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Your body’s endocrine system is a network of glands that produces and secretes over 30 different hormones.
Like air traffic controllers at the airport, your hormones keep things running smoothly, regulating all of your body’s functions: digestion, metabolism, body temperature, appetite, reproduction, and blood sugar.
When you’re exposed to toxic endocrine disruptors that hijack those hormones, things can crash and burn pretty quickly, often with severe and lasting effects on your health.
Among the worst of these chemical hormone-hijackers are pesticides. They can stay in your body for years, doing their dirty work.
The fresh fruits and vegetables you buy at the grocery store are likely covered with an invisible pesticide residue. Pesticides seep into the soil from manufacturing plants and farms.
Ironically, it’s your liver — your body’s detoxifying organ — that bears the brunt of a lot of damage from pesticides. Lucky for us, there’s a safe and natural remedy that can give your liver a boost and help it keep on working to keep your body free from invaders.
How milk thistle supports the liver
Milk thistle has a long history of being used to support and detoxify the liver.
Ancient Greek naturalist Pliny the Elder wrote that milk thistle was excellent for “carrying off the bile.” Later on, in the 17th century, English physician Nicholas Culpepper used milk thistle to cleanse the liver and spleen and to treat jaundice and gallstones.
Silymarin, the active chemical in milk thistle, is approved in the German Commission E Monographs (the most accurate information available on the safety of herbs) as a supportive treatment for inflammatory liver conditions such as cirrhosis, hepatitis and fatty liver disease.
Silymarin is an antioxidant that scavenges for the free radicals that damage cells that are exposed to toxins.
It also boosts levels of the antioxidants glutathione and superoxide dismutase in the liver, both of which protect your liver from free radical damage.
How milk thistle fights metabolic problems
Besides pesticides, your liver is bombarded daily by other environmental toxins. Chemicals like radon, formaldehyde, and heavy metals often hide in plain sight, in your furniture, in your home, or in the air you breathe.
To guarantee that they can remain in your body and do their dirty work, these chemicals interfere with your body’s “full” signal, so that you end up overeating. They also cause your body to produce more fat cells (where toxins are easily stored).
On top of that, they team up to wreak havoc on your blood sugar, digestion and cholesterol levels, all of which can affect your weight.
As you can imagine, it’s nearly impossible for your body to maintain a healthy weight while under the influence of these toxins.
Silymarin helps your liver break down fats more efficiently and supports one of the liver’s basic jobs: to monitor your blood sugar by making just enough glucose available for your energy needs, but not so much that it causes weight gain. In fact, a study on mice found it reduced insulin resistance.
Milk thistle may also help keep cholesterol levels down, especially in people with diabetes, according to a 2006 study.
How to take milk thistle
Milk thistle is available in tinctures, tablets, soft gels, liquids and capsules, so you can choose the form that works best for you. Your local health food store should carry at least a few of these.
Just steer clear of milk thistle tea. It only contains a small dose of the beneficial compound silymarin, which doesn’t dissolve well in water.
Look for a supplement that contains 70 to 80 percent silymarin as its active ingredient and take anywhere from 300mg to 900mg per day. People who are treating liver issues can take as much as 400mg to 600mg, three times per day. When in doubt, follow manufacturer guidelines.
Make sure to check with your doctor first if you’re on any medications to rule out interactions, especially if you take diazepam, warfarin and some diabetes medications.
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Adipose Tissue as a Site of Toxin Accumulation — Comprehensive Physiology
Toxic environment and obesity pandemia: Is there a relationship? — Italian Journal of Pediatrics
The sneaky ingredient that keeps the weight from coming off — Easy Health Options
Silymarin: A Potent Antioxidant, Liver Protector, and Anti-Cancer Agent — US Smart Publications
What are the benefits of milk thistle? — Medical News Today