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Liver Detox: Does It Work and Is It Necessary?

Published by Dr. Venn-Watson
Dr. Eric Venn-Watson’s Highlights
  • Liver cleanses and detoxification methods are marketed as ways to improve liver health, repair existing liver damage, and even help with weight loss. 

    Detoxifying the liver may not be necessary, but taking better care of your liver is and can help it function more healthfully.

    Taking a liver-supportive supplement, like fatty15, can help support your liver health better than complicated detoxification processes.

After a long weekend of over-indulging, most of us feel a little sluggish. Whether we overdid it on food or alcohol, we usually find ourselves looking for ways to fast-track ourselves back to good health. 

One way we might consider is through liver detoxification. This process of detoxifying our livers makes us feel proactive, but does science really support it? We’ll answer this question and give you some research-backed ways to support your liver health. 

First, let’s talk about why the liver is so important.

Why Does Liver Function Matter?

The liver is a hard-working organ. It’s your body’s main filtration system, responsible for breaking down drugs, removing toxins from the blood, and even ensuring some types of bacteria are eliminated from the body. 

The liver has over 500 identifiable functions, and it’s vital to your health. You can’t live without your liver, and although it has the power to regenerate itself when it’s damaged, some damage is not reversible. 

Liver Damage

There are several different types of liver disease that can damage the liver and alter its function. Infections from hepatitis can cause damage to the liver. 

Hepatitis A and hepatitis B are viral forms of hepatitis that can be managed, but they are not curable. Hepatitis C is curable in most people. Thankfully, vaccinations against hepatitis, as well as smart lifestyle choices, can protect us from contracting these diseases. 

Alcohol consumption and other diseases may also negatively impact the liver and lead to liver damage and cirrhosis. A very common and silent form of liver disease is nonalcoholic fatty liver disease or NAFLD

This disease occurs when excess fat accumulates on the liver. NAFLD is referred to as silent because it typically presents with few (if any) symptoms. In other words, you probably won’t know if you have NAFLD until it progresses.

When NAFLD progresses to the point of liver damage, the condition is known as nonalcoholic steatohepatitis or NASH. NASH is a condition that causes inflammation in the liver that impacts liver function. Left unmanaged, it can lead to the replacement of healthy liver tissue with scar tissue, known as fibrosis. 

Cirrhosis of the liver occurs when more scar tissue replaces healthy tissue and liver function is severely impacted. Cirrhosis can lead to liver cancer or liver failure. 

You cannot live without a liver, and if your liver function declines to the point it becomes life-threatening, you’ll need a liver transplant. Thankfully, you can take steps to care for your liver health so that you don’t have to experience these negative liver issues. 

Detoxing Your Liver: Fact Versus Fiction

Taking your liver health seriously is important, but it’s also important to understand what “detoxing” the liver actually means. First, your liver does a great job removing toxins on its own. 

One of the liver’s primary functions is removing toxins from the body. The liver produces bile, which carries these toxins out of the liver and removes them from the body. 

Using a product to assist the liver in the detox process isn’t scientifically backed and may not actually remove additional toxins from the liver. It’s also important to note that just because you’ve over-indulged does not mean your liver isn’t capable of proper function. 

Unless you have a pre-existing liver condition, your liver will likely be able to function as it normally does. 

Does Liver Detoxing Help Keep Your Liver Healthy?

Not likely. In fact, the ingredients in most liver detox products aren’t regulated by the FDA. 

Though some benefits may be associated with certain herbal ingredients like milk thistle or turmeric, you should likely avoid using these products to improve your liver’s health. There’s a general lack of long-term studies available to help support the benefits of using these ingredients to help support your liver. 

Will a Liver Cleanse Help Me Lose Weight?

If you’re looking for an easier way to lose a few extra pounds, a liver cleanse isn’t it. Some ingredients in a liver cleanse may work as diuretics or laxatives, which may help with bloating or constipation, but losing excess fluid or stool isn’t real weight loss. 

Can a Liver Cleanse Protect Against Liver Disease?

Unlikely. There are ways to protect your liver from disease, but science doesn’t support a liver cleanse as one of the proven methods of protecting healthy liver function. 

In addition, if you have liver disease, a liver cleanse won’t reverse damage to your liver or help your liver heal or reverse your condition. 

Bottom line: A liver cleanse is not considered a necessary part of a healthy lifestyle. There’s little to no scientific evidence that a liver cleanse will support your liver health, but there are plenty of lifestyle changes that can.

Supporting Liver Health

Taking care of your liver is actually a bit easier than drinking cup after cup of dandelion tea or taking extra doses of over-the-counter synthetic liver enzymes like glutathione. In fact, simply paying attention to your weight and diet are two of the best ways you can protect your liver health. 

Maintaining a Healthy Weight

The leading risk factor for NAFLD is obesity. Having a BMI of 30+ is directly associated with a higher risk of developing NAFLD. If you are overweight or obese, losing weight can help protect your liver and even help you manage pre-existing liver diseases like NAFLD or NASH.

Limiting Alcohol

Alcohol is filtered by the liver, and it can cause the buildup of excess fat on the liver to occur. The CDC recommends that if you do not drink alcohol, you shouldn’t start and that if you do drink alcohol, you should limit your intake to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.

Eat a Healthy Diet

A diet filled with processed foods can easily pack on additional calories, salt, and sugar, which can lead to unhealthy weight gain. Replace processed foods with whole foods like lean proteins, fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grains to reduce your calories and give your body the nutrients it needs to thrive. 

