Ingredient Profile: Milk Thistle Seed Extract

Ingredient Profile: Milk Thistle Seed Extract

Milk Thistle (One of the key ingredients found in Recover Surge) is a natural herb with proven antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which is frequently used to detoxify the body, and in particular, the liver. Milk thistle (also known by its scientific name Silybum marianum) is often converted into extract, or supplement form to procure its cell regenerating benefits. It has been used for medical purposes across Europe for centuries. People have eaten the leaves, flowers and roots of the plant and it’s seed like fruits have been drunk as a coffee alternative. Recently, it has made a reappearance as a popular health aid.

Milk thistle works by extracting dangerous toxins out of the body that is capable of causing a range of symptoms and diseases. These include high cholesterol, diabetes, kidney stones, gallbladder disorders, alcohol use and even the development of cancers.

Despite its wide-ranging benefits, milk thistle is most well-known for its natural support and detoxification of the liver. The role of the liver is to defend us from everyday toxins, it acts like a sieve, removing damaging substances from the body, including toxins released from the body during intense physical exercise.

Top Milk Thistle Benefits

Liver Detoxification & Health

Milk Thistle Seed Extract has been verified to decrease, or even possibly overturn, liver damage. As a powerful detoxifier, it assists in rebuilding liver cells while eliminating toxins from the body that are handled by the liver. Milk thistle is a powerful ingredient that has also been proven successful in reversing the damaging effects on the liver from such things as alcohol consumption and other toxins.

Our bodies ingest harmful toxins and in some cases, on a daily basis. These can include pesticides in food, pollution and water comprising heavy metals. Most of these toxins can build up in our fat cells and are released during physical activity. Intense exercise can also cause dangerous toxins to circulate in our blood and damage our liver. Milk thistle can serve to combat these harmful pollutants and support liver health.

The liver is the largest internal organ of the body and is accountable for a number of vital detoxifying functions. It acts as a blood purifier, and thus the condition of our blood is dependent on the health of our liver. The liver aids in the removal of harmful substances from our blood, assists in hormone production, discharges glucose into the bloodstream which serves as our bodies main energy source and releases bile into our small intestine allowing for fat absorption.

Furthermore, milk thistle has additional effects in the regenerative capacity of the liver; it promotes the formation of new liver cells and supports further protection to the cells by stabilizing the membranes of the liver cells which blocks toxins from moving in. The bigger picture of these benefits is the enhanced immune system and response to liver damage, the impediment of fibrosis and cirrhosis and a considerable decreased risk of mortality.

Improved Insulin Sensitivity

Recent studies have shown that silymarin, the main chemical found in milk thistle can assist with glycaemic control and can improve insulin sensitivity. In experiments and clinical studies, the antioxidants found in milk thistle has been reported to aid in the reduction of blood sugar levels in insulin-resistant patients. This is likely due to the numerous benefits that milk thistle provides for the liver.

The value in this to athletes, is the potential for improved insulin response and nutrient intake from the post-WOD recovery meals. Improved insulin response supports the release of insulin into the bloodstream to shuttle blood sugar from the bloodstream into muscles, the liver and other organs and tissue.

The liver is partially responsible for controlling hormones, comprising the release of insulin into the bloodstream. The role of insulin is to manage blood glucose levels in the blood, which is extremely important for post-WOD recovery and performance.

Helps Fight Cancer Development

Despite the fact that there has not yet been clinical studies carried out on human, laboratory studies have shown that an active compound of milk thistle can be effective in fighting against certain strains of cancer. It has also been shown to improve the efficacy of certain chemotherapy drugs.

Milk thistle seeds contain a high level of silymarin, an antioxidant flavonoid. Silymarin has been linked with reducing the risks of cancer development by boosting the immune system, fighting DNA impairment and reversing the growth of cancerous tumors.

Research into milk thistle’s impacts on cancer is still very much in the early stages, however, it has shown that it can have an inhibitory effect on the development of cancer cells and tumors on the skin, and has preventative properties for cancerous growth in the prostate, breast and cervix.

Other Benefits of Milk Thistle Include:

  • Cellular Regeneration. Alcohol and many other frequently prescribed medications can cause damage to liver cells. Silymarin appears to possess the extraordinary ability to encourage the regeneration of damaged liver cells.

  • Anti-inflammatory Abilities. Milk thistle has shown to benefit heart health and lower high cholesterol levels by decreasing inflammation, cleaning the blood and thwarting any oxidative stress impairment in the arteries.

  • Benefits to the skin. It is believed that the herb has anti-inflammatory, detoxifying, and antioxidant abilities that can help in improving many skin conditions.


The Side Effects of Milk Thistle

Milk thistle is generally believed to be safe and well-accepted, with limited side effects reported. However, there are still a couple of things to be aware of. The most common side effect is an upset stomach. This can range from lack of appetite, bloating, heartburn to diarrhea. In rare cases, milk thistle can offset allergies, causing swelling, rash, hives, and breathing difficulties. Should any of these occur, discontinue use of milk thistle. To circumvent any unexpected issues be sure to only buy milk thistle from a reliable company.

How To Take Milk Thistle

Milk thistle is readily available in many forms. It can be found in supplement form or in tea form. The best choice of milk thistle extract is one containing a good concentration of the active ingredient silymarin that is highly bio-available. You can also plant your own milk thistle and make tea. Each small plant head holds about 190 seeds that have multiple uses.

It is initially advised to take milk thistle daily for at least a month, but if possible three months or more. Over that time, it is also suggested that you focus on making improvements to your diet, and limiting your intake of alcohol and processed food.

 Milk thistle can be extremely beneficial for liver detoxification and in turn our general health. However, liver disease can be a critical health issue and must be treated by knowledgeable healthcare professionals.

Recover Surge

Stephanie Contomichalos
Stephanie Contomichalos - Author

Stephanie Contomichalos is a sports enthusiast. She is an avid crossfitter, wakeboarder and has recently qualified as a Level 1 CrossFit coach. She is also an advocate for women’s sport and for using sport as a tool for development. She is currently living in Athens, Greece. To connect with Stephanie, follow her on Twitter (@ssconto) or on Instagram.

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