If you’re like most people, chances are you’ve heard a lot about liver detox supplements. In fact, there are more than 1,000 different products on the market claiming that they can help your body heal itself in various ways.
But what do all these liver detox supplements actually do? Are they safe for use? And how much of them should you take?
Here’s everything you need to know to figure out if any of these “detoxification” products are really worth your money. Spoiler alert: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
What Is a Liver Detox Supplement?
So, what exactly does a liver detox supplement do? It claims to help cleanse and detoxify your liver by removing toxins from your system. Sounds great, right? Here’s where things get complicated. Milk thistle has been shown to reduce liver inflammation and turmeric extract has been shown to protect against liver injury, though there is not enough data from clinical trials to recommend routine use in humans. Some common ingredients have shown positive results in cleansing the liver. This organic substance is preventative. Numerous liver cleanse supplements are marketed as weight loss aids. However, there is no clinical evidence to back up this cleanse’s efficacy. In fact, some dietary supplements should be used cautiously because they can harm the liver and cause drug-induced injury.
There are two major types of liver detoxification products on the market today:
Both claim to detoxify your liver by promoting the removal of waste material from your bloodstream. However, while both types of products have their benefits, neither type of product will actually do a very thorough job of cleaning your liver. Instead, they just work to slow down the effects of heavy toxin exposure by slowing down the absorption rate of toxins into your body.
And even though they might not seem like much, fiber and herbal concoctions can cause some nasty side effects, such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, stomach cramps, and constipation. These symptoms alone may cause people to stop taking their liver detox supplements before they realize it, which means they’ll never see the results they were looking for.
How Much Fiber Should You Take Each Day?
To answer this question, we first need to talk about why people consume fiber in the first place.
Most people don’t eat enough fiber (or any fiber at all) because they’ve been taught that high-fiber diets are bad for your health. They’ve also been told that if you eat less sugar, you won’t gain weight. But research has shown that eating a diet rich in fiber leads to weight loss, while consuming lots of sugar or refined carbohydrates leads to weight gain.
However, many of us simply aren’t eating enough fiber on our own, so companies started making products that promised to replace the fibers in your diet with something else that would still give you the same benefits without causing you to lose your appetite! This is when fiber-based supplements came along.
What Are the Benefits of Fiber?
Let’s start off by talking about the benefits of fiber:
Many foods contain dietary fiber, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, peas, and nuts. Dietary fiber isn’t digested by the human digestive tract, so it passes through your entire digestive system undigested.
When your digestive tract breaks down food, it produces several acids that break down protein, fat, and carbs. Your gut bacteria then feed on the leftovers, producing small amounts of vitamins and minerals.
Because dietary fiber doesn’t digest, it moves through your digestive tract faster than other types of food, so your body absorbs fewer nutrients and wastes more byproducts. As a result, your body releases fewer hormones that regulate digestion, metabolism, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.
This is why fiber-rich foods make you feel fuller longer. Because most Americans eat too little fiber, they tend to overeat as a way to compensate for low fiber intake. Studies show that people who eat higher-fiber diets tend to weigh less, regardless of whether they exercise or not.
What Are the Drawbacks of Fiber?
Unfortunately, fiber comes with disadvantages, too.
For starters, fiber-rich foods take time to chew and digest, which makes it harder to maintain an active lifestyle. For example, if you’re trying to run a 5K race, you could end up spending more energy on your long walk to the starting line than you did during the actual race.
Another downside of fiber is its laxative effect. Many fiber-rich foods are difficult to digest, leaving behind large quantities of watery feces that must pass through the colon before it can be eliminated. The combination of fiber plus water makes it extremely hard for your body to eliminate, which often causes diarrhea and/or constipation. This is one reason fiber-rich foods are best consumed after meals instead of on an empty stomach.
Is There Really Any Benefit to Fiber?
Now that we’ve covered the drawbacks of fiber, let’s look at the benefits of fiber:
Many studies have shown that adding more fiber into your diet can improve your overall health. One study found that women who ate at least 30 grams of fiber each day had a lower risk of dying early from heart disease.
Other studies have shown that people who eat lots of fiber (and limit their consumption of animal fats and alcohol) can reduce their risk of developing diabetes.
A recent study showed that consuming 10 to 12 grams of fiber per day reduced the risk of developing kidney stones in postmenopausal women by nearly 25 percent. Another study showed that women who ate at least 18 grams of fiber per day reduced their risk of developing ovarian cancer by more than 30 percent.
So, yes, consuming high doses of fiber can improve your overall health. However, keep in mind that if you’re already eating plenty of fiber through your diet, you likely won’t benefit from additional fiber taken as a supplement.
What About Herbal Remedies?
The second type of liver detoxification is made up of herbs and supplements that supposedly cleanse your liver by helping it rid itself of harmful toxins.
Many of these herbs and supplements are sold under names like “Liver Cleanse Formula,” “Stinging Nettle,” “Liver Cleanser,” and “Aloe Vera.” There are hundreds of them, so we only included a few here:
Artichoke leaf extract
Dandelion root extract
Burdock root extract
Ginger root extract
Licorice root extract
Red clover flower
Dong quai herb
While these herbs and supplements claim to be effective at cleansing your liver, none of them go far enough to actually cleanse your liver. In fact, many of them can cause serious negative side effects, including nausea, vomiting, headaches, dizziness, upset stomach, and abdominal pain.
As a result, many experts recommend that people who want to remove toxins from their bodies through herbal remedies try to avoid using multiple supplements at once. Instead, use one supplement at a time to see how it works for you.
How to Find Safe Liver Detox Products
In short, no liver detox supplement is safe to use. While some of them might have benefits, others will leave you feeling worse than you felt before you started taking them.
So, why choose between supplements that can harm your liver versus those that can potentially help it? That’s easy—just stick to eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, and skip the supplements altogether.