The 7 Best Vitamins for Liver Health, According to a Dietician

Medically Reviewed by Felicia Newell, M.S., RDN

Updated on May 16, 2024

The liver, often an unsung hero within our body, is pivotal in maintaining our overall health and well-being. Acting as a diligent worker, it tirelessly performs over 500 vital functions, ranging from detoxification to nutrient synthesis. However, despite its importance, liver health often slips under our health radar.

This article highlights the significance of maintaining a healthy liver, the potential dangers of neglecting it, and practical ways to nurture this crucial organ through vitamins and supplements.

Why Is Liver Health Important?

The liver's primary function is to…

  • Filter blood coming from the digestive tract
  • Detoxify chemicals
  • Metabolize drugs

This detoxification process is crucial, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg regarding the liver's many roles…

Your liver is also responsible for generating new proteins—a biological process that helps grow, maintain, and repair tissues in the body. This goes hand-in-hand with your immunity since many of the proteins that are produced are those involved in the immune response (antibodies, cytokines, and enzymes).

It doesn’t stop there though. The liver also aids digestion by producing bile, which helps to break down fats and absorb essential vitamins and minerals from our food. It plays a significant role in regulating our blood composition, ensuring that it contains the right proportion of sugar, protein, and fat that our body needs to function optimally. And finally, the liver stores necessary nutrients, like vitamins and glucose, releasing them into the blood when required (1).

In a nutshell? Keeping your liver healthy and functioning optimally is imperative to supporting your overall health. 

What Are Common Liver Problems?

Liver disease is the cause of 2 to 4% of deaths annually worldwide (2). Some common liver problems include: 

  • Hepatitis A, B, and C: Hepatitis involves inflammation of the liver and can be caused by viruses, alcohol, or an autoimmune response.
  • Fatty Liver Disease: Fatty liver disease, as the name suggests, is characterized by the accumulation of fat in the liver cells and can lead to inflammation and damage.
  • Cirrhosis: Cirrhosis is a late stage of scarring (fibrosis) caused by many forms of liver diseases and conditions, such as hepatitis and chronic alcoholism.
  • Liver Cancer: Liver cancer, although less common, is a serious condition often associated with cirrhosis and chronic hepatitis infections. These conditions can significantly impact the liver's ability to function effectively, leading to health complications (3).

7 Vitamins/Herbs That Support Liver Health

As a registered dietitian of over 20 years, here are six of my favorite vitamins and herbs that may help improve your liver health.

1. NAC (N-acetylcysteine)

NAC, short for N-acetylcysteine, is a modified form of cysteine—a sulfur-rich amino acid. NAC is renowned for its ability to increase levels of a powerful antioxidant called glutathione. Glutathione protects against heavy metals, inflammation, and oxidative stress which can all take a toll on your liver.

Beyond its antioxidant capabilities and role in generating glutathione, NAC can also boost blood flow and oxygen supply to the liver by escalating levels of nitric oxide (4). Nitric oxide is a powerful vasodilator, meaning it expands blood vessels to facilitate improved blood circulation.

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2. Milk Thistle

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Milk thistle is known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects and is often used to protect the liver. It contains silibinin and silymarin, two compounds that have powerful antioxidant properties. One of which is their ability to increase the production of glutathione, a major antioxidant made in the body (5).

2. Turmeric

Turmeric’s main active ingredient, curcumin, is acclaimed for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits, which can aid in liver protection (6). It also can help manage the impact of fat accumulation in the liver and enhance the enzymes involved in liver detoxification (7, 8).

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3. Vitamin E

Particularly beneficial for those with fatty liver disease, vitamin E can help reduce inflammation and damage. Studies have shown that vitamin E supports your liver by reducing the activity of CD36, a protein that brings fatty acids into the liver (9).

4. Dandelion Root

Traditional medicine has used dandelion root to detoxify the liver. It has antioxidant properties that help protect the liver against oxidative stress (10, 11). 

Dandelion root is also a type of digestive bitter, a substance that stimulates bile production and enhances bile flow from the liver. Adequate bile production is vital for the proper digestion of fats and the elimination of toxins and waste products from the liver (12).

5. Beetroot

Beetroot has long been associated with liver and gallbladder health. It’s rich in antioxidants, most notably betalains (which give beets their beautiful red-violet color). These help protect the liver against oxidative stress (13).

One type of betalains, called betacyanins, which is found in beetroot, has been shown to increase the amount of Akkermansia bacteria in the gut. This type of bacteria may help improve metabolic health markers, including those often associated with liver issues (14).

Beetroot is a natural source of nitrates, which can be converted into nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide helps relax and dilate blood vessels, improving blood flow and oxygen delivery to the liver (13). This enhanced blood flow may support optimal liver functioning.

Beetroot also boosts natural detoxification enzymes.

6. Vitamin K

An often overlooked but vital nutrient for liver health is vitamin K. This vitamin plays a crucial role in blood clotting and is necessary for synthesizing specific proteins that the liver produces (15). A deficiency in vitamin K can lead to bleeding and potentially exacerbate liver disease. 

Foods rich in vitamin K include: 

  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
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NativeNote: Vitamin K may interact with certain medications such as blood thinners. Please consult your healthcare professional before incorporating it into your supplement routine.

Remember, it's essential to consult a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen.

What Vitamins/Herbs Should I Avoid If I Have Liver Concerns?

While certain vitamins and herbs are beneficial for liver health, it's important to note that an excess or misuse of them can potentially harm the liver. Overconsumption of vitamin A, for example, can lead to toxicity and liver damage. 

Certain herbs, such as comfrey and kava, while beneficial in some contexts, have been associated with liver damage when used improperly or excessively. Moreover, these substances can interact negatively with prescribed medication, leading to undesirable side effects.

Certain substances, while beneficial in appropriate doses, can cause liver damage when consumed excessively. For example, iron, although essential for our body, can lead to liver damage when its excess is stored in the liver. Similarly, herbal supplements such as ma huang, skullcap, green tea extract (not the same thing as drinking green tea), and pennyroyal can cause significant liver injury if misused. 

Always consult a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen to ensure safe and appropriate use.

Wrapping Up

Maintaining liver health is pivotal and can be supported by more than just supplements. Here are some important lifestyle habits that I regularly recommend to my clients to support liver health:

  • Limit or avoid alcohol
  • Avoid unsafe drug use
  • Drink plenty of water each day (half your body weight in ounces is a good goal)
  • Limit exposure to toxins
  • Eat a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, high-fiber foods, and lean proteins
Lauren Manaker
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Lauren Manaker

Lauren Manaker is an award-winning registered dietitian (RDN), certified lactation educator (CLE), author, and speaker with over 20 years of experience. She earned her BS in Food Science and Human Nutrition from the University of Florida (go Gators!) and an MS in Clinical Nutrition from Rush University in Chicago.

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    Medical Disclaimer

    This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Chad Walding nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.

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