By Dr. Oz and Dr. Michael Roizen
June 04, 2008
The digestive system is a lot like a car or a computer. A lot of things have to go right for it to work properly. And when one thing falters, the whole system can turn your gut into a tornado of trouble. Luckily, there are enough data about the liver and pancreas to show that you can help them function to their fullest potential to promote good digestive health and also to avoid the troubles that can come when things get out of whack.
Step 1: Live Clean
While it's impossible to stay entirely toxin-free throughout your everyday life, that doesn't mean you can't take steps to help reduce the pollution that pummels your body. Lessen the load for the liver, and you'll live longer.
So what's that mean? Choose charcoal-filtered purified water over unfiltered tap water. Choose unrefined and unprocessed foods over the ones that spend more time in a factory than in the earth. Choose fruit over Froot Loops. Choose proteins like lentils, soy, beans, nuts and seeds over red meats and the accompanying animal fats to avoid consuming the toxins that those animals were exposed to. And avoid eating any liver of any species that has been exposed to toxins. Your liver—not to mention your heart, your brain and your waistline—will thank you.
Also, have protected sex and use new needles and new pigment for tattoos, as hepatitis B and C are transmitted this way.
You already know cruciferous vegetables—broccoli, cauliflower, brussels spouts and cabbage—are good cancer fighters. They've also been shown to help aid the detoxification processes of the liver.
While you're at it, it's also important to have foods loaded with vitamins B, like whole grains, and C, like citrus fruits and leafy green vegetables. They, too, have been shown to aid the detoxification process by helping your innate antioxidant system.
Step 3: Sprinkle on Some Health
Ginseng, cinnamon, coffee and tea have been shown to help increase insulin receptivity, which can help lower the risk of aging from type 2 diabetes. Some studies have shown that one of the substances in ginseng berries—not the root—or a half teaspoon of cinnamon a day can increase insulin function by more than 50 percent.
Have trouble managing those confusing store shelves? Get your liver and pancreas functioning at their fullest potential. Promote good digestive health and avoid digestive troubles with these nutrients and supplements.
This is a supplement that contains 10 percent to 20 percent phosphatidylcholine, depending on the brand. Phosphatidylcholine is a necessary component of VLDL, or very-low-density lipoprotein, which transports fats processed by the liver around the body.
One component of the chemical, called choline, comes from the diet and can help replenish the needed levels of phosphatidylcholine in the liver to build VLDL molecules. However, when people are deficient in choline, these VLDL particles cannot form correctly, so fat builds up in the liver to cause damage. There are two ways to get choline or phosphatidylcholine—through a supplement or in food.
A varied diet should provide enough choline. Men should aim for 550 milligrams and women for 425 milligrams a day. One large egg contains about 125 milligrams of choline, and one cup of toasted wheat germ contains about 175 milligrams.
Zinc has been shown to help detoxify the body of alcohol. The optimum amount, especially for anyone who drinks alcohol, is 15 milligrams per day.
These should be taken with the guidance of a doctor or herb expert because of their lack of standard dosing and potential interaction with other drugs. Two to consider are:
It’s considered the safest and best supplement for liver health. Milk thistle’s powerful ingredients, flavonoids, protect against inflammation and an unhealthy thickening of the liver. They also may help prime the body’s immune system and antioxidant system.
Though its use is not supported by the reams of data we like to see, the evidence does suggest some positive effects, as well as confirms its safety. The dose is 80 to 200 milligrams one to three times a day.
A member of the sunflower family, it’s one of the most nutrient-rich plants there is. The whole plant is edible, but the herb is a source of potassium, sodium, phosphorous and iron, as well as vitamin A. The recommended supplement dose is 900 milligrams a day. Dandelion has a number of laboratory studies to suggest that it protects hepatocytes. However, good clinical data from humans are lacking. As a reminder, always consult your doctor for medical advice and treatment before starting any program.
Vitamin A can cause fat storage in the liver, chronic hepatitis and cirrhosis. Patients with chronic liver disease should consume less than 2,500 IU of vitamin A per day in pill form. Getting vitamin A through food seems okay. A list of other nutrients and supplements that have been shown to have toxic effects on the liver:
Nicotinic acid (niacin; Nicolar)
Senna fruit extracts
From YOU: The Owner's Manual: Updated and Expanded Edition