regeneration based on animal studies. However, have in mind that animal data can’t be applied to humans. We need large trials before we know how impactful these nutrients can be.

Foods

Choline that is abundant in Egg yolks is thought to help detoxification of the liver through the processing of fats and cholesterol. Scientists are exploring whether it can help prevent NAFLD (Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease) [7]. The most commonly available choline supplement is lecithin, which is derived from egg yolks.

Chicken has carnosine, which is being studied against liver injury [8].

Blueberries may have protective effects on acute liver injury in animals [9]. Also, researchers are investigating whether proanthocyanidin – the type found only in blueberry leaves – suppresses the replication of the hepatitis C virus [10].

Beets contain a pigment called betalain, which may protect the liver from oxidative stress and chronic inflammation, based on animal data [11].

Biofortified Carrot intake increased liver antioxidant capacity and Vitamin A status in animals [12]. Animal studies suggest that carrots may support liver health, modify bile acid excretion, and increases antioxidant status [13, 14].

According to one small study conducted by Japanese researchers, Avocados contain some liver protectants [15].

Vegetables like broccoli [16], onions [17], dandelion greens, cabbage, cauliflower and brussels sprouts [18] may have a cleansing effect on the liver, according to some animal data.

Scientists think that asparagus roots and shoots may have a stimulating effect on both the liver and kidney and increase the flow of liquids from the body. They are researching potentially protective effects of extracts from A. officinalis on liver cells [19].

Walnuts contain high levels of l-arginine (an amino acid), glutathione, and omega-3 fatty acids. Animal studies suggest that these nutrients might help detoxify the liver of ammonia. Walnuts may also help oxygenate the blood, and extracts from their hulls are often used in liver-cleansing formulas. However, human research is needed to verify their effects [20].

Fruits like Apples, Plums, Grapefruit, Oranges, and lemons are also thought to be helpful in cleansing the Liver, but no hard data on their liver-protective effects exist.

Healthy Fats

Fish has taurine, omega 3’s, and PUFAs (PolyUnsaturated Fatty Acids) that are essential for the proper functioning of the liver [21, 22].

An Olive Oil-rich diet appears to decrease the accumulation of Triglycerides (TGs) in the liver. Limited studies suggest it might be helpful for NAFLD patients who have high TGs, but more research is needed [23].

Spices

Some scientists think that Garlic can protect the liver from toxic agents. Small human studies suggest that garlic may protect against acetaminophen-induced liver toxicity, but large trials are lacking [24].

Ginger protected against alcohol-induced liver toxicity in rats, but its effects in humans are unknown. It’s being studied for normalizing levels of SOD (Superoxide dismutase), catalase and GSH in rats [25, 26].

Drinks

Experimental studies mentioned that Coffee may have protective effects on the liver. Some researchers believe it should be researched further as a preventive measure against chronic liver diseases (from steatosis to fibrosis). The effects of moderate daily unsweetened coffee are under investigation [27, 28, 29].

A meta-analysis has suggested a link between Green Tea intake rand reduced liver disease risk [30]. Individuals who consumed more than 10 cups of green tea/day seemed to have a lower risk of liver cancers in other small studies, but this finding remains unverified [31].

The seed coat of the Cocoa seed is traditionally used for liver ailments. People traditionally drink a liquid meal along with dark chocolate (85% cocoa) to improve liver function, but there is insufficient evidence to support this practice.

In Ayurveda, Turmeric is thought to help with liver disorders [32]. Curcumin the most important and active component in turmeric that is being researched against liver inflammation and damage in the lab, but human data are lacking.

Extracts of Artichoke are commonly found in liver detoxification supplements. Limited data suggest that artichoke may lower cholesterol levels and support liver health, though the data are inconclusive [33].

Step 3) Liver Regeneration

People with liver disease are prescribed different treatments based on the type, cause, and symptom severity in their case. Regenerative liver therapies are an important area of research. However, people who have suffered irreversible liver damage require a liver transplant.

This section goes over some potential complementary approaches to liver regeneration in people receiving conventional treatment. Some, such as rooibos and goji berries, are considered generally healthy even in people who don’t have a liver issue.

The herbs and supplements discussed below are being researched for liver regeneration but are lacking clinical research. Thus, these studies should not be interpreted as supportive of any health benefit. Complementary Herbs in the Regenerative Phase

Milk Thistle

Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is a medicinal plant that has been used traditionally for thousands of years as a “liver elixir” for a variety of diseases to do with liver dysfunction or gallbladder problems. Despite its long-standing use, clinical evidence about its effectiveness for these uses is lacking [34].

It has also been researched for its effects on protecting the liver against snake poison, insect stings, mushroom poisoning, and alcohol abuse. Nonetheless, these uses also lack solid clinical data [35, 36, 37].

In line with this, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCIH) concluded that little is known about whether milk thistle is effective in people, as only a few well-designed clinical studies have been conducted [38].

