Are you looking for a natural way to support your liver's detoxification process? Folate, a B vitamin found in many foods, maybe the answer you're searching for. Not only does it play a crucial role in DNA synthesis and cell division, but recent studies have shown its potential to aid the liver's ability to rid the body of harmful toxins. Keep reading to find out if adding folate to your diet could be the key to a healthier, happier liver.
What is Liver Detoxification?
Detoxification is the metabolic filtration process by which the liver rids the blood and body of harmful and foreign substances.
It helps convert toxins into waste products, cleanses the blood, and metabolizes nutrients and medications to provide the body with essential proteins.
For this reason, it is of paramount importance to keep your liver healthy.
How Does Folate Help With Liver Detox?
Folate or folic acid is a water-soluble vitamin found in several foods, including leafy greens.
This essential vitamin plays a vital role in many biosynthetic processes where it acts as a donor or carbon molecules like methyl groups (called methylation) to other organic compounds.
This process of methylation forms a part of the liver’s detoxification process.
The normal plasma folate levels in adults are 2 to 20 ng/mL.
Adults require about 200 micrograms of folate every day, while pregnant women are recommended to take 400 micrograms daily throughout their first trimester.
What Happens When There’s a Folate Deficiency?
When the intake of folate is less, it can lead to folate deficiency. Common symptoms of folate deficiency are:
- Macrocytic anemia
- Glossitis and a reduced sense of taste
- Tingling or numbness in hands and feet
- Muscle weakness
How Does Folate Support Liver Function?
Elevated liver enzymes in routine liver function tests indicate a problem with the organ.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet and regular exercise are two effective and inexpensive ways to keep the liver enzymes within the normal range.
Adding folate to the diet or taking folic acid supplements is known to lower liver enzymes.
A 2016 study linked folate deficiency to increased alanine transaminase (ALT) (a type of liver enzyme) levels and liver damage.
The study also stated that folic acid intake lowered ALT levels in people with liver damage.
Several studies have found that folate can help slow down the progression of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and reverse inflammation and fibrosis (thickening of scar tissue in the liver).
Vitamin B12 and Folate May Help Reverse Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a condition characterized by fat build-up in the liver.
1 in 4 Americans suffers from nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, resulting in cirrhosis and cancer over time.
Scientists at Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore have discovered a mechanism that leads to fatty liver disease.
Their research found that vitamin B12 and folic acid supplements can reverse the process that leads to NAFLD.
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is an umbrella term for a range of liver conditions affecting people who drink little or no alcohol.
One of the study's authors highlighted that fat deposition in the liver is reversible in its early stages.
If the condition is allowed to progress, the excess fat results in liver inflammation. This is termed nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).
Unfortunately, there are no treatments for NASH, as scientists don’t completely understand the mechanics of the disease.
What is known is that NASH is associated with elevated levels of homocysteine (an amino acid).
Note: High homocysteine levels are toxic to the body; this amino acid is broken down by 2 vitamins - B9 and B12.
The authors found an association between homocysteine and NASH progression in preclinical models and humans.
When there’s an excess of homocysteine, it attaches to some liver proteins, thereby preventing them from doing their functions.
One such protein implicated in NASH is syntaxin 17, which is involved in the transportation, digestion, and removal of fats.
When homocysteine binds to syntaxin 17, it prevents the protein from removing fat from the body.
This drives the development and progression of fatty liver disease to NASH.
An Inexpensive Therapy For NASH
The study reported that two vitamins (B12 and B9) increase syntaxin 17 levels by breaking down excess homocysteine in the body.
The increased levels support the removal of fat cells.
This was found to slow down NASH progress and reverse liver inflammation and fibrosis.
The author says, “Vitamin B12/B8 could be an inexpensive way to prevent and delay NASH progression. Further, homocysteine levels can be used as a marker to assess NASH severity.”
Foods Rich in Vitamin B12 and Folate
Several foods are rich sources of vitamin B12 and folate.
A few common folate-rich foods to include in the diet:
- Leafy greens like spinach, kale, spring onions, and cabbage
- Brussel sprouts
- Fortified breakfast cereals
Adults need about 1.5 micrograms of vitamin B12 daily.
Foods that are excellent sources of vitamin B12 are
- Dairy products like milk and cheese
- Few foods fortified with vitamin B12
5 Effective Ways To Support Your Liver Detox
Many factors like unhealthy lifestyles, exposure to pollution, and hard metals in diets can impair detoxification, resulting in several chronic conditions.
While the liver is the primary detoxification center in the body, other organs like the intestines, kidneys, and skin also play significant roles.
Here are some ways to support your liver detox:
Lower Your Toxin Load/Exposure
We are exposed to toxins and harmful chemicals every day.
Eating a clean diet and hygienic drinking water is the best way to reduce your toxic load.
Here are some ways to lower your toxin load:
- Eat whole foods
- Include colorful fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet
- Pick foods that have a low glycemic index
- Choose organic fruits and vegetables with little or no pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides.
- When choosing animal-based proteins, choose antibiotic-free and hormone-free options
Reduce Alcohol And Quit Smoking
While a glass of alcohol or a smoking session may seem relaxing at the end of a tiring day, they surely pump your body with harmful chemicals and toxins.
Limiting your alcohol and caffeine consumption and staying clear of any kind of smoke (active or passive) do a big favor to your liver.
Replacing smoking and drinking with healthy de-stress activities like walking, going to the gym, or doing yoga can support your liver detox.
Add Supplements To Boost Detox
Glutathione is an antioxidant found in plants and is made up of the amino acid glycine, cysteine, and glutamic acid.
It is one of the major substances responsible for detoxification.
Glutathione can be taken as a supplement to boost liver detox.
Disclaimer: Nutritional supplements should be taken only after consulting a qualified medical practitioner. This article is for informational purposes only and doesn’t serve as a prescription for any drug/supplement.
Clean Your Gut
Gut health is important for immunity and overall health, and well-being.
When there is inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract, it makes eliminating toxins in the intestines and the liver difficult, increasing the load on the kidneys.
Eating foods that cause inflammation, imbalance of healthy bacteria and yeast, and accumulation of harmful heavy metals can affect detoxification.
A clean diet rich in antioxidants and healthy nutrients can support the liver’s detoxification process.
Understand Your Genes
Changes in certain genes can result in impaired detoxification.
A genetic mutation (abnormal change) that commonly affects detoxification is the MTHFR mutation.
The MTHFR gene produces an enzyme that converts inactive vitamin B9 to the active form.
Certain changes in this gene can result in MTHFR enzyme deficiency; this can decrease the levels of active vitamin B9, leading to homocysteine buildup.
This impaired gene functioning is said to cause chronic conditions like cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer, asthma, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, and autism.
Knowing about your genes and the presence of mutations can help you and your doctor take appropriate measures to restore normal detoxification.
Summary: Does Folate Help With Liver Detox?
- The metabolic process by which the liver processes and eliminates harmful and foreign substances from the body is called detoxification.
- Impaired detoxification can lead to several chronic conditions, including non-alcohol fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
- Research conducted by Duke-NUS Medical School identified that homocysteine could lead to the worsening of NAFLD, which can be corrected with vitamin B9 and B12 supplements.
- B9 and B12 needs can be met by consuming foods rich in these vitamins, like leafy greens, dairy products, fish, meat, and fortified cereals.
- You can support liver detoxification by eating clean, reducing smoking and alcohol consumption, working out regularly, and understanding your genetic profile.