Naturally improve liver values - vital mushrooms help with liver diseases
April 23, 2022
Dipl.-Biol. Dorothee Ogroske et al.
Even the vernacular is aware of the great importance of the liver for our general well-being. If you’ve “had a louse run over your liver,” your mood is probably at a low point. Yet the largest gland in the body resembles a chemical company in its complex work.
Learn here what functions the liver performs in our organism, what harms it and how to maintain liver health with vital mushrooms.
Little liver lesson
The name of the largest gland in our body probably contains the word “live” for a reason. In fact, the liver is the linchpin of our metabolism. It is also involved in hormonal balance, is an important detoxification organ and produces essential components for the blood and the immune system. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) regards the liver as the engine of the body and therefore attaches great importance to maintaining liver health.
At the same time, the problem of a sluggish liver is quite widespread. Medical experts estimate that up to 85% of the world’s population could be affected. Even more serious than a poorly functioning liver is a fatty liver. Nowadays, this is no longer primarily caused by alcohol consumption, but by an unhealthy diet. In Germany alone, the figures suggest that one in four people suffers from such non-alcoholic fatty liver (NAFL). Upstream, there is usually a metabolic syndrome associated with obesity, elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and diabetes. However, experts believe that 10 to 20% of normal-weight people also have NAFL.
In the course of this article, we will explain the connections between liver, nutrition and digestion in more detail.
The liver is one of our largest organs. For an adult, it weighs between one and a half and two kilograms. It is located mostly in the right upper abdomen next to the stomach and above the duodenum, but in some cases it extends above the stomach. There is a larger right lobe and a smaller left lobe.
Apart from the heart, the liver is the only organ in the body that has a dual blood supply. Thus, on the one hand, it is supplied with oxygen-rich blood through the hepatic artery. On the other hand, venous blood from the digestive tract and other regions of the body enters the liver via the so-called hepatic portal circulation. It contains all the nutrients absorbed in the course of digestion. From these nutrients, the liver can now synthesize new substances itself that the organism needs. All in all, about 1.3 liters of blood per minute flow through the liver.
The individual functional units in the liver look like small, hexagonal lobules. They measure between one and two millimeters in diameter. In its center runs the central vein, around which the columnar hepatic bulbs are arranged in a radiating pattern. The hepatic bulbs themselves consist of so-called “hepatocytes”. The hepatic sinusoids can be found between the hepatic hematopoieses. The blood now arrives externally through the portal vein as well as the hepatic artery and flows through the hepatic sinusoids toward the centrally located central vein. At this point, many important processes take place in which substances are absorbed from the blood. The liver sinusoids also contain Kupffer’s stellate cells, which are important for immune defense.
What does the liver do?
The liver is the hub for many systems in the body. Roughly summarized, it can be said that it is responsible for production, storage and detoxification of endogenous as well as exogenous substances.
In the following, we present the individual functional areas in a little more detail. At the same time we show different starting points to improve the liver values with the help of vital mushrooms.
Digestion: bile production
For digestion in the intestine, the liver produces bile. Daily this is between 500 and 1000 milliliters. The fluid is initially collected in the gallbladder and released into the twelve-fingered intestine as needed during the digestive process. There, the alkaline bile is essential to raise the pH of the acidic food from the stomach. In addition, bile serves as an emulsifier for fats from food, which are thus prepared for further decomposition processes by enzymes from the pancreas.
Center of metabolism
The liver controls the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. It converts nutrients into each other as required and forms reserve substances, e.g. glycogen from glucose and triglycerides from fats. In “hunger” times, the liver can release the nutrients again.
In today’s world, our diet is often too fatty and too sweet. With simultaneous lack of exercise, i.e. low consumption of nutrients, there is a risk of increasing fatty degeneration of the liver. Fructose, which is ubiquitously present in many processed foods, plays a special role in this context. It can only be processed in the liver and, if there is an oversupply, it is converted into fat, which is then increasingly deposited in the liver cells.
The liver performs important functions, particularly in fat metabolism. It produces cholesterol as part of endogenous synthesis. Even though cholesterol generally enjoys a bad reputation, it is an elementary building material for our body. For example, it is the starting material for the synthesis of bile acids, hormones, cell membranes and vitamin D, which is also produced in the liver. To bring cholesterol to its destinations, lipoproteins are needed as transporters. These protein-fat compounds (VLDL, LDL and HDL) also come from the liver. In addition to cholesterol, they also carry triglycerides through the body.
Furthermore, so-called “ketone bodies” are built up in the liver. These are used whenever the body needs fat as an energy source, which is the case, for example, when blood sugar is low or in diabetics whose cells cannot utilize glucose from the blood due to insulin deficiency. The liver itself is involved in regulating insulin metabolism and thus blood glucose levels between meals.
