The beneficial microbes inhabiting your gut have long been known to support digestive health, but deeper research is showing how intestinal bacteria controls and protects organ health. The liver, one of the organs reliant on a healthy balance of good bacteria, is our main detoxifying center. When we're receiving enough probiotics (as well as prebiotics), it works more efficiently at removing toxins from our food and environment. It turns out that many of the liver's metabolic functions are either enhanced or suppressed by the presence or lack of healthy bacteria in the gut.
How Gut Bacteria Protects Your Liver
A recent study from the Imperial College of London looked at the effects of exposing germ-free mice to environmental microbiota. These mice gained weight after five days of exposure, and their livers also showed remarkable changes in metabolism. Changes in glucose, glycogen, and triglyceride metabolism were rapid following exposure to bacteria, suggesting just the simple exposure to one strain could either benefit or inhibit overall liver function.  Researchers also found that bacteria stimulated the enzyme responsible for drug-detoxifying pathways, potentially revealing that an influx of good bacteria could support the detoxification from pharmaceuticals or other chemicals.
Probiotics may also prevent the uptake of lipopolysaccharides in the intestines, which may reduce the likelihood of liver irritation. This may mean that probiotic intake may drastically reduce the risk of liver disease in some people. The inhibition of pathogens by probiotic supplementation has been suggested as a means for fighting non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, or NAFLD.  In addition to fighting pathogens, probiotics may also modulate the overproduction of cytokines which leads to NAFLD, among other health concerns. Prebiotics may provide even further benefit by feeding the probiotics and supporting the proliferation within the gut microbiota.
Other Ways to Support Liver Health
Your liver is a sophisticated machine, and it is easily able to process and remove various toxins you're commonly exposed to every day. Unfortunately, the amount of toxins in our environment, our food, and everywhere in-between can place a tremendous burden on the liver, causing accumulation of toxic material. A liver cleanse can be helpful for supporting overall liver function by helping the detoxifying process. Eating organic will also reduce your toxic load, and research is showing that reducing pesticide exposure through eating organic may be helpful for protecting gut flora.
What do you do to support liver health? Have you performed a liver cleanse? What were your experiences? Please let us know your thoughts, comments, and opinions in the comments!
- S. P. Claus, S. L. Ellero, B. Berger, et al. Colonization-Induced Host-Gut Microbial Metabolic Interaction. mBio, 2011; 2 (2): e00271-10 DOI: 10.1128/mBio.00271-10*.
- Vishal Sharma, MD, DM, Shashank Garg, MD, and Sourabh Aggarwal, MD. Probiotics and Liver Disease. Perm J. 2013 Fall; 17(4): 62-67. doi: 10.7812/TPP/12-144.
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.