Be Fat Smart

If you have a preexisting liver condition like NAFLD, it might seem like reducing your overall fat intake is a good way to keep your liver functioning properly. That’s only partially true.

We now know there’s a difference between good fats and bad fats, but for a long time, we believed that all saturated fats were bad. Science now supports that’s not the case. 

It is now recognized that an important class of fatty acids, called odd-chain saturated fatty acids, are important for maintaining our health. Additionally, one odd-chain saturated fatty acid called pentadecanoic acid orC15:0 was recently identified as an essential fatty acid. 

This makes it the first essential fatty acid to be discovered since omega-3 over 90 years ago. An essential fatty acid is one that our bodies don't make, and we must get through our diets to maintain our health. 

Science supports that higher levels of odd-chain saturated fatty acids, especially C15:0, are associated with better liver health and better overall health. There are now calls to action to update current dietary guidelines to differentiate between good and bad saturated fats.

How Does C15:0 Work?

C15:0 works by targeting your cells, including your liver cells, and helping restore lost function that occurs as a natural part of aging. C15:0 reverses cellular aging by:

  • Removing non-functioning cells. Cells that have lost their function sometimes stick around instead of dying. This can create a toxic and inflammatory environment in the body. C15:0 activates AMPK, a molecule that helps remove these toxic cells.
  • Regulating the body’s inflammatory response. Proinflammatory cytokines are molecules that are associated with aging. C15:0 effectively calms and lowers levels of these molecules in the body. 
  • Restoring failing mitochondria. As mitochondria age, they produce less energy (ATP) for the cell and more reactive oxygen species (ROS), which is damaging to the cell itself. C15:0 reduces ROS output by 45% and increases ATP production
  • Activating AMPK helps restore total body homeostasis by supporting functions like glucose uptake and immunity. 
  • It helps deepen sleep, balance mood, and even regulate appetite by activating PPARɑ and PPARẟ receptors.

Supporting your liver with C15:0, a natural, essential fatty acid, is a good choice for helping improve your liver health and increase your ability to age healthfully. 

Getting C15:0: Diet or Supplement

C15:0 is found in trace amounts primarily in whole dairy products like whole-fat milk and full-fat butter. It probably goes without saying, but you wouldn’t want to increase your butter and whole milk intake to get your daily dose of C15:0, as you would be ingesting excess calories and sugars.

Through years of scientific research, we created a solution. Fatty15 is the first and only supplement to contain FA15™, the pure, vegan-friendly, sustainably-produced, award-winning version of C15:0.

Elevate your cells. Elevate your self.

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Why a Supplement Works

There are a few reasons why taking a supplement to obtain this essential fatty acid may be beneficial. 

First, it's made ready to absorb. In milk (and other foods), C15:0 is attached to branches of lipids called triacylglycerides, aka triglycerides. That means our gut has to use digestive enzymes to break down these triacylglycerides to release C15:0 as a free fatty acid. 

Once C15:0 is released, it is ready to be absorbed. These multiple steps can make our absorption of C15:0 from foods less efficient. In contrast, FA15™ in fatty15 is our proprietary pure, powder C15:0 ingredient already in free fatty acid form. Less work for the gut, more good C15:0 for our bodies.

It's not mixed with bad saturated fats. While the good C15:0 fatty acid is present in whole-fat dairy products in trace levels, there are much higher levels of “bad” even-chain saturated fatty acids that continue to be associated with poorer health. That is probably why studies evaluating the effects of milk on our health are mixed (some say dairy fat is bad for us, while others say it is good for us). 

Fatty15 provides just the good fat without the bad fats. It skips the cows and calories. Whole-fat dairy products provide a wallop of calories, including sugars (aka lactose), that also require - well, cows. 

The calories in whole-fat milk likely explain why a large-scale recent study showed that adults who drink more dairy milk are more likely to have a higher body weight

Further, the movement to more plant-based milk and meat replacements is driven by a desire for more animal-free products and to veer from cows and cattle because of concerns around methane production. Interestingly, plant-based milk replacements lack C15:0 altogether. Fatty15 offers a vegan-friendly C15:0, with only one calorie per dose.

Ditch the Detox, Grab the Fatty

Your liver is pretty amazing in the way it supports your body, and supporting it doesn’t require as much work as you might think. A liver detox may sound like a good idea, but there’s little evidence that it will help, and it isn’t something you should routinely include in your health care plan. 

Instead, take steps to maintain a healthy weight, and consider adding fatty15 to your health stack. Taking fatty15 can support your liver naturally and improve your longevity and wellness. 

Sources:

Liver Functions, Location, Anatomy and Disease | Columbia Surgery

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease - Symptoms and causes | Mayo Clinic

Detoxing Your Liver: Fact Versus Fiction | Johns Hopkins Medicine

Facts about moderate drinking | CDC

Dairy consumption and overweight and obesity: a systematic review of prospective cohort studies - Louie - 2011 | Wiley Library

Efficacy of dietary odd-chain saturated fatty acid pentadecanoic acid parallels broad associated health benefits in humans: could it be essential? | Scientific Reports

A review of odd-chain fatty acid metabolism and the role of pentadecanoic Acid (c15:0) and heptadecanoic Acid (c17:0) in health and disease

Profile photo for Eric Venn-Watson

Eric Venn-Watson M.D.

Eric is a physician, U.S. Navy veteran, and Co-founder and COO of Seraphina Therapeutics. Eric served over 25 years as a Navy and Marine Corps physician, working with the special forces community to improve their health and fitness. Seraphina Therapeutics is a health and wellness company dedicated to advancing global health through the discovery of essential fatty acids and micronutrient therapeutics.

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