The Love Your Liver campaign is a national awareness initiative regarding liver health, run in January by the British Liver Trust – which is the UKs charity for adults with liver conditions. This is good timing, especially after all the Christmas festivities which may have led to overindulgence and weight gain, which could have a detrimental effect on our health.
Any weight gain may result in extra fat stored in the liver, whilst increased caffeine and alcohol intake as well morning-after painkillers, may also place additional pressure on this hardworking organ. Giving up drinking in January is more popular than ever, and abstaining and/or reducing intakes has been found to be beneficial for health. Excess alcohol intakes can increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases, liver disease, depression, dementia as well as certain cancers, as well as being an ‘empty’ calorie.
How does overindulgence damage the liver?
The liver filters around one and a half litres of blood every minute, working hard to rid the body of toxins such as: alcohol, caffeine, drugs and food additives. Oxidative stress can increase when the liver tries to break down alcohol and other toxins, which may cause damage to the cells in the liver.
Furthermore, alcohol can damage the intestines, which means that toxins from the intestine can get into the liver, leading to potential inflammation and scarring. The liver also turns glucose into fat, which is sent round the body, and it is stored for use when we need it. Alcohol affects the way the liver handles fat, increased intakes lead to fat being build up in the liver.
If the liver is being bombard with too many toxins we can eventually overstretch our liver’s resources. Furthermore, excess body weight, and obesity are risk factors for a Non- alcoholic fatty liver disease NAFLD, which is associated with an increased risk of metabolic syndrome.
How to protect and repair the liver?
The good news is that the liver has the remarkable ability to repair itself. In order to support your liver, The Love Your Liver campaign suggests:
- Reducing alcohol intake – abstaining for 2-3 days in a row each week.
- Increasing physical activity – take more exercise and stay fit.
- Reducing intake of sugar and saturated/trans fats.
There are a number of dietary measures that may also to help to support an overburdened liver. Foods and beverages that may help to promote healthy liver function include:
- Increasing intakes of sulphur rich foods including garlic, legumes, onions and eggs and the Cabbage family such as cauliflower, cabbage and sprouts.
- Increasing intakes