What Is It?
Nutritional supplements known as lipotropic combinations (or lipotropic factors) are designed to enhance liver function and increase the flow of fats and bile from the liver and gallbladder. By definition, a lipotropic substance decreases the deposit, or speeds up the removal, of fat (lipo=fat, tropic=stimulate) within the liver. Lipotropic combinations are well known in naturopathic medicine but are little used by conventional physicians.
Lipotropic combinations typically include the amino acids choline, methionine, and inositol as well as vitamin B12 and folic acid. These nutrients are frequently combined with certain herbs (including milk thistle, dandelion, turmeric, and boldo) that increase the secretion of bile (known as choleretics) or stimulate gallbladder contraction and flow (known as cholagogues).
Various types of liver damage, including alcohol-related hepatitis, as well as gallstones and even endometriosis, appear to benefit from easy-to-take, liver-soothing lipotropic combinations. However, most research (when it is available) has been done on the individual components rather than on combination forms.
Methionine, choline, and inositol are needed to maintain the membranes of liver cells and facilitate the transport of fat molecules in and out of the liver. These lipotropics may be helpful in situations where an excessive deposition of fat is believed to be present in the liver, such as alcoholism, obesity, and poor nutrition.
Studies have supported the theory that milk thistle appears to “cleanse” and therefore fortify the liver. This herb contains silymarin, a flavonoid that alters the outer membrane of the liver cell to block toxins from entering it. In addition, by maintaining levels of glutathione, milk thistle likely enhances the liver’s ability to neutralize any toxins within it.
Dandelion, another standard ingredient in lipotropic combinations, may be regarded as a lowly weed in North America but enjoys a far more esteemed reputation among American naturopathic physicians and conventional physicians in Europe and other parts of the world. The herb’s bitter roots and leaves are believed to stimulate bile flow and gall bladder contraction.
In short, because a lipotropic mixture combines liver and gallbladder therapies in one product, the person using it benefits simultaneously from the power and potential of them all.
For more information, see the WholeHealth Chicago Reference Library entries for the individual lipotropic nutrients and herbs.
Because the amount of each individual ingredient in lipotropic combination products is quite small, the best approach for anyone who is taking another drug or dietary supplement is to refer to the separate entries (milk thistle, dandelion, methionine, turmeric) in our WholeHealth Chicago Reference Library to check possible interactions.
See individual entries in the WholeHealth Chicago Reference Library for cautions on specific ingredients contained in your lipotropic combination.
Endometriosis 1 or 2 pills 2 or 3 times a day
Gallstones 1 or 2 pills twice a day
Hepatitis 2 pills twice a day between meals