One of the common questions that comes up in the nootropics community is on liver toxicity. Basically the thought is: your liver has to process all of these compounds, so, is that deleterious?
And the answer isn’t a yes or a no. It’s more of an “it depends.” And the reason it depends is because you really have to co-ask the question with the questions:
- What nootropics are we talking about?
- For how long are we/you/someone taking them?
- What is the condition of their health at the moment?
Generally speaking, with smart cycling strategies, a healthy person should be able to take nootropics with no problems. I think people should cycle off of virtually everything after 2-6 weeks of continuous use.
Using any performance optimization compound that the liver has to process, consistently, isn’t a great idea. Not necessarily because of liver health, but to prevent tolerance and neurotransmitter receptor modulation that is hard to reverse.
So if one is taking 1-2-3 weeks off of certain compounds every few months, they’re going to be in good shape. It’s likely the moderate alcohol consumption, which is profoundly common among hundreds of millions of people, is harder on the liver than nootropics.
But there is a case for concern if a person:
- Doesn’t cycle at all.
- Has accumulated toxins in his/her liver over time.
- Has a sluggish liver due a disease state (Epstein Barr Virus/Mono verifiably negatively affects the liver).
- Has some other variable which impairs detox pathways in the liver.
Detox pathways gone wrong, by an overload of toxins, can certainly put you in a position where everything from alcohol, to medications, to nootropics, can further burden the liver.
Probably the most sound, simplest explanation of these liver detox pathways, where your liver tries to pair chemicals you have with toxins in the body to make them less toxic can be found here.
But the gist of that link is that these pathways, that try to mitigate the toxic effect of foods/chemicals on your body, can get overburdened to the point where they stop working correctly.
The result? Toxins start to build up in your liver. And in this case, no, nootropics aren’t particularly great. Same with alcohol, and same with most medications.
What to consider if you suspect you have an overburdened liver
The first thing to do in this case, would be to get some blood work. You want to know if enzymes in your liver, that facilitate detoxification, are raised above normal.
Not all blood tests on these enzymes are accurate. It seems quite clear that you can have an overburdened liver, but still come up fine on blood tests. In this case, it’s plausible, that if you’re running into symptoms of an overburdened liver (chemical sensitivity, jaundice, mono, chronic fatigue syndrome), that it is sub-clinical (under the radar – and not detectable via traditional blood tests).
If this is the case, some of the best things you can are:
- Supplementing with N-acetyl-cysteine. NAC for short, is a precursor to one of the strongest liver detoxification agents in your body, called Glutathione.
- Drinking a combination of grapefruit and lemon juice, preferably freshly blended. Both of them assist the liver’s detox pathways and grapefruits specifically actually contain Glutathione.
- Eat raw garlic. Chew 6-12 cloves a day (or more if you can tolerate it), with water, and swallow them down. They directly aid in liver detoxification pathways, and have been demonstrated effective at chipping away at bile build up in the gall bladder.
- Do regular liver cleanses. Simply blending grapefruit and lemon juice, with a few cloves of garlic should do the trick quite well.
Regular liver maintenance, via these above protocols, would also be a safe bet to ensure you don’t end up in a place where you have a burdened liver.
I got the Epstein Barr Virus in 2015, and I noticed that in the ensuing years, I have to cleanse my liver pretty regularly to be able to tolerate alcohol, and to minimize chemical sensitivity. So I mean, this is not a stretch, and I have a pretty verifiable N=1 on this with me.
Without semi-regular liver cleanses, and eating foods/taking supplements that foster detox pathways, I get bogged down by minimal alcohol consumption and chemical sensitivity pretty easily. This is an organ you’ve got to maintenance if it’s been hit before in the past (by something like mono).
Of course, the type of compound really matters, right?
- Modafinil MAY be harder on the liver than L-theanine, considering it is a pretty powerful drug. One that typically comes with a strong odor when excreting it via urine.
- Alpha GPC MAY be easier on the liver than Aniracetam. Aniracetam is a drug. Alpha GPC, a constituent of the human body.
- Related examples.
In this video, we’ll discuss these pathways, and how to go about taking nootropics if you think your liver is overburdened.