Tag Archives: alcohol

New Year Detox

Too much alcohol, and eating the wrong types of food (and too much of it!) over Christmas can lead to bloating, tiredness, poor skin and weight gain. This is why January is the perfect time to take a look at the health of your digestive system and liver, to ‘detox’ your system and start the year as you mean to go on!

Eliminating just a few foods from your diet can help to give your liver and digestive system a welcome break. For many, the most important change to make is to eliminate alcohol. Alcohol is taxing for both the digestive tract and the liver. It also destroys B Vitamins, magnesium, zinc and Vitamin C, it irritates the digestive tract and it dehydrates the body.

Giving your body a break from wheat is recommended. This gluten-containing grain is commonly associated with allergies and intolerances and can be irritating for many. Gluten-free grain alternatives include quinoa and brown rice.

The second most common allergen is dairy. The protein in dairy, casein, can trigger immune responses in sensitive individuals. Others experience digestive problems in response to lactose, the sugar in milk. Good alternative sources of calcium include nuts (almonds, brazils), seeds (sesame, sunflower, pumpkin), beans, lentils and vegetables (spinach, cabbage, kale, carrots).

Caffeine is an addictive stimulant and can rob your body of energy in the long run. It also impedes digestion by diverting blood away from the digestive system. Giving your body a break from caffeine can restore healthy digestions and improve sleep quality, helping you feel more rested and refreshed each morning. For those who can’t manage without, try reducing your consumption to one cup in the morning, switching to other drinks in the afternoon and evening. Switching from caffeinated drinks to more hydrating beverages such as Rooibos tea, herbals teas and fruit smoothies is recommended.

Supplements designed to support your body’s detoxification pathways are often used alongside ‘detox’ diets. The liver performs a special process called ‘conjugation’ which chemically transforms toxins so that they can be removed from the body. My top three supplements for supporting the health of the liver are N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC), Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) and Milk Thistle Extract.

N-Acetyl Cysteine is a powerful antioxidant that boosts levels of glutathione in the body. Glutathione is primarily used in the liver, where it is needed for the liver’s conjugation processes. When toxic load become too great, this process can be overwhelmed, and so NAC supplements can provide welcome support.

Milk-Thistle
Milk Thistle may help the production of new, healthy liver cells.

Milk thistle, also known as silymarin, is another supplement that boosts glutathione levels. This plant extract also inhibits the production of leukotrienes (inflammatory substances that can harm the liver), and stimulates the production of new, healthy liver cells.

As it is both fat and water-soluble, alpha-lipoic-acid is a ‘universal antioxidant’. It has the ability to enter all parts of the cell, gaining access to toxins stored in fat cells. It also helps to support blood sugar regulation and energy production.

A detoxifying diet should contain an abundance of fibre and nutrient-rich plant foods. Foods that are especially good for supporting the liver include cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower which boost levels of detoxifying liver enzymes. Glutathione-boosting avocado, walnuts and oily fish are also great additions. Finally, foods particularly high in protective antioxidants include tenderstem broccoli, berries, tomatoes, plums and watercress.

Suggested Meals

Breakfast: Warm water with fresh lemon juice. Scrambled omega-3 eggs with cherry tomatoes, spinach and watercress.

Snack: Grapefruit

Lunch: Marinated artichoke and chickpea salad with steamed asparagus, lemon juice, garlic and olive oil.

Snack: Raw veggies with homemade guacamole

Dinner: Grilled salmon fillet with dairy-free pesto, puy lentils and a large green salad.

 

Share

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.

Share