If you’re looking for a natural way to improve your liver health, you may have heard of milk thistle.
This herbal remedy has been touted as a treatment for liver disorders, with some studies suggesting that it may help control high levels of liver enzymes like gamma Gt (GGT), as well as AST and ALT.
But is there enough evidence to support these claims?
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the research on milk thistle and GGT, as well as other natural remedies and lifestyle changes that may help improve your liver function.
So grab a cup of coffee (which, by the way, may also have some liver-protective benefits) and read on to learn more.
Does Milk Thistle Lower Gamma Gt?
Gamma Gt is an enzyme found in the liver that is often used as a marker for liver damage or disease. High levels of GGT can indicate liver problems, such as hepatitis, cirrhosis, or alcohol abuse.
Milk thistle, also known as Silybum marianum, is a plant that has been used for centuries as a natural remedy for liver ailments. It contains a compound called silymarin, which is believed to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may help protect the liver from damage.
Several studies have looked at the effects of milk thistle on GGT levels. One study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research found that milk thistle extract reduced GGT levels in people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Another study published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology found that milk thistle improved liver function and reduced GGT levels in people with chronic hepatitis C.
However, not all studies have found a significant effect of milk thistle on GGT levels. A review of 13 clinical trials published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews concluded that there was insufficient evidence to support the use of milk thistle for liver disease.
What Is Gamma Gt And Why Is It Important For Liver Health?
Gamma-glutamyl transferase, or GGT, is an enzyme produced primarily by the liver, but also by other organs such as the heart, brain, kidneys, and pancreas. It plays a crucial role in detoxifying drugs and other foreign substances in the body. GGT is also important for synthesizing glutathione, an antioxidant that helps prevent cellular damage and cancers.
GGT levels in the blood are often used as a marker for liver damage or disease. When liver function is impaired, GGT production increases, causing levels to rise above the normal range of 65 IU/L for men and 60 IU/L for women. A GGT blood test is usually performed alongside other enzyme tests to assess the likelihood of liver disease and physiological issues concerning the bile duct. Elevated GGT levels may indicate liver diseases such as hepatitis or cirrhosis, but they may also be due to other conditions such as congestive heart failure, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, or pancreatitis.
GGT also acts as a biomarker for alcohol abuse. Doctors may request a blood test to evaluate a patient’s alcohol consumption for rehab or as part of their general checkup. Even small amounts of alcohol within 24 hours of a GGT test may cause a temporary increase in GGT levels. Smoking can also increase GGT levels.
Milk Thistle: An Overview Of Its Benefits And Uses
Milk thistle has been used for over 2,000 years as a natural remedy for liver, kidney, and gallbladder problems. It contains a compound called silymarin, which is believed to protect the liver from toxins and promote the growth of new liver cells.
In addition to its use in liver disease, milk thistle has been investigated for its potential benefits in managing other conditions. Studies have shown that milk thistle can improve insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes, leading to a decrease in blood sugar levels and an improvement in cholesterol levels.
Milk thistle has also been studied for its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects. It has been investigated for use in allergic rhinitis, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, drug-induced hepatotoxicity, drug-induced nephrotoxicity, dyslipidemia, and thalassemia. However, clinical trials supporting these uses are limited.
While milk thistle is most commonly evaluated for use in the management of liver diseases such as alcohol-induced and viral hepatitis, the majority of clinical trials show equivocal results. Therefore, more research is needed to determine the full extent of milk thistle’s potential benefits and uses.
It is important to note that while milk thistle is generally considered safe for most people, it can interact with certain medications and may cause side effects such as upset stomach or diarrhea. As with any supplement or medication, it is important to talk to your doctor before taking milk thistle. Your doctor can help determine if it is safe for you and recommend an appropriate dosage.
Other Natural Remedies For Improving Liver Function
In addition to milk thistle, there are other natural remedies that may help improve liver function. Vitamin C, for example, is an antioxidant that can strengthen the immune system and lower GGT levels. Magnesium has also been shown to help treat high liver enzymes, particularly GGT and AST.
Astragalus is an edible herb commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine. It has powerful therapeutic properties due to its high content of medicinal compounds, including saponins, isoflavonoids, and polysaccharides. Some studies suggest that astragalus may help protect against fibrosis and high fat diet-induced fatty liver when used alone or in combination with other herbs.
Turmeric, or Curcuma longa, is a commonly used cooking spice in curries and Indian fare. It has been shown to reduce GGT in animal research by reducing oxidative stress caused by oxidized oils. Turmeric may also have other health benefits, including anti-inflammatory activity and improved insulin sensitivity.
It’s important to note that natural remedies should not be used as a substitute for medical treatment. If you suspect you have liver problems or elevated GGT levels, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Lifestyle Changes For A Healthier Liver
In addition to milk thistle supplements, there are several lifestyle changes you can make to support a healthy liver and potentially lower GGT levels. Here are some suggestions:
1. Eat a healthy diet: A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help support liver health. Limit your intake of added sugars, high-calorie or high-sodium dressings, and red meat. Incorporate healthy fats like avocados and nuts, and try to eat fish a few times a week.
2. Stay hydrated: Drinking enough water is important for liver function and can help flush out toxins.
3. Limit alcohol consumption: Excessive alcohol consumption can damage the liver and increase GGT levels. If you do drink alcohol, do so in moderation.
4. Exercise regularly: Regular exercise can help maintain a healthy weight and improve liver function.
5. Quit smoking: Smoking can increase GGT levels and damage the liver. Quitting smoking can improve overall health and potentially lower GGT levels.
6. Consider herbal supplements: In addition to milk thistle, other herbal supplements like turmeric may help support liver health.
7. Stay up to date on vaccinations: Vaccinations for hepatitis A and B can help protect the liver from viral infections that can cause liver damage.
By incorporating these lifestyle changes, you may be able to support a healthy liver and potentially lower GGT levels. However, it’s important to talk to your doctor before making any significant changes to your diet or lifestyle, especially if you have an existing liver condition.
When To See A Doctor For Elevated Gamma Gt Levels
If you have elevated gamma Gt levels, it is important to consult with your doctor to determine the underlying cause. High levels of gamma Gt can indicate liver damage or disease, which may require medical treatment. Your doctor may order additional tests, such as a liver panel, to further evaluate your liver function.
It is also important to note that while milk thistle may have some potential benefits for liver health, it should not be used as a substitute for medical treatment. If you are considering taking milk thistle or any other natural remedy for liver health, be sure to talk to your doctor first to ensure it is safe and effective for your specific situation.