The use of liver support supplements has exploded in the past decade or so, primarily due to the widespread popularity of prohormones, or “oral designer steroids” as some regulators have referred to them. Unfortunately, even with all the information on prohormones on the internet, there isn’t much in the way of research-supported information on optimizing liver health.
This article was prompted by several emails we received from people asking us what they could take to optimize liver health, specifically for the purpose of reducing liver toxicity from prohormones. There are a lot of support supplements out there that claim to help with this, but most of them contain useless plant extracts that haven’t actually been proven to favorably impact liver health.
What Is Hepatoxicity?
Hepatotoxicity is simply chemical-induced liver damage. It occurs when the liver is unable to effectively deal with certain chemicals. If you had to guess what the most common cause of Hepatotoxicity is, you’d probably say Alcohol. Wrong…
The worldwide leader in liver damage is actually none other than Acetaminophen (a.k.a. Tylenol). It is linked to more liver-failure related deaths than any other substance, even alcohol.
At this point, close to 1000 drugs have been identified as potentially liver hazardous, but it’s just a matter of weighing the risks with the benefits of the drug. The liver is actually a pretty resilient organ, capable of repairing itself even after damage has occurred. Still, it’s a good idea to stay clear of substances that are known to be liver toxic. Definitely limit your Tylenol use!
How Liver-Toxic Are Prohormones Actually?
The notion that “prohormones are liver toxic” has been overblown, mostly by companies that sell prohormones in an attempt to
- Convince you that the product really works (since most people attribute potential risk with efficacy)
- Sell you additional products (liver support supplements)
The FDA has also expressed concerns that prohormones are liver toxic, but let’s face it, they’re just going by what they heard. The FDA doesn’t do any research…
In reality, the degree to which prohormones are actually liver toxic varies from compound to compound. Some of them, like M-Drol (Super-Drol Clone), are so toxic that no human should actually take them, but some of them (like H-Drol) aren’t nearly as toxic and can be cycled without causing any longterm liver damage.
Still, if you’re regularly consuming any sort of liver-toxic subtance, there are some liver support supplements that you should definitely be taking.
Cysteine is a sulfur-containing amino acid that serves as a precursor to Glutathione, your body’s “master antioxidant”. Glutathione’s job is basically to nullify toxins and prevent oxidative damage to your cells. It is particularly active in the Liver, as that is where most detoxification takes place.
Glutathione is sold in supplement form itself, but research indicates it has very poor bioavailability, so using a precursor like N-Acetyl-Cysteine is actually more effective.
Although Glutathione production requires two other amino acid precursors, Glycine and Glutamic Acid, Cysteine is the rate limiting factor. This means that increasing the supply of Cysteine allows the body to resynthesize Glutathione when it gets depleted.
N-Acetylcysteine (NAC), the most bioavailable form of Cysteine, has been shown to scavenge free radicals both directly and through increased production of Glutathione. At high doses (7g), NAC has even been shown to alleviate Acetaminophen (Tylenol) toxicity in the liver.
You don’t have to take doses that high to get the benefits though. Try supplementing with 600-1000mg of NAC per day for a general protective effect on your liver.
Milk Thistle has been used for literally thousands of years as a liver-protectant, so it’s been fairly well investigated by scientific studies. The active component, Silymarin, is capable of enhancing cellular protein synthesis and this property is what is thought to underlie the liver-health benefits.
Compounds form Milk Thistle have been shown to reduce chemical indications of liver damage, but through a different mechanism than N-acetylcysteine (NAC). This makes Milk Thistle an effective option for individuals looking to optimize liver health, either after damage has occured or for use as a preventative measure.
Milk Thistle is no miracle supplement on it’s own—which likely explains why some users of Prohormones have criticized it as a support supplement—but the research clearly indicates it is effective to some degree and therefore worth throwing into your liver support stack. Will it prevent your liver from shutting down if you assualt it with toxins? Maybe not, but it sure is better than nothing!
Taurine is a versatile antioxidant involved in a wide variety of functions and found in many tissues throughout the body. We’ve discussed its role as an exercise recovery aid, and the same antioxidant properties that makes Taurine useful for recovery make it useful for protecting the liver.
Research has shown Taurine to have general protective effects on liver cells against toxins such as Arsenic, and it has also been shown to reduce Acetaminophen toxicity (like NAC).
Taurine has also been shown to exert general protective effects in the kidneys.
Doses of 500-2000mg/day have been used safely throughout dozens of clinical trials and no adverse effects have been reported.
The Bottom Line On Liver Support
There are a lot of supplements out there that claim to be “Liver Support” but don’t actually do anything for you. It’s one thing when supplement companies exaggerate claims around performance enhancement or muscle growth, but not when it comes to your vital organs. Do yourself a favor and just create your own liver support stack.