Liver health-Supporting this critical organ

July 15, 2022

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By Dr. Elizabeth DeLomba, DVM MBA

Liver health is a capacity that we evaluate every day. From palpation, radiographs, ultrasound examinations and interpreting blood values, we spend a lot of time assessing the liver. And much of that time is spent scratching our heads and asking a lot of questions. Is this value high because of health imbalances? Age? Lab variability? Incidental? Frequently, the answers are not easily obtained or the pet owner may be unwilling to pursue further testing, however the joy that occurs if you happen to aspirate just the right spot to be able to obtain an accurate diagnosis, is real!

Approaching these vague signs is challenging. In many cases, I would offer the pet owner a supplement. This provides the liver the resources it needs to support its functions and the ability to recover from insults.

There are a number of ingredients in supplements that over the years have proven helpful with supporting the liver. Some we are familiar with while others may be new and offer a different approach to supporting the liver. Here are some examples of ingredients that you may not have considered to support liver health.

Turmeric has been shown to promote a normal inflammatory response by inhibiting mediators including phospholipase, lipooxygenase, cyclooxygenase 2, leukotrienes, thromboxane, prostaglandins, nitric oxide, collagenase, elastase, hyaluronidase, monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1), interferon-inducible protein, tumor necrosis factor (TNF), and interleukin-12 (IL-12). (1) It has also been shown to have liver protecting benefits as demonstrated in rats. (2) Additionally, turmeric may stimulate gall bladder contractions in humans and contribute to cholesterol homeostasis which supports overall gallbladder health as seen in mice. (3)

Tumeric has also been shown to protect the liver against aflatoxin injury in ducklings. (4)

Artichoke contains antioxidants, is hepatoprotective and helps promote normal levels of bile secretion. (5) It has also been shown to reduce serum liver parameters and triglycerides when used in humans with fatty livers. (6)

In addition, artichoke is known for helping promote normal bile secretion and flow. (7)

Silybin is the active component of milk thistle. It has anti-inflammatory, anti-fibrotic and free radical scavenging effects. (8) It stabilizes hepatocellular membranes making them less susceptible to toxic insults. (9)

DMG and Betaine
Dimethylglycine (DMG) and Trimethylglycine (Betaine) are SAMe (S adenosylmethionine) precursors, which itself is a precursor to the production of glutathione. Glutathione plays a vital role in preventing oxidative stress, scavenging free radicals and regulating cellular processes such as cell growth and death as well as immune functions. A benefit to utilizing precursors is that they are stable when given with food and provide the liver with the resources it needs to produce SAMe and subsequently glutathione. It is the transmethylation pathways that these compounds are supporting.

A key consideration when choosing any of these ingredients is their bioavailability. Turmeric is notorious for being poorly bioavailable. It can be given with black pepper to enhance its uptake, but good luck getting a cat to take that combination. Choosing ingredients that have proven bioavailability is an important factor when selecting a supplement. One available advance is phytosome technology. Botanicals that are used with this format are surrounded by a phospholipid coat which permits uptake in the gut to be much more effective. Curcuvet®, Bilear™ and Siliphos® are examples of curcumin, artichoke and silybin in phytosome form.

Another key consideration is ease of use. Offering supplements as a soft chew ensures that the pet owner is able to easily administer the supplement so that maximum benefit can be achieved. It is also easier not having to instruct them to give the supplement on an empty stomach or risk losing the benefits of the compounds they contain.

Choosing a balanced, multi-ingredient supplement helps to give the liver the support that it needs to protect it from insults and help it repair. The compounds that they contain provide the building blocks to allow the liver to function to its best ability. Giving pet owners an easy and efficient way to support the liver benefits everyone.

(1) Nita Chainani-Wu.The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.Feb 2003.161-168.

(2) Fan, Zhe, Huirong Jing, Jihong Yao, Yang Li, Xiaowei Hu, Huizhu Shao, Gang Shen, Jiyong Pan, Fuwen Luo, and Xiaofeng Tian. “The protective effects of curcumin on experimental acute liver lesion induced by intestinal ischemia-reperfusion through inhibiting the pathway of NF-κB in a rat model.” Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity 2014 (2014)

(3) Hussain, MS1, and N. Chandrasekhara. “Effect on curcumin on cholesterol gall-stone induction in mice.” The Indian journal of medical research 96 (1992): 288-291
Rasyid, A., and A. Lelo. “The effect of curcumin and placebo on human gall-bladder function: an ultrasound study.” Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics 13, no. 2 (1999): 245-250.)

(4) Soni, K. B., A. Rajan, and R. Kuttan. “Reversal of aflatoxin induced liver damage by turmeric and curcumin.” Cancer Letters 66, no. 2 (1992): 115-121.

(5) Andrea Marchegiani, Alessandro Fruganti, Alessandra Gavazza, Sara Mangiaterra, Alessia Candellone, Eleonora Fusi, Giacomo Rossi, Matteo Cerquetella, “Evidences on Molecules Most Frequently Included in Canine and Feline Complementary Feed to Support Liver Function”, Veterinary Medicine International, vol. 2020, Article ID 9185759, 7 pages, 2020.

(6) Panahi, Yunes, Parisa Kianpour, Reza Mohtashami, Stephen L. Atkin, Alexandra E. Butler, Ramezan Jafari, Roghayeh Badeli, and Amirhossein Sahebkar. “Efficacy of artichoke leaf extract in non‐alcoholic fatty liver disease: A pilot double‐blind randomized controlled trial.” Phytotherapy Research 32, no. 7 (2018): 1382-1387.

(7) Gebhardt, Rolf. “Anticholestatic activity of flavonoids from artichoke (Cynara scolymus L.) and of their metabolites.” Medical science monitor: international medical journal of experimental and clinical research 7 (2001): 316-320

(8) Loguercio, C., & Festi, D. (2011). Silybin and the liver: from basic research to clinical practice. World journal of gastroenterology, 17(18), 2288–2301.


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