More than ever before in the history of mankind, humanbeings need to have healthy livers to break down the chemicals that have crept into our environment. If you talk to radiologists and gastroenterologists who are looking at people’s livers today they will tell you that the condition “Fatty Liver” affects more than 50% of people over the age of 50!
Common causes are incorrect diet, excessive alcohol intake, adverse reactions to drugs and toxic chemicals, and viral hepatitis. It is because modern-day medicine has become sidetracked into treating the symptoms of diseases and not the causes. Excess weight is a symptom of liver dysfunction and not solely due to the number of calories you consume.
We have been attacking the symptoms of weight excess with fad diets, obsessional high impact aerobics, stomach stapling and toxic drugs, such as appetite suppressants, laxatives and diuretics. We have failed to consider the underlying cause of liver dysfunction and indeed we have virtually ignored the hardest working organ in the body, with dire consequences.
Research on the liver show us these consequences not just weight problems, but a higher incidence of cardiovascular and degenerative diseases that are the leading causes of death in modern affluent societies.
It is alarming the large number of hormone implants being inserted into beef animals. Steers are implanted with Hormonal Growth Promotants (HGP) which is justified by corporate statements, that tests have shown that a non-pregnant woman produces 54,000 times the amount of estrogen found in a 500 gram steak and that only a fraction of the amount used in human hormone replacement therapy is used in the implants that are put into animals. This is all very well, however, it is still increasing the workload of the liver, which over a long period of time may cause hormonal imbalances in those who eat beef regularly. We must ask ourselves why is the incidence of breast cancer so high, particularly in relatively young women? Surely it is better to eat meat from animals that roam free and happy in fresh green pastures that are not injected with potent hormones or fed concentrated stock feed to rush their growth?
The use of drugs to control and treat animal disease and to promote faster, more efficient growth of livestock is a common practice. An estimated 80 percent of U.S. livestock and poultry receive some animal drugs during their lifetime. Improper use of animal drugs may cause residues in the edible tissues of slaughtered animals that could be hazardous to consumers.
Most countries will have set MRL or Maximum Residue Limits. This is the amount of pesticide residue, heavy metals, hormone residues and natural toxins that the food (eggs, meat or milk) are allowed to have and still be sold to the public for consumption. The MRL in Australia are set by the National Registration Authority for Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals. In the USA they are set by authorities under the Food and Drug Administration. The key point is, just because a food substance complies in relation to the MRL , does not mean that the food is free from All contamination just that it is at, or under, the level set by the particular authority deemed to be safe. MRLs are often set on a national basis to meet the requirements of a particular country. However, pests and pest pressure can vary between countries, as can chemicals used and agronomic practices. The lists of MRL values applying in different countries can therefore be quite different.
There is also the point that despite the existence of these laws, it does not guarantee that all farmers and growers comply 100% . Principle causes of excessive drug residues are failure to observe drug label withdrawal periods before slaughter or processing, or failure to withhold milk after dosing of herds with drugs such as the treatment of bovine mastitis with large doses of penicillin which requires a withholding period before the residues in milk are reduced to acceptable levels. Other causes may include failure to follow other drug label directions, poor feed manufacturing practices, and human negligence.
There are many chemicals (e.g., trace metals, industrial chemicals, and mycotoxins) that may be inadvertently present in animal tissues yet have no established safe concentrations. This of course does not mean that these substances are not harmful.
It is a fact of life that pesticides, herbicides and hormones are used in food production. Although the regulatory levels set by authorities provide some control over residues – it is not the ‘be all and end all’. The liver is again highlighted as vital, as it is the organ that metabolizes these substances and excretes them from the body.
The liver is the gateway to the body and in this chemical age its detoxification systems are easily overloaded. Thousands of chemicals are added to food and over 700 have been identified in drinking water. Plants are sprayed with toxic chemicals, animals are injected with potent hormones and antibiotics and a significant amount of our food is genetically engineered, processed, refined, frozen and cooked. All this can lead to destruction of delicate vitamins and minerals, which are needed for the detoxification pathways in the liver. The liver must try to cope with every toxic chemical in our environment, as well as damaged fats that are present in processed and fried foods.
What are the functions of the liver?
- It is responsible for the production of bile which is stored in the gallbladder and released when required for the digestion of fats
- The liver stores glucose in the form of glycogen which is converted back to glucose again when needed for energy
- It also plays an important role in the metabolism of protein and fats. It stores the vitamins A, D, K, B12 and folate and synthesizes blood clotting factors
- Another important role is as a detoxifier, breaking down or transforming substances like ammonia, metabolic waste, drugs, alcohol and chemicals, so that they can be excreted. These may also be referred to as “xenobiotic” chemicals. If we examine the liver under a microscope, we will see rows of liver cells separated by spaces which act like a filter or sieve, through which the blood stream flows.
Recently, it has become very fashionable for people to detoxify their bodies by various means, such as fasting or cleansing the bowels with fiber mixtures. Fasting can by its extreme nature, only be a temporary method of cleansing the body of waste products, and for many people causes an excessively rapid release of toxins which can cause unpleasant, acute symptoms.
Although it is important to keep the intestines moving regularly and to sweep their walls with high fiber and living foods, it is important to remember that the bowels are really a channel of elimination and not a cleansing organ per se. In other words the bowels cannot cleanse, filter or remove toxic wastes from the blood stream.
There is an astounding weight of empirical evidence and research data pointing towards Milk Thistle’s use as a liver protector and regenerator.
For over two decades now, study after study has confirmed Milk Thistle’s unique abilities with regards to aiding the correction of liver disorders. Conditions including cirrhosis, viral and alcohol-induced hepatitis, and fatty infiltration of the liver have all shown significant improvements when treated with Milk Thistle. Even the poisons most dangerous to the liver, those contained in the Deathcap mushroom, can be effectively detoxified with Milk Thistle extract.
Milk Thistle yields three main active compounds known collectively as Silymarin, which work in a number of ways to restore liver health. Silymarin inhibits the factors responsible for causing liver damage. As well, it increases the liver’s content of a substance called glutathione which is responsible for detoxifying many chemicals, drugs and hormones. Silymarin also stimulates the growth of new liver cells so that damaged areas of the liver may be regenerated.
Beyond the treatment of liver disorders, everyday care of the liver lays a cornerstone for total body health. Naturopaths and others who look beneath the symptoms of an illness to its underlying cause, often discover that the liver has had a role to play. This is true across a vast range of different ailments from headaches to PMS.