When we think of the liver, we often think about alcohol consumption and rightly so. However, It is currently estimated that 25-30% of the global population have Non Alcohol Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) which is caused by excess sugar consumption not by alcohol. NAFLD is on the increase in Ireland and can lead to a more serious problem called Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) where cellular damage can lead to cirrhosis of the liver. Keeping our sugar intake to a minimum is always a good idea!
The fact is that the liver is one of the most vital organs in the body involved in more then 500 functions that are essential to keeping us healthy. The liver is also a gland as it produces hormones. Although food does not pass directly through the liver, it plays a large role in the digestion process. It stores vitamins A, B12, D, E and K and iron, is involved in the metabolism of proteins and fats by producing bile which breaks down fats, takes up some glucose from carbs to be stored as glycogen which is the body’s main energy source to be used later and not least it is your own personal filtering system for clearing toxins from the body.
Generally the liver is well able to clear toxins. The problem in our modern world is that we are bombarded by toxins from our environment, chemicals, our water, cosmetics, fuels we use, fire retardants on our carpets and furnishings and of course alcohol, medications and drugs that we might take. The amount of chemical toxins in our personal hygiene products alone is phenomenal and what causes the liver to struggle with toxins is what we call the “toxic load” i.e. the overwhelming amount of toxins the body comes in contact with. Think about it, we have descended from the cave man who lived in an environment of fresh air, ate organic and drank pure unpolluted water match that will our current environment where we live surrounded by and cover our bodies in man made chemicals.
In Chinese Traditional Medicine, the liver is associated with anger, anxiety and depression. Christmas can be a stressful time of the year when we are eating more and drinking more than usual. We consume a lot more sugar at this time of the year which increases our toxic load. Add in the late nights, the endless hours of shopping for gifts and the visiting relatives it can send stress levels through the roof.
The liver is located under the ribs on the upper right side of the stomach. It is roughly the size of a football depending on your size and height. Some signs that you may have a liver overload include headaches, skin break outs, feeling nauseous, unable to tolerate alcohol or smells such as perfume, petrol, cigarette smoke etc.
Men can metabolise and clear alcohol more efficiently than women due to their body size and body fat. Therefore for us ladies, it is important not to be trying to keep up with the boys when out partying and adhere to the guidelines around drinking sensibly.
There is no denying that excessive abuse of alcohol in the longer term will do irreparable damage to the liver. However for those of us who like to enjoy a few drinks over the Christmas, the good news is that the liver cells can renew themselves but we do need to look after it. In this festive season of indulgence, here are some tips to help you on your way:
- Drink the juice of half a lemon in warm water first thing in the morning to get the bile in the liver flowing.
- Water – Drink 8 ounces of water every two hours to help flush out toxins
- Have a fresh vegetable juice daily
- Go easy on the sugary foods. Opt instead for savoury cheeses, olives, nuts, fruits to counter the excess sugar at this time of year.
- Milk Thistle is a great liver support. As well as being a powerful detoxifier, it also helps to rebuild liver cells. A Vogels Milk Thistle also contains Artichoke and Peppermint which both help the liver. Be sure to take Milk Thistle early in the day as otherwise it may interfere with your sleep and make sure to drink lots of water to support the detox action.
- After a night on the tiles, instead of eating processed foods, try to eat as much fresh nutritious foods as possible such as fresh green leafy vegetables, fruit, fish, whole grains, free range/organic chicken and lots of fibre.
- Beetroot is great for cleansing the blood so a fresh juice with beetroot such as celery, beetroot and apple will support the liver and increase your vitamin intake.
- Eating out – Take it easy on the fried food and ask for a side of salad or vegetables.
- Don’t drink on an empty stomach.
- Drink a pint of water after a night out to rehydrate.
- Take it easy on the pain killers as they are really hard on the stomach and the liver as well.
- Be mindful of the chemicals in personal hygiene products, anything with a scent has to be detoxified by the liver so opt instead for organic and pure, natural products.
- Try to get out and breathe some fresh air into your lungs to help the body expel some toxins.
- If you do go overboard on a night out and want a natural hangover cure then head to your local Asian store for some umboshi plums. These work to alkalize the system and are known as a natural aspirin in Asia.
Most of all, be kind to yourself and enjoy the festive season!