Hey, I get it. It’s the holiday season and time for all the cheer. But when we cheer too much with sugar-laden foods, processed foods, alcohol, and then add chemical exposure from body care products or man-made scented products, we are really taxing our liver. Food today is full of toxins and chemicals. This puts a lot of stress on our liver.
It’s vitally important that you understand your risk of liver disease. Fatty liver is the silent killer of over 100 million people. Fatty liver, metabolic syndrome, and kidney disease are a deadly trifecta responsible for killing millions of people each year. The good news is that the liver is a very regenerative organ, meaning that it can heal quite quickly.
Our liver is our body’s major pathway for detoxification. The liver is the chief detoxifier in the body (about 90%) and the kidneys assume the remaining 10%. Rates of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) have skyrocketed. Even young children are developing NAFLD through chronic exposure to sugar, GMO foods, chemicals, and eating foods that they are sensitive to.
NAFLD is a metabolic disorder known to interrupt the liver microvascular with fatty deposits and inflammation. NAFLD can progress to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which can lead to the development of liver cirrhosis or cancer in some patients. NAFLD is estimated to be 20 to 30% in Western countries. Sugar-sweetened beverages are one of the most common sources of sugar intake, which contributes to the prevalence of this disease and is also a risk factor for metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and obesity.
Our body’s biggest chemical manufacturer is the liver. We need diverse raw materials for liver to manufacture substances such as proteins and coenzymes. The liver is where B vitamins are stored and carbs. It both produces and clears cholesterol. The liver regulates your blood sugar between meals. When healthy, it efficiently releases carbs for energy. If you over-consume carbs and don’t exercise, you will have extra carbs. Despite having extra carbs, people often crave carbs because they don’t feel well. The liver converts these extra carbs into triglycerides and stores them as fat. This leads to more weight, stress on joints, and promotes the development of chronic diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, and cancer. They may even become hypersensitive to exercise, and experience pain.
What can you do to determine how well your liver is functioning?
- Test your liver, don’t guess-while the typical tests your primary physician may perform are blood tests for ALT/AST, these only provide a warning sign and not the extent of damage.
- Test for gluten sensitivity. This can cause inflammation and add to liver issues.
- Look for signs-One hallmark sign of liver damage is black splinter-like objects in your nails. When unhealthy, the liver is not able to keep the blood sugar stable, and hypoglycemia can result, with symptoms of hypoglycemia such as mood swings, dizziness, etc.
- Understand your nutritional status, though measurement.
- If you don’t have adequate inositol, choline, or B12, your liver will start to accumulate fat.
- Depletion shows prior to liver damage. The liver needs vitamins A, D, E, which are fats to be healthy through diet.
- Check micronutrient levels (vitamins and minerals).
- Measure for exposure to toxins– Mercury, a neurotoxin, which has an affinity for the brain, is the second most toxic element on the planet and mercury fillings chronically release gas especially with chewing, brushing your teeth and consuming hot liquids. Mercury puts tremendous strain on your liver. As dental staff are exposed to mercury, it makes sense that dentists have the highest suicide rate, high levels of depression, divorce, etc.
Foods that your liver loves:
- Beets / Beetroot Juice – Research has shown that beetroot juice may reduce inflammation and oxidative damage in the liver, and boost detoxification enzymes.
- Berries – Richly-colored berries like blueberries, cranberries, and raspberries are high in antioxidants called polyphenols that help protect your liver from damage.
- Coffee – Coffee may offer protection against issues such as fatty liver disease and even liver cancer. Coffee appears to reduce fat buildup in the liver, boosts protective antioxidants, and compounds in coffee may even help liver enzymes rid the body of cancerous substances.
- Cruciferous Vegetables – This includes vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, mustard greens, collard greens, and broccoli. These powerhouse veggies are loaded with many compounds that can protect the liver by boosting liver enzyme levels, decreasing oxidative stress, and more.
- Fatty Fish – These provide you omega-3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation and have been shown to be very beneficial for your liver. They can prevent fat build-up, maintain healthy enzyme levels, and boost insulin resistance. Be sure to look for safe and sustainably-caught sources of fatty fish, such as wild Alaskan salmon.
- Grapefruit – This fruit is high in antioxidants called naringin and naringenin, which can help protect your liver by reducing inflammation and protecting liver cells. They may also help reduce fat buildup in the liver and increase fat-burning enzymes.
- Grapes (Red and Purple) – The most famous compound in red and purple grapes is resveratrol, and they contain a variety of other beneficial compounds, too. Many studies have shown grapes can be beneficial to your liver, helping to lower inflammation, increase antioxidant levels, and more.
