Category Archives: Liver

Detoxification dieting for the year ahead

Feeling sluggish after the excesses of the festive season? Do you have permanent fatigue, sore or achy muscles for no reason, skin breakouts, bad breath and plummeting energy levels or do you just feel less vibrant than you should?

A detoxification diet is seen as the ultimate health and beauty boost, especially during January post party season.

As far as detoxification is concerned the primary organs responsible are our liver and bowels. The liver and gut work together removing unwanted toxins from our body. Detoxification is the key function of the liver but it also known as the secondary organ of digestion, as it produces bile which is used to aid fat digestion. The liver needs to be able to detoxify toxins, so that they are ready to be released into the bile and the bowel needs to be healthy and moving regularly to enable these toxins to be excreted via a stool.

There are many food and supplements that can help support both these organs to do their job effectively. Eliminating the foods and drinks that challenge them is a good start and will help you move towards a healthier lifestyle. For example, fizzy drinks, cordials, caffeine and alcohol and cleaning up your diet by removing wheat, sugar, dairy, and processed foods and not forgetting drinking lots of water. The good news is that our liver is capable of regenerating itself so with a good diet, lifestyle and the right supplements there’s no reason we cannot maintain our liver function at any age.

Choline is essential for the maintenance of a healthy liver.

Choline foods that are high in sulphur compounds such as onions, garlic, leeks and eggs are supportive for the liver. Eggs and soybeans are also rich in, a ‘lipotropic’ agent which in essence has a de-congesting effect on the liver and prevents the accumulation of fat, therefore helping to keep the liver functioning efficiently. Supplement formulas containing choline and other lipotropic agents are commonly used to help with liver detoxification. (1)

A human study in 2007 on adults given a choline deficient diet for up to 42 days proved that when deprived of dietary choline 77% of men and 80% of women developed fatty liver. (2)

Cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts are rich in glucosinolates, which speed up the liver’s ability to detoxify. You may wish to juice some green vegetables, rich in chlorophyll, along with your apples and ginger or make a green breakfast smoothie and add some chlorella. Add turmeric to soups and stews and cinnamon to stewed fruit or porridge as both of these spices encourage the production and flow of bile to help excrete fats from the liver.

Also we must not forget the importance of keeping the bowels clean and regularly emptied, so as not to build up toxic waste. If you have a diet low in fibre then the muscles of the colon can become weak and lazy which over time can lead to chronic constipation. Refined sugars found in cakes and biscuits and white floury goods such as white bread can ferment quickly in the gut and lead to bloating, constipation and the formation of unhealthy bacteria which will impair your overall digestion. Try natural ‘live’ yoghurt to populate the gut with good bacteria. Red and processed meats, melted cheese and processed foods have a long transit time though the bowel and may block you up so avoid these when trying to detox. Make sure you eat a blend of soluble and insoluble fibre to keep things moving such as oats, barley, pears, apples, lentils, prunes, oat bran and pulses are good forms of soluble fibre. (3) Flaxseeds are a mix of both soluble and insoluble fibre and will therefore stimulate the bowel and bulk the stool to encourage elimination. If you break them up in a blender or grind them they are more effective. Not forgetting to drink plenty of water! This time of year is a great time to focus on revitalising our bodies for the year ahead.

  1. Choline contributes to the maintenance of normal liver function.
  2. Sex and menopausal status influence human dietary requirements for the nutrient choline.
    Fischer LM, daCosta KA, Kwock L, Stewart PW, Lu TS, Stabler SP, Allen RH, Zeisel SH.
    Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 May;85(5):1275-85.
  3. Barley and Oat grain, Wheat bran and Rye fibre all contribute to an increase in faecal bulk. Also Wheat bran fibre contributes to an acceleration of intestinal transit.
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January is Love Your Liver Month

December is a month filled with office parties and festive celebrations. While Christmas is a wonderful time to relax and celebrate with family and friends, all this overindulgence can play havoc with our health. It therefore seems timely that the British Liver Trust has named the month of January national Love Your Liver month.

The liver is extraordinary. It filters around one and a half litres of blood every minute, ridding our body of toxins such as alcohol, caffeine, drugs and food additives. Weight gain over Christmas time results in extra fat stored in the liver, and the extra caffeine, alcohol and the morning-after painkillers, all place additional pressure on this important organ.

In fact, according to the NHS, 1 in 5 people in the UK have a fatty liver, and rates of liver disease in the UK are rising (1).

How does overindulgence damage the liver?

When the liver tries to break down alcohol and other toxins, this can cause oxidative stress which damages cells in the liver. It is also thought that alcohol and other irritants can damage our intestine which means that toxins from the intestine can get into the liver, leading to inflammation and scarring. The liver turns glucose into fat which it sends round the body to store for use when we need it. Alcohol affects the way the liver handles fat meaning that fat starts to build up in the liver.

Dr Mark Wright at the British Liver Trust explains that the liver tends to suffer at Christmas because Chritmas indulgences are not simply restricted to a single day – instead the festive period is drawn out over several weeks, meaning that the liver is subject to excess fat, alcohol and calories over a long period of time. If we bombard our liver with too many toxins we can eventually overstretch our liver’s resources.

How can we protect and repair the liver?

The good news is that these early signs of liver disease are reversible as the liver has the remarkable ability to repair itself. The Love Your Liver campaign suggests just three simple steps to protect your liver’s health:

1. Stay off alcohol for 2-3 days in a row each week;
2. Take more exercise and stay fit;
3. Cut down on sugar and fat.

Nutritionally, there are a number of measures that are also believed to help an over burdened liver to repair itself. Foods that help promote healthy liver function include:

Are you eating enough fruit to help keep your liver healthy?
Are you eating enough fruit to help keep your liver healthy?
  • High sulphur foods, such as garlic, legumes, onions and eggs;
  • Water soluble fibre such as pears, oatbran, apples and legumes;
  • Cabbage family vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage and sprouts;
  • Functional foods such as artichokes, beets, carrots, turmeric and cinnamon.

A good quality antioxidant supplement can also support your liver by providing it with the resources it needs to repair oxidative damage. Certain nutritional supplements can also support the liver’s detoxification processes. For example, sulphation is the chemical process used to detoxify substances such as alcohol and paracetemol.  The supplement methyl sulphonyl methane (MSM) – a form of sulphur – helps to support this sulphation process in the liver. The antioxidant supplement silymarin, or milk thistle, is also frequently used to help support and repair the liver, with much research supporting its benefits in diseases of the liver (2).

Stay Health Aware

As the liver has no nerve endings, it can be hard to notice the first signs of problems. If you feel you have been overindulging with fatty foods and alcohol over a long period of time you can ask your GP for a liver function test.

The Love Your Liver Roadshow is touring throughout the month of January and offers free liver assessments to the public. The roadshow is planned to stop at Portsmouth, Bristol, Cardiff, Birmingham, Liverpool, Bradford, Leeds, Middlesborough and Glasgow. For the most up to date information, visit the British Liver Trust’s Love Your Liver website.

Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC.

References

1. Liver Disease Summary Statistics. www.liver.nhs.uk.

2. Saller R, Brignoli R, Melzer J Meier R. (2008) An updated systematic review with meta-analysis for the clinical evidence of silymarin. Forsch Komplementmed.

3. Image courtesy of winnond.

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