What You Can Do For Your Liver
Liver toxicity is very common in Western countries, and I’d say that alcohol is one of the main causes. Your liver is your body’s largest organ, and the very quality of your life depends to a great deal on the health of your liver. Did you know that your liver determines how much weight you will carry, how much energy you will have and will even affect the quality of your sleep and moods? I have found that most patients I see in the clinic have very little idea how important their liver is to their health, until something goes wrong with their liver. So what can you do to optimise your liver’s health?
Alcohol – Go Easy
You will almost certainly know how you feel if you have drunk too much alcohol. Patients have asked me at times “how much is too much”, wanting to know how much wine they can drink before their liver’s health is affected. This is a most difficult question to answer, because every person is different and their tolerance towards alcohol can vary greatly from person to person. I live in Hawke’s Bay, NZ, which is considered wine country and we see many patients who drink wine. Some drink one glass two to three times weekly, but many drink every day, and some in fact drink one to two bottles – each night. An article I wrote a few years ago you may like to read is all about the perils of alcohol Do You Think When You Drink. Most people know that alcohol is not really that good for their liver yet will drink moderate to heavy. Some people do not experience much harm from drinking any alcohol, whereas others experience significant liver damage and may develop pancreatic problems, neuropathy (nerve damage), alcohol induced dementia or even be at at a much higher risk of developing several forms of cancer.
So what is a reasonable level of alcohol? According to guidelines, a safe alcohol intake is considered to be not more than 3 standard drinks a day for men and not more than 2 per day for women. Many people drink significantly more than this, particularly on the weekends or at special occasions such as at parties, and celebrations like birthdays and weddings. Binge drinking can cause serious harm and is not recommended. Are you trying to lose weight and drink alcohol regularly? You will find it very difficult to lose weight if you do, because alcohol is very high in sugars and places a real burden on your liver. Remember that each ml (or gram) of alcohol is equivalent to 7 calories, and every gram of fat is equivalent to 9 calories. Having a glass of wine IS fattening, and almost the same as having that slice of your favourite cake; keep that in mind while trying to shed the pounds!
Sugar Is Not Liver Friendly
Many people know that fat and alcohol can affect their liver’s health adversely, but what they don’t know is that sugar is almost as bad. Sugar contains fructose, and this can be difficult for your liver to break down. A continual intake of sugar will allow your liver to manufacture fat, and the more sugar you regularly consume, the more fat your liver will make and store inside its cells, within time you will develop what is known as fatty liver. Once you have fatty liver, you are much more prone to developing metabolic syndrome, also called Syndrome X or insulin resistance. Having a fatty liver makes it very difficult indeed to lose weight (and to keep it off) and it places you at increased risk of Type 2 diabetes.
Most patients I have seen don’t consider that they consume much sugar, but the unfortunate reality is that they are eating sugar continually throughout the day! I’m not referring to plain white refined sugar, most all the convenience foods you consume eventually get broken right down to glucose – including breads, biscuits, muesli bars, breakfast cereals, pasta, rice, potatoes and any food products made from flour.
Many people base their diets around the staples like bread, crackers, rice, pasta, noodles, and refined breakfast cereals, and unless you have a continually high demand for the energy that carbohydrates give us, your liver will convert this excess sugar to fat.
Next time you get your blood tested, ask your doctor to do a LFT (Liver Function test). Failing that, if you live in Hawke’s Bay or Palmerston North (for those living in New Zealand) we can easily authorise this test for you. An LFT is a blood test which will quickly determine your level of 4 liver enzymes as well as bilirubin (which is a component of bile) and various proteins. The LFT is a very useful test for detecting a liver problem in its early stages. If any of these enzymes are elevated, it tells me that your liver is not happy and these inflammatory enzymes have now spilled over into your blood stream. You will have some form of liver damage, and it is important to get a professional opinion regarding your blood test results, because raised liver enzymes can be as a result of any different causes occurring inside your liver such as viral infections, excess alcohol, fatty liver, autoimmune disease, celiac disease and dysbiosis (overgrowth of bad bowel bacteria).
There are several ways to cleanse the liver, and one way to to go on a ten-day liver cleansing program. Living in the 21st century means having your liver exposed to a wide range of toxic substances including chemicals, hormones and antibiotics in food, environmental toxins in the air you breathe and the water you drink, as well as many other potential sources of toxins. Your liver is capable of breaking down toxins and excreting them from your body, but it is the constant level of toxic exposure on a day to day basis that overwhelms your liver’s ability to perform at its peak. Regular annual liver cleansing makes sense, it will help you maintain your ideal weight (because your liver is the body’s main fat burner), it will also keep you in good overall health. We have several liver tonics which help to provide your liver with the vitamins, minerals and amino acids it requires in order to carry out detoxification more efficiently.
Keep these four tips in mind is your first step to keep your liver in top health. Have you considered cleaning up your liver and gallbladder?