Loving your liver this Christmas

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Christmas really is that time of year that can push you to the limits in so many ways, can’t it? There are crowds everywhere, traffic jams, and a never-ending lineup of parties. You can often be exhausted before Christmas even arrives! I’m all for celebrating with family and friends because that’s what life is all about. That being said, keeping yourself healthy is also key. One of the best ways to do that around Christmas and New Years, given the increase in alcohol and party foods, is to show your liver some lovin’ ❤️

Poor liver function means poor mind and body function, which is not what you want when you’re trying to enjoy a bit of holiday time. So, do consider including some of the things from the list below over the coming weeks to ensure you stay well and relaxed over the festive season. I also have a great Christmas mocktail recipe for you to enjoy that can help you cut down on the booze!

Seven steps for loving your liver this Christmas

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1. Bitter foods

These are essential as they encourage the production and release of bile, which helps with digestion and absorption of fats, carbohydrates and fat soluble vitamins [1]. Bitter foods might include dark leafy greens, artichoke, herbs like dill and saffron or dandelion tea / greens, which are also helpful for indigestion (might be useful for that post-Christmas lunch!)

2. Brassica vegetables

Broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale (that may be turned into kimchi, sauerkraut etc. for added benefits) all contain a compound called indole-3-carbinol that exerts protective effects on the liver along with helping to remove toxins from the body by supporting its detoxification pathways [2].

3. Flavonoids

The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of these compounds will help to combat oxidative stress associated with alcohol consumption and further support the detoxification process [3]. Increased antioxidant intake will also combat the production of increased free radicals (more alcohol, more free radicals). Great sources of flavonoids include blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, oranges, grapefruit, lemon and parsley just to name a few.

4. Turmeric

You know I love this one! Turmeric provides protective effects to the liver and aids in the reduction of inflammation. It’s also great for increasing bile flow along with the bitter foods mentioned above [4]. Turmeric provides improved beneficial effects when combined with a fat and piperine (found in black pepper) [5].

5. Green tea

Strengthens the immune system, protects against liver toxicity and is also high in flavonoids and antioxidants [6]. We 💚 green tea!

6. Soluble and Insoluble Fibre

The combination of which will ensure you are effectively removing waste and toxins from the body 💩, which will be necessary if your alcohol intake has increased. More fibre will also keep you well satiated [7] and may help reduce your ‘party food’ intake. Sources of soluble fibre include fruit, vegetables and legumes while sources of insoluble fibre include nuts, seeds, skins of fruit and vegetables, legumes and wholegrain breads.

7. Water

This is a given. More alcohol, more water. Try going glass for glass. You’ll become well acquainted with the bathroom but you’ll also be keeping yourself hydrated and remove alcohol-related toxins in the process.

In addition to all of that, making the best possible food choices you can, trying to steer clear of packaged / highly processed foods, getting plenty of sleep and getting in some exercise along with drinking in moderation are all fundamental for good health over this period. There are a stack of wonderful herbs that can give you added support too, one of my favourites being St Mary’s Thistle (or Milk Thistle), as it protects and restores liver function.

All of that said, I hope you have wonderful Christmas and New Years festivities with your families and friends enjoying good food, good company and some much-needed down time.

Please note: This does not constitute medical advice and should not replace the advice given to you by your GP or qualified natural health practitioner. If you are unsure of whether these hints and tips are suitable for you, please discuss with your primary health practitioner before making any dietary changes.

References

1. Valussi, M 2012, ‘Functional foods with digestion-enhancing properties’, International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, vol. 63, no. S1, pp. 82–89, viewed 17 December 2016.

2. Aggarwal, B & Ichikawa, H 2005, ‘Molecular Targets and Anticancer Potential of Indole-3-Carbinol and Its Derivatives’, Cell Cycle, vol. 4, no. 9, pp. 1201–1215, viewed 19 December 2016.

3. Akhlaghi, M 2016, ‘Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: Beneficial Effects of Flavonoids’, Phytotherapy Research, vol. 30, no. 10, pp. 1559–1571, viewed 15 December 2016.

4. Rathaur, P, Raja, W, Ramteke, P. & John, S 2012, ‘Turmeric: The Golden Spice of Life’, International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research, vol. 3, no. 7, pp. 1987–1994, viewed 17 December 2016.

5. Alamdari, N, O’Neal, P & Hasselgren, P-O 2009, ‘Curcumin and muscle wasting – A new role for an old drug?’, Nutrition, vol. 25, no. 2, pp. 125–129, viewed 14 December 2016.

6. Chacko, SM, Thambi, PT, Kuttan, R & Nishigaki, I 2010, ‘Beneficial effects of green tea: a literature review.’, Chinese Medicine, vol. 5, no. 13, pp. 1–9, viewed 20 December 2016.

7. Oliveira, CP, De Lima Sanches, P, De Abreu-Silva, EO & Marcadenti, A 2015, ‘Nutrition and physical activity in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease’, Journal of Diabetes Research, Hindawi Publishing Corporation, viewed 20 December 2016.

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