We’ve all heard that alcohol is bad for the liver. For some people, drinking as little as one glass of wine or beer a day is enough to cause liver problems. Fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, and cirrhosis are all liver diseases that can potentially develop due to drinking, especially heavy drinking. Those conditions are all serious and potentially life-threatening and require special medical care. But what if your liver hasn’t quite got to that point yet? Is there anything you can do to roll back some of the damage?
There are products out there that claim to detoxify the liver, but they’re of dubious effectiveness and safety. If anything, they might help with the short-term effects of alcohol, like hangover symptoms, but there’s no evidence that they can do anything to actually heal the liver. There are several supplement products out there that contain synthetic versions of L-cysteine, which is an amino acid that can increase the levels of something called glutathione in the body. Glutathione is an antioxidant that can prevent damage to cells and clear toxins from the body. In theory, then, products that contain L-cysteine would be good for the liver. However, the problem with supplements is that they aren’t regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and consumers have no way of knowing exactly what ingredients might be in the products, how potent they are, and whether they might cause any health problems.
Other popular “cures” include Panax ginseng, prickly pear cactus, and Siberian ginseng. Panax ginseng is considered a general wellbeing medication, meaning it affects many different systems in the body. It contains components called ginsenosides, which are thought to help with inflammation, which occurs in response to injury or trauma (such as bombarding your liver with alcohol). Prickly pear cactus also has anti-inflammatory properties, and it’s high in antioxidants. Siberian ginseng has been shown to stimulate the immune system and alleviate inflammatory pain. Milk thistle and turmeric have been recommended by naturopathic doctors (doctors who use natural substances like food and herbs to heal the body) to help the liver’s detoxification process. One study also found that the traditional Chinese hangover cure of ginger, tangerine citrus, and brown sugar, when taken before drinking, could reduce nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea caused by heavy drinking and lead to increased feelings of general wellbeing.
However, most of these supplements have little or no evidence backing up their effectiveness. At most, many of them do help with inflammation, which can potentially help the detoxification system work more efficiently. Also, as mentioned above, when you buy these types of products there’s no way of knowing exactly what it is that you’re consuming.
If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504 to get started.