Finally, it should be mentioned that the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K as well as B12 and the trace elements copper and iron are stored in the liver.
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Besides metabolism, detoxification is probably the most important task of the liver. Toxic substances enter us every day from our environment and toxins are also produced in the body itself. High exposure to toxins can manifest in increased susceptibility to infections, allergies, fatigue, premature aging, and autoimmune processes. Effective detoxification is therefore central to our health.
The liver shares this task with the kidneys. While the latter are responsible for the elimination of water-soluble toxins, the liver takes care of fat-soluble toxins. In this process, the harmful substances in the liver cells go through two conversion phases: In the first phase they are broken down, in the second they are neutralized. Thus, they can eventually be released into the intestine with the bile and excreted. If more toxins are produced than the liver can break down in the same time, the excess is stored in the liver cells.
Immune and hormonal system
Important components of the body’s defense system, such as components of the complement system and acute phase proteins, are formed in the liver. In addition, the organ itself performs immunological tasks. Thus, Kupffer’s stellate cells represent a significant proportion of macrophages. If viruses or bacteria reach the liver via the bloodstream, they can be detected and eliminated there. The liver can even detect and eliminate tumor cells. Helpful medicinal mushrooms for promoting this body’s own defenses include cordyceps and coriolus.
With regard to the hormonal system, the liver assumes a regulatory function. On the one hand, it produces proteins that are needed for the transport of steroid hormones (sex hormones) in the blood, and on the other hand, the breakdown of such hormones takes place in the liver. The liver also plays an important role in the metabolism of thyroid hormones.
The liver as part of the bloodstream
In the embryo, complete hematopoiesis takes place in the liver until the seventh month of pregnancy. After that, the bone marrow takes over this task. Nevertheless, the liver retains important functions in the bloodstream. Among other things, she is responsible for cleaning. Old erythrocytes break it down and hemoglobin converts it to bilirubin. To regulate pH, it can produce urea from ammonia. In addition, the liver produces various coagulation factors as well as about 90% of all plasma proteins. These are around 100 different proteins that circulate with the blood plasma and perform a wide variety of tasks in the body.
What stresses the liver?
Due to its many tasks and its involvement in so many systems in our organism, the liver has to endure a lot of stress. This is supported by their high regenerative capacity, which can be additionally stimulated with suitable medicinal mushrooms. Although the liver of many people suffers, often already showing signs of fatty liver, few people know about their health problems. In fact, there are no nerves for pain sensations in the liver. Unlike the stomach, for example, the liver does not hurt us when it is unwell. That is why liver diseases usually remain undetected for a long time. For this reason, regular checks of liver values are extremely useful.
What are the symptoms associated with liver disease?
Among the first indications they may notice themselves in liver disease are the following symptoms:
- chronic fatigue (“fatigue is the pain of the liver”)
- Sleep disturbances at liver time (1-3 o’clock)
- Intolerance of fat and alcohol
- Flatulence and diarrhea
- Hemorrhoids (blood seeks alternate path to heart when path is blocked by liver).
- Varicose veins
- Weakness of connective tissue (reduced elasticity)
- Stomach pain and heartburn due to poor bile flow
- Nonspecific upper abdominal pain or pressure
- Migraine right sided, temporal headache
- Pain in the right upper back, shoulder into the upper arm
- Eye problems
- High cholesterol level
- Acid-base balance disorders
- hormonal disorders in men and women
- Acne vulgaris
Advanced liver disease may be accompanied by the following signs:
- Yellowing of skin, mucous membrane and eyes (sclerae)
- Elevated bilirubin
- Itching all over the body
- Appetite and weight loss
- light-colored stool (bile pigments are absent, but urine is brownish)
- Liver skin sign, liver asterisk
- reddened palms (“palmar erythema”)
- Liver / raspberry tongue
- Concentration disorders, forgetfulness, irritability
- Abdominal dropsy (“ascites”)
- Bleeding of the “bypass” vessels in the stomach and esophagus
- general bleeding tendency
The most common liver disease is non-alcoholic fatty liver. It can give rise to liver fibrosis, which is characterized by tissue damage to the organ. In the more advanced stage, cirrhosis, the liver restructures and parts of its tissue lose their function. These processes can no longer be reversed. Treatment is therefore primarily aimed at slowing down the degenerative process. The Cordyceps mushroom has anti-fibrotic properties and can therefore reduce the risk of an increasing loss of liver function. In addition, liver transplantation is a possible solution. In the context of liver cirrhosis, the risk of developing liver cancer also increases.