In a clinical trial of 50 children with leukemia, milk thistle use was linked with potentially reduced liver toxicity after 1 month. The authors said that further trials need to determine how milk thistle affects liver health and chemotherapy side effects in people with leukemia [39].

In a survey of 32 people who received liver transplants, those who used milk thistle and other herbal products had better problem-solving skills, considered the supplement investment worthwhile, and reported better overall health [40].

This does not speak to the benefits of milk thistle but more likely shows that people who tend to actively seek ways to improve their health and well-being feel better.

SAMe

The body manufactures S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) for use in converting certain chemicals to other chemicals (specifically, through the processes of transmethylation and transsulfuration).

SAMe may increase the “master antioxidant,” glutathione. Scientists think that glutathione helps protect the liver against different chemicals, toxic metabolites, and oxidative stress [41, 42].

In a meta-analysis of 12 clinical trials (705 patients), SAM-e reduced two markers of liver damage: bilirubin and AST. The researchers observed these effects in patients with [43]:

  • Liver scarring (cirrhosis)
  • Impaired bile flow (cholestasis)
  • Alcoholic liver disease

That doesn’t necessarily mean that SAM-e can treat the above conditions.

Overall, SAM-e was safe and provided moderate benefits, but most patients responded even better to ursodeoxycholic acid (ursodiol).

Probiotics

Probiotics have been studied as liver protectants, but more clinical research is needed t determine their effectiveness and safety in people with liver disease.

In one such study, 84 adults (aged 18-65) with liver disease ( cirrhosis or hepatitis) were randomized to receive yogurt (1 cup, 3 times daily) with or without the probiotics B. bifidus, L. acidophilus, L. bulgaricus, and S. thermophilus. After 2 weeks, the people in the probiotics group experienced an improvement in their symptoms, including less debilitation and better appetite [44].

Chronic liver disease with cirrhosis can lead to a potentially life-threatening brain complication, called hepatic encephalopathy. A 2011 review of 7 randomized trials involving 550 people found inconclusive evidence to support the use of probiotics as a treatment for this condition [45].

Purple Sweet Potato

One double-blind study found evidence that a beverage made from purple sweet potato could improve measures of liver function in people with mild hepatitis of unspecified cause. Their findings have not been replicated yet [46].

Supplements Lacking Evidence

People often take the following supplements – sometimes marketed for “liver support” or “detox” – for their purported liver-regenerative effects:

These substances are also often promoted as neuroprotectants. However, there are not enough data to support their use for liver regeneration or brain health.

Use Caution:

Large doses of the following supplements or herbs were toxic to the liver in animal trials in large amounts, but seemed to have a protective effect in small amounts. Whether or not – and at what dosage – they may cause liver damage in humans is unknown. We advise caution until proper clinical trials are carried out.

Step 4) Repleting Nutrients

B vitamins in general, are depleted by alcohol and liver toxins like acetaldehyde. Specifically, B12 and Folate intake may be particularly important. Magnesium is also depleted by alcohol [48, 49, 50].

Step 5) Reduce or Cut Alcohol

Excessive alcohol drinking is the main cause of liver disease and a global health burden. Years of alcohol drinking can make the liver swollen and damaged, as can binge drinking over the long term [51].

If you’re diagnosed with alcohol-related liver disease (including alcoholic hepatitis), you must stop drinking alcohol.

Reducing or avoiding excess alcohol is one of the best steps you can take for your liver even if you are healthy.

In people who drink moderate amounts of alcohol without addiction problems – such as having an occasional glass of wine a couple of times per week – drinking after meals is a way to slow alcohol absorption.

About the Author

Puya Yazdi

Puya Yazdi

MD
Dr. Puya Yazdi is a physician-scientist with 14+ years of experience in clinical medicine, life sciences, biotechnology, and nutraceuticals.
As a physician-scientist with expertise in genomics, biotechnology, and nutraceuticals, he has made it his mission to bring precision medicine to the bedside and help transform healthcare in the 21st century.He received his undergraduate education at the University of California at Irvine, a Medical Doctorate from the University of Southern California, and was a Resident Physician at Stanford University. He then proceeded to serve as a Clinical Fellow of The California Institute of Regenerative Medicine at The University of California at Irvine, where he conducted research of stem cells, epigenetics, and genomics. He was also a Medical Director for Cyvex Nutrition before serving as president of Systomic Health, a biotechnology consulting agency, where he served as an expert on genomics and other high-throughput technologies. His previous clients include Allergan, Caladrius Biosciences, and Omega Protein. He has a history of peer-reviewed publications, intellectual property discoveries (patents, etc.), clinical trial design, and a thorough knowledge of the regulatory landscape in biotechnology.He is leading our entire scientific and medical team in order to ensure accuracy and scientific validity of our content and products.

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