Is Milk Thistle Good for Your Pancreas

Is Milk Thistle Good for Your Pancreas?

Milk thistle is beneficial for pancreatic health. It's an important herb for pancreatic health, a vital organ involved in digestion and blood sugar regulation. Numerous studies indicate that milk thistle contains nutrients and beneficial compounds, including those supporting pancreatic health. So why is milk thistle effective for the pancreas? Let's delve into this further.

Before exploring further, please read the disclaimer located at the end of this webpage.

Key Takeaways

  • Milk thistle helps protect the pancreas through the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of Silibinin compounds.
  • Milk thistle can be used in capsule form, powder, liquid extract, or combined with other herbs.
  • Pancreatic disorders can lead to serious conditions such as acute pancreatitis, chronic pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer, and diabetes.

Is Milk Thistle Good For Your Pancreas?

Yes, milk thistle is a beneficial herbal remedy for the pancreas.

Silibinin, also known as Silymarin, is a flavonoid compound found in milk thistle seeds (Silybum marianum). This compound can inhibit insulin release stimulated by glucose without affecting blood glucose levels.

Silibinin also protects the pancreas from toxicity and counteracts harmful agents. Additionally, it inhibits pancreatic cancer cell proliferation [1].

What Are the Benefits Of Milk Thistle For Health?

Benefits Of Milk Thistle For Health

Milk thistle is an herb related to the daisy and ragweed family. It is found in the Mediterranean region and is widely used in traditional medicine to support liver issues. It is available in supplement forms such as capsules, soft gels, tablets, and liquid extracts.

Regarding benefits, milk thistle is most known for healing liver damage caused by alcohol, fatty liver, hepatitis, and even liver cancer.

Its anti-inflammatory properties, particularly Silymarin, protect the liver from toxins like amatoxin and reduce oxidative damage. Importantly, it extends the lifespan of patients with alcoholic cirrhosis [2].

Beyond the liver, milk thistle benefits brain health by preventing age-related cognitive decline. Its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties protect the nervous system, prevent oxidative damage to brain cells, and reduce the risk of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's [3].

Milk thistle also aids bone protection, preventing osteoporosis and fragile bones prone to fractures. This herb stimulates bone mineralization and prevents bone loss, especially in postmenopausal women [4].

Finally, milk thistle helps balance blood sugar levels in individuals with diabetes. It contains a compound that acts similarly to some diabetes medications by improving insulin sensitivity and reducing blood sugar levels [5].

How Is Pancreatic Important To Your Health?

How Is Pancreatic Important To Your Health

According to Better Health, the pancreas plays two crucial roles in the body: it serves as both a digestive organ and an endocrine gland.

The exocrine pancreas aids in digesting food, particularly proteins. It secretes pancreatic juice-containing enzymes activated in the small intestine.

These enzymes include amylase and lipase to prevent the protein-digesting enzyme trypsin from damaging the pancreas or its ducts. Additionally, the pancreas secretes sodium bicarbonate to neutralize stomach acid in food.

The endocrine pancreas produces insulin, which is vital for controlling blood sugar levels. Moreover, it produces the glucagon hormone, which regulates blood sugar.

Any damage or dysfunction of the pancreas can lead to serious health issues affecting overall well-being. Therefore, maintaining pancreatic health is incredibly important.

Common Pancreatic Issues

Any damage or dysfunction of the pancreas can lead to serious health issues, including:

Acute Pancreatitis

Acute Pancreatitis occurs when the pancreas suddenly becomes inflamed, preventing enzymes from exiting the pancreas, causing irritation and a burning sensation.

Causes include excessive alcohol consumption or the presence of gallstones in the bile duct, which can occur due to certain medications and mumps.

Chronic Pancreatitis

Chronic Pancreatitis is a case of recurrent inflammation even when harmful agents have been eliminated.

Painful inflammatory episodes will occur continuously, damaging parts and functions of the pancreas. Alcoholics are at higher risk for this condition.

Pancreatic Cancer

This is a serious issue for pancreatic health. Cancer forms from ductal cells and gradually spreads to the pancreas, then can invade nearby nerves.

This disease can affect the entire organ in the abdominal cavity and is often seen in people with chronic pancreatitis, older people, or regular smokers.

Diabetes

This problem occurs when the Islets of Langerhans cannot produce enough insulin, leading to high blood sugar levels.

Conversely, there are cases where insulin is produced adequately, but the body cannot use it normally. Diabetes can lead to other injuries to the kidneys, eyes, heart, and nerves.