Problems during detoxification
Detoxification is a process that is as important as it is complex. Under unfavorable conditions, health hazards can occur in many places:
- Detoxification itself produces many free radicals. These must be neutralized immediately to protect the organism from damage. A powerful antioxidant is glutathione, which can be increasingly activated by medicinal mushrooms such as cordyceps.
- If the bile is too viscous, or even if gallstone or gallstones form, toxin excretion comes to a standstill. To prevent this, regular consumption of foods rich in bitter substances, such as artichokes, dandelion and turmeric, is recommended. They stimulate bile production and flow.
- Overloading the liver causes detoxification to stall and is manifested by elevated liver enzymes. In most cases, it is an unhealthy diet, the intake of medication and the consumption of stimulants that pose major challenges to the organ. Here, the liver must simultaneously provide peak performance in the area of metabolism as well as detoxification.
Connection between intestinal and liver problems
In the context of overeating, the liver is overloaded by an excess of nutrients. The portal blood is flooded with carbohydrates, fats and proteins, which the liver must convert or store. This can lead to inflammatory processes and result in increases in blood sugar and blood lipids. In addition, in the case of deficits with regard to digestive secretion, carbohydrates, fats and proteins are only incompletely broken down. This leads to putrefaction and fermentation processes, as a result of which fusel alcohols and urea nitrogen are produced, which the liver must also process.
The intestine itself also suffers from an unhealthy diet with many dyes, emulsifiers and preservatives. All these substances can unbalance the intestinal flora. In addition, bacterial metabolites (typically from Clostridia), can damage the intestinal mucosa. As a result, their permeability changes. In this context, experts speak of a “leaky gut”. Here, toxins, allergens and toxic bacterial metabolites can now increasingly enter the bloodstream. This in turn means more work for the liver and, at worst, can lead to food allergies, autoimmune diseases, and persistent smoldering inflammation.
A balanced diet with a high proportion of fresh plant-based foods provides a remedy. In addition, vital mushrooms such as the reishi and the shiitake support the liver in managing its tasks and can thus improve liver values. For the care of the intestine and its mucous membrane are also suitable medicinal mushrooms Hericium and Pleurotus.
How can liver values be improved?
At this point, we will give you a brief synopsis of the various ways to improve your liver values with natural remedies. Depending on the individual problem, different measures have the highest priority. The same applies to the intake of vital mushrooms, which is entirely oriented to the individual constitution and possible diseases. The various medicinal mushrooms that can help with liver diseases or prevent them are discussed in more detail below.
To support the detoxification processes in the liver, your diet should be rich in antioxidants and bitter substances. The antioxidant component serves to defuse free radicals, while the bitter substances stimulate the secretion of all digestive organs. Antioxidants are found mainly in mushrooms, vegetables, berries and fruits. You can discover bitter substances yourself with your sense of taste. Typical examples of foods rich in bitter substances are red leaf lettuces, chicory, arugula and dandelion. Black radish juice is also particularly recommended for a smooth flow of bile. Artichoke and milk thistle also contain many bitter substances. However, they further maintain liver health due to their cholesterol-lowering, anti-inflammatory, liver-protective and regenerative properties. To stimulate the liver, moist warm compresses under the right costal arch also help. They increase the blood flow to the organ.
To relieve the liver, you should at the same time pay attention to the health of the other detoxification pathways via the kidneys and lymph. Adequate fluid intake in the form of water and unsweetened teas is essential here. It is also essential to take care of the intestines with a balanced diet free of additives and rich in organic plant foods. Regular meals with long enough meal breaks in between also help. Digestion itself is also stimulated by bitter substances. Dietary fiber has an additional prebiotic effect, which means that it nourishes healthy intestinal flora. A healthy diet always relieves the liver directly as well and is the best way to prevent fatty liver. A focus should always also be on the supply of zinc and vitamin D. Indeed, liver disease is often associated with a deficiency of these nutrients.
How do vital mushrooms support the liver?
So there is a whole range of ways to improve your own liver values. Complementary to a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle, vital mushrooms provide good support for our largest gland and central metabolic organ. In the process, the various fungi target different points in the organism.
Here you get an overview of the modes of action of vital mushrooms, which are considered to support the liver:
- Chitin from mushrooms inhibits cholesterol and fat absorption from the intestine.
- Mushrooms such as the reishi, shiitake and pleurotus regulate cholesterol synthesis.
- Maitake increases cholesterol excretion with bile through the intestines.
