Your liver is your body’s detoxifier. Everything entering your body passes through your liver to be processed before being absorbed into your blood stream – that includes any festive fizz! The good thing about your liver however, is that its cells contain powerful enzymes that break down many of the toxins or chemicals found in any medicines we ingest and some of the things we eat – but may need to work overtime when we indulge, especially during Christmas.
Fatty liver – the build-up of excess fat in liver cells – affects about one in every 10 people. While it may cause no damage, excess fat may lead to inflammation of the liver. Eating excess calories causes fat to build up in the liver; but obesity, diabetes, heavy alcohol use or high triglycerides may also be responsible – however, some people develop fatty liver regardless. In fact, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is a common condition affecting up to one-third of adults and becoming increasingly common in children.
Another function of your liver is to make cholesterol and other important body fats, and it houses your iron, vitamin B12 and copper. And while your liver receives glucose from the small intestine it can also produce glucose from other substances, which is stored as glycogen.
Exercise may help boost your immune system and support your liver so come January 1 (when New Year’s fitness resolutions kick in), it’s important to realise that when you exercise, your liver quickly breaks down stored glycogen into glucose, which is released into the bloodstream for use by muscles as a source of energy. Consider walking after family feasts and morning exercise before your celebrations begin.
Poor nutrition, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle are among the most common causes of liver disease but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy celebrating. Incorporate almonds, oats, blueberries, cranberries, salmon, chickpeas, soybeans, spinach, yoghurt, broccoli, kidney beans, spinach and pumpkin in your diet. For a liver-friendly festive lunch, try smoked salmon delights and homemade hummus for canapés, roast lamb with pears accompanied by pumpkin and spinach salad for the main event and apple crumble for dessert. Fresh lemon in soda water is a refreshing alternative to bubbles – you can still serve in a flute. Remember to allow safe drinking guidelines including several alcohol-free days per week.
St Mary’s Thistle (milk thistle) is a well-known herb for liver health along with silymarin, broccoli sprouts, glutathione, amino acids, mineral co-factors and activated B vitamins. If you want some extra support while you’re indulging in the season, you may benefit from seeing your health practitioner for the right mix of supplements.
References available on request