How Can Milk Thistle Help With Pancreatitis? Scientific Evidence

How Can Milk Thistle Help With Pancreatitis

As mentioned above, the pancreas plays an important role in the digestive system. Silymarin in milk thistle has anti-inflammatory effects and regulates antioxidant protection in the intestines and other body parts [6].

Silibinin(A) content in milk thistle also shows potential for weight loss by inhibiting pancreatic lipase. Silibinin has surface-active properties that can compete with oil-water surfaces to hinder lipase activity, potentially supplementing diet therapy to treat obesity [7].

Another study was conducted on normal diabetic mice, which were caused by alloxan for four weeks. Drinking repeated Silymarin (100 mg/kg body weight) for 4 weeks helped improve the pancreatic function of normal mice.
It may reduce alloxan-induced pancreatic damage, contributing to the recovery of some antioxidant capabilities in pancreatic tissues [8].

How To Use Milk Thistle To Support Pancreatic Health?

Milk thistle is available in various forms, including capsules, powder, liquid extract, and other health care products.

The recommended milk thistle dosage for pancreatic health is 200 - 600 mg daily for up to 6 months. A dose of 200mg should be divided into three daily administrations or taken all at once if the body can adapt.

Milk thistle can be used in conjunction with other herbs and nutritional supplements. A supplement formula of 210 mg milk thistle extract and 1176 mg turmeric extract used for 3 - 12 months is considered effective for diabetes and pancreatic health. Additionally, you can combine milk thistle with TUDCA to enhance antioxidant effects and improve digestive health.

Conclusion

The studies and information above show that milk thistle contains many nutrients and beneficial compounds for health, including pancreatic health. However, further research is needed to confirm the specific role of milk thistle in pancreatic health. Moreover, dosage and usage should be carefully considered. It is best to consult a doctor before incorporating milk thistle into your diet.

References

  • [1] Zhang, Xiaokai, et al. “Silibinin Induces G1 Arrest, Apoptosis and JNK/SAPK Upregulation in SW1990 Human Pancreatic Cancer Cells.” Oncology Letters, 19 Apr. 2018, https://doi.org/10.3892/ol.2018.8541. Accessed 27 Apr. 2021.
  • [2] Vargas-Mendoza, Nancy. “Hepatoprotective Effect of Silymarin.” World Journal of Hepatology, vol. 6, no. 3, 2014, p. 144, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3959115/, https://doi.org/10.4254/wjh.v6.i3.144.
  • [3] Pérez-Hernández, Jesús, et al. “A Potential Alternative against Neurodegenerative Diseases: Phytodrugs.” Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, vol. 2016, 2016, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4736801/, https://doi.org/10.1155/2016/8378613. Accessed 31 Oct. 2020.
  • [4] Mohd Fozi, Nur, et al. “Milk Thistle: A Future Potential Anti-Osteoporotic and Fracture Healing Agent.” Current Drug Targets, vol. 14, no. 14, 31 Dec. 2013, pp. 1659–1666, https://doi.org/10.2174/13894501113146660222.
  • [5] Kazazis, Christos E., et al. “The Therapeutic Potential of Milk Thistle in Diabetes.” The Review of Diabetic Studies, vol. 11, no. 2, 2014, pp. 167–174, https://doi.org/10.1900/rds.2014.11.167.
  • [6] Fallah, Maryam, et al. “Silymarin (Milk Thistle Extract) as a Therapeutic Agent in Gastrointestinal Cancer.” Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy, vol. 142, Oct. 2021, p. 112024, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopha.2021.112024.
  • [7] Teresa del Castillo-Santaella, et al. “Identification of the Thistle Milk Component Silibinin(A) and Glutathione-Disulphide as Potential Inhibitors of the Pancreatic Lipase: Potential Implications on Weight Loss.” Journal of Functional Foods, vol. 83, 1 Aug. 2021, pp. 104479–104479, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jff.2021.104479. Accessed 6 Nov. 2023.
  • [8] Gad, Shereen, and Zeynab Kh El-Maddawy. “Silymarin Improves Pancreatic Endocrine Function in Rats.” ONLINE, 2013.
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Author

Ralph S. Albert, with over 10 years of expertise in nutrition and research, now heads the Research division at Vinatura Supplements. His dedication and extensive knowledge ensure top-quality articles on nutrition and health, collaborating with a skilled team. He has successfully completed The VINATURA Expertise Research Training Program, underscoring his commitment to Vinatura's mission. Ralph has also published numerous articles and conducted valuable research in the field, making him a trusted resource for individuals on their wellness journey.

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