- The hard-to-digest fiber from the vital mushrooms binds bile acid in the intestine and transports it away. As a result, the liver cells must compensate for the loss of bile acid. For production, they extract more cholesterol from the blood, whereupon the lipid level drops.
- Mushrooms themselves contain antioxidant enzymes, phenolic compounds, indoles, ergosterol and ergothioneine.
- Various substances from the vital mushrooms have an antidysbiotic effect. They thus increase the diversity of the intestinal flora and increase the formation of “healthy” short-chain fatty acids.
Reishi - The liver mushroom
Experts consider reishi to be the liver mushroom par excellence. It has repeatedly proven its strengthening effect on the organ. It supports both metabolic and detoxification processes. Its ganoderic acids, the triterpenes, protect the liver, for example, by inhibiting cholesterol synthesis and at the same time stimulating cholesterol excretion. In addition, its triterpenes exert an anti-inflammatory effect on the liver as well as on the entire organism. They strengthen the immune system and have anti-allergic properties. Thus, the Reishi also prevents various sequelae of a weakened liver.
More than one liter of blood flows through the liver per minute. From this, it filters out a wide variety of substances. At this point, the blood purifying effect of the reishi helps her as well as its ability to regulate blood pressure downward. At the same time, germanium from the vital mushroom improves oxygen uptake into the blood, which ultimately benefits all organs.
Reishi brings the nervous system into a pleasant balance. On the one hand, its balancing influence has an activating effect, thus banishing tiredness and lack of drive. On the other hand, it also promotes good sleep, which is important for the regeneration of the liver as well as all other organs. Reishi is also a good choice for gut health. Thanks to its prebiotic properties, it maintains the intestinal flora and thus prevents leaky gut. Finally, it stimulates the excretion of fat-soluble toxins.
Shiitake - The liver tonic
Shiitake is not only a tasty edible mushroom with a respectable amount of protein. It is also a popular vital mushroom and known as a liver tonic. Its polyphenols form a kind of protective shield around the liver cells, making them more robust. With the help of its lentinan, it also protects the liver from viral attacks.
In terms of metabolism, the ability of shiitake to lower cholesterol levels should be brought to the fore. The eritadenin it contains promotes increased uptake of LDL into liver cells, whereupon it is excreted in the bile. As a result, serum cholesterol decreases. With regard to HDL, the vital mushroom promotes increased synthesis. This is an effective prevention for arteriosclerosis, because at high HDL levels, cholesterol is still relatively well removed even from peripheral vessels.
Shiitake promotes detoxification processes in the liver because it induces the enzyme glutathione S-transferase, thus promoting the binding of toxic metabolites to glutathione. In addition, thioproline is formed in the vital mushroom during drying. This acts like a nitrite scavenger in the body. Nitrite in the organism always brings with it the risk of nitrosamines, which are considered carcinogenic. Thus, increased excretion of nitrite represents a significant preventive measure.
Shiitake hides other substances that have an antitumor effect. The lenthionine, the lentinan as well as the ergosterol strengthen the immune system and thus also facilitate the liver’s work. Even the Candida fungus has something to oppose the shiitake. Its antifungal action is especially beneficial for intestinal health.
The vital mushroom Maitake facilitates the work of the liver mainly due to its support of the metabolism. For example, it is able to lower cholesterol levels. In fact, the alpha-glucan contained in it promotes the conversion of LDL into bile acid. At the same time, maitake has an antioxidant effect, particularly reducing oxidized LDL in the liver. In the end, this means some protection for all the vessels in the body. The medicinal mushroom also prevents fatty liver by reducing the storage of triglycerides in the liver cells. Its overall positive influence on fat metabolism, by the way, can also help get rid of excess pounds.
A second important area of application of maitake is the immune system and here in particular the tumor defense. It contains a specific beta-glucan, Grifon D, which activates the defenses accordingly. For this reason, maitake is readily recommended for liver cancer and metastases. It can also help the liver in viral hepatitis. Overall, its ingredients have a normalizing effect on liver functions. Additional relief brings its uric acid as well as blood pressure lowering properties.
Similar to Maitake, Coriolus normalizes liver functions and activates the immune system to more effectively fight viruses, as well as tumor cells. Experts appreciate its effect especially in hepatitis A, B & C diseases. It is able to reduce viral load and regenerate damaged liver cells. The current focus in this regard is primarily on polysaccharopeptides (PSP). They are believed to have strong antiviral, antifungal as well as anti-inflammatory properties. Other substances such as Krestin (PSK) and Coriolan have a reputation for being antitumoral.
Detoxification processes in the liver also benefit greatly from the antioxidant properties of Coriolus. Thus, fungal enzymes such as superoxide dismutase or laccase act as radical scavengers. At the same time, the vital mushroom also increases the body’s own antioxidants such as glutathione and glutathione S-transferase.
It is also interesting that Coriolan has a lowering effect on blood sugar, which also relieves the liver during metabolism. Mycotherapists recommend Coriolus for chronic fatigue syndrome (fatigue as a pain of the liver!), as it can restore vitality with its antiviral properties and support of toxin elimination.
Agaricus blazei murrill (ABM)
ABM is a medicinal mushroom that helps the liver, especially in times of crisis. That is why it is also commonly considered the protector of the liver. For example, it addresses liver dysfunction, lowers viral load in hepatitis B, and supports the liver when it suffers from severe toxic stress. Consequently, by taking it, you can prevent both toxic hepatitis and cirrhosis of the liver.
Beta-glucans from ABM are particularly important for our health. They have a strong antitumor effect and thus protect the liver to some extent from cancer. The long-chain beta-glucans also regulate communication within the immune system. In addition, the ABM has a lowering effect on cholesterol and in practice has good results in chronic fatigue syndrome.
With the Pleurotus you specifically activate the fat metabolism in the liver. The vital mushroom lowers LDL levels, increases HDL and accelerates the breakdown of cholesterol to bile acid. The ingredients contained in it act as HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, which means that Pleurotus inhibits endogenous cholesterol synthesis in the liver. Thus, it is able to lower cholesterol levels overall.
The second central focus of action of Pleurotus is in the intestine. As we have seen, gut and liver health are closely related. When using the vital mushroom to improve the intestinal environment, the combination with the medicinal mushroom Hericium has proven particularly successful. Together, they build the intestinal flora thanks to their probiotic effect on lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. Treating possible dysbiosis is very important, especially after antibiotic therapy. In this context, it is also positive that the polysaccharides from the vital mushrooms support the formation of the mucous membrane and that their chitin binds cholesterol as well as toxins and bile acid in the intestine. Improving the intake of B vitamins also benefits detoxification again, as vitamins B2 and B6 are essential for the synthesis and recycling of glutathione.
In the last place we would like to introduce Cordyceps. In the world of mycotherapy, it is known primarily for its beneficial effects on the kidneys. Thus, the mannitol from cordyceps increases urine formation, which naturally improves the excretion of urinary substances. However, the liver benefits just as much when the kidneys, as the second important detoxification organ, do their job effectively. The cordycepin from the vital mushroom unfolds a protective effect on the kidneys themselves, but also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The liver also benefits from this. Cordyceps protects the organ from autoimmune reactions or chronic inflammatory processes and ultimately from fibrosis. It is also one of the fungi that inhibit cholesterol biosynthesis, helping to improve blood lipid levels. These properties have led to call it an “anti-aging” fungus.
This medicinal mushroom is also considered a special energy supplier. It gets the body and mind going, so to speak. It particularly strengthens the liver, because it can increase ATP formation (the body’s own cell energy) there by up to 50%. It prevents atherosclerosis by suppressing the oxidation of LDL in the liver.
In practice, cordyceps has also proven to stimulate the immune system and has achieved positive effects, especially in hepatitis B and C.
Every person is unique!
Our experienced team will be happy to advise you in detail and free of charge on all matters relating to your health.
What should you consider when choosing vital mushrooms?
As you have now learned, you can support your general health and that of your liver in particular very well with medicinal mushrooms. Considering that probably one in four Germans has a non-alcohol-related fatty liver, it is definitely worth paying attention to a healthy metabolism and smooth detoxification. However, there is no blanket prescription for which vital mushroom you should take and how often. Here it is more important to find out the combination of mushrooms that suits you individually and to determine the correct dosage. This is because the recommendations are quite different depending on pre-existing conditions, overall physical condition and ongoing therapeutic measures. For your individual vital mushroom roadmap, contact our experts who will assist you with in-depth knowledge and extensive experience.
Now that you know which vital mushrooms are right for you, you need to look for a trustworthy grower. Since mushrooms readily absorb pollutants from their environment, it is imperative that they be grown according to organic guidelines. The German specifications are among the strictest here. Only if these are fulfilled, you can be sure not to take up more liver-damaging toxins with the vital mushrooms. In addition, the whole (!) Mushrooms should have been gently dried at below 40 ° Celsius. Higher temperatures destroy the health-promoting enzymes. Finally, powder in capsules has proven to be the ideal dosage form. The cover protects the substrate from moisture, which would otherwise quickly lead to mold. The dosage is also very simple with capsules.
Thanks to high-quality vital mushrooms and a healthy lifestyle, it is highly likely that your liver values will soon improve as well!