You are in the majority if you regularly take vitamins and supplements, but did you know herbal or dietary supplements are on the rise? Most people take daily supplements in an attempt to stay healthy, boost energy before they hit the gym, or even lose weight. However, research has determined that many of these supplements are causing damage to your liver.

Your liver plays a crucial role to your overall health. In fact, it has more than 500 functions. Two key functions of your liver include helping your body absorb the nutrients it needs from food and eliminating toxic substances in your blood. Don’t assume that alcohol is the only threat to your liver. In an attempt to “be healthy” you just might be harming one of the most important organs in your body.

Research Overview

The research, published in the AASLD Hepatology journal by a liver specialist in Philadelphia, reported that of the 700 cases of liver damage recorded during the study, 130 were linked to supplements. Herbal remedies and dietary supplements were noted as the culprit to 7% of liver damage cases in 2004, but in 2014, supplements caused 20% of liver damage cases. The supplements that pose the greatest risk include bodybuilding and weight loss supplements, many of which are available online or over-the-counter at local drug stores. Researchers found that most supplements contained ingredients that were not listed on the label. Despite the difficulty to determine which ingredients posed the biggest threat, green tea extract and anabolic steroids were common threads that lead to liver damage. Anabolic steroids are often added to bodybuilding supplements illegally. Green tea extract is found in many weight loss supplements although there is no proof that it actually promotes weight loss. Green tea extract was actually the ingredient that caused liver damage to 24 out of 130 cases associated with supplements, and is so widely disputed that Spain and France have banned any products that contain it.

Why Is This Happening?

Unfortunately, these dangerous ingredients have been sneaking their way into supplements because of a lack of regulation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Manufacturers for herbal and dietary supplements do not have to prove that their products are safe or effective before they make them available to to the public. The regulations are significantly more relaxed than those required for food and prescription drugs. Advertising can be easily misleading on these products, and ingredients can be added without informing the FDA.

Signs Of Liver Disease

Early stages of liver disease can be difficult to detect because they resemble several, less serious, gastrointestinal problems. But if you begin experiencing symptoms such as pain on the right side of your body (under your ribs), abnormal stools, extreme fatigue or fever, abdominal swelling, and a loss of appetite, there may be something wrong with your liver. More specific liver problems include jaundice, bleeding or bruising easily, dark urine, or severe side effects to various medications. In some cases of liver disease, the toxins that are usually filtered out of the blood make their way to the brain and can cause memory loss, mental confusion, and difficulty concentrating. In the event of liver disease, your liver function may simply decrease and will result in decreased mental function, kidney dysfunction or failure, erectile dysfunction, insulin resistance, immune system impairment, vitamin deficiency, weakness, jaundice, or severe itching.

If you have regularly take any herbal or dietary supplement that includes green tea extract, or bodybuilding supplements that may have anabolic steroids, you should stop until you have a conversation with your doctor. If you show symptoms that might indicate liver disease, regardless of the cause, or want to check the health of your liver, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment at GI Associates.

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