- Green Tea – A 2015 study showed that green tea may reduce overall fat content, combat oxidative stress, and fight other signs of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
- Nuts – Eating a handful of nuts daily is beneficial on many fronts, including the protection it affords your liver. The unsaturated fats, antioxidants, and vitamin E in nuts may help prevent nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and reduce oxidative stress and inflammation.
- Prickly Pear — This edible cactus has actually been shown to help reduce symptoms of a hangover if the extract is consumed before drinking alcohol. This is largely due to its ability to reduce inflammation, including in the liver. Prickly pear’s juice may also decrease the amount of oxidative damage to the liver.
Other strategies to love your liver:
- Alcohol consumption-Limit alcohol consumption to moderate amounts or avoid altogether.
- Avoid sugar-sweetened drinks
- Chemical exposure-Reduce exposure to chemical cleaning agents, body care products, make-up, etc. Use natural products or make your own. Refer to the Environmental Working Group website, for information on toxicity levels of specific products at ewg.org.
- Drink filtered water-Reverse osmosis filtered water can reduce toxic chemical exposure such as fluoride. Drink plenty of fluids.
- Drink coffee-Coffee has been shown to be good for your liver.
- Dental health-Promote good dental health. Take good care of your gum health, floss, use non-toxic toothpaste (without that fluoride). A holistic/integrative dentist will be most familiar with non-toxic ways to prevent gum disease and products that are safer alternatives to mercury amalgams.
- Eat organic-Organic foods are very different in nutrients than non-organic, which help us repair and recover. The brain takes 25% of your blood. The liver and kidneys take 50%. Repair and recovery is important, which means high nutrient density.
- Eat a rainbow of colored fruits and vegetables– Tissues turn over and regenerate at different rates. What we do daily will impact quality of tissue healing in the liver and its ability to detoxify.
- Essential oils are a better way to enjoy the aroma of the holiday season. Get rid of those artificially scented products.
- Exercise-Aerobic metabolism supports efficient metabolism of carbohydrates. Blocking the warning by taking pain meds can destroy your health. Advil can cause multiple issues such as folate deficiency, iron deficiency, etc.
- Fasting promotes autophagy and cell regeneration. Fasting is one of the best tools to promote re-setting and healing.
- Food sensitivities-Address your food sensitivities. If allergic or food sensitive, you may have leaky gut, which allows undigested food and toxins to get into your blood stream and tax your liver detoxification pathways.
- Go gluten-free if you test positive for gluten sensitivity.
- Hepatitis-Learn about how to prevent hepatitis.
- Medications-Don’t overconsume pain meds, especially acetaminophen, as it is damaging to the liver. Statins and steroids can be damaging to your liver.
- Sleep-Rest is important to healing.
- Stress-Use stress reduction techniques such as deep breathing exercises and meditation.
- Supplements-Replacing low levels of essential nutrients such as minerals and vitamins is best through a healthy diet. Some individuals will benefit by using supplements when there are indications that they may have low levels. Top examples include B vitamins, Magnesium, and vitamin D. Vitamin C and Vitamin E supplementation can help with healing. Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA), selenium, and silymarin (milk thistle) have been shown to be effective in healing liver damage.
- Weight-Avoid weight gain. Maintain a healthy body weight.
Special tactics to take at the Holiday:
- Eat a healthy snack prior to attending a holiday event.
- Determine in advance of a social event how much high carb foods and alcohol you will indulge in. It’s ok to indulge periodically. Try to identify and stick to your pre-determined limits, making sure that they are reasonable.
- While at a social gathering, stay away from the food tables or turn your head so that you are not constantly looking at the trays of cookies or bowls of candy. Engage people in conversation.
- Eat and drink slowly and mindfully.
- Forgive yourself if you exceeded your pre-defined limits. Then, take reflect on what tactics may have better helped you to meet your set goal.
- The day after you indulge, kick in the strategies above to show your liver some love and to support liver cells to regenerate.
While it’s unrealistic to seek perfection during the holiday season at social gatherings, you can help yourself by developing realistic goals and seeking moderation. Being mindful and aware of your body and how you treat it will go a long way to support your liver function and detoxification pathways. Remember to treat your liver with a little loving kindness this holiday season!
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Fatty Liver Docu-Class 2019, Global Health Solutions, LLC.
Sato K, Gosho M, Yamamoto T, Kobayashi Y, Ishii N, Ohashi T, Nakade Y, Ito K, Fukuzawa Y, Yoneda M. Vitamin E has a beneficial effect on nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Nutrition. 2015 Jul-Aug;31(7-8):923-30. Epub 2014 Dec 24. PMID: 26059365.
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I am a Master’s prepared RN, National Board-Certified Health & Wellness Coach, Board-Certified Functional Wellness Coach, and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner. I help people fix their chronic inflammation & pain with in-home lab testing, client assessments, personalized natural healing protocols, and online coaching to help them move from pain to peace so that they feel better, move better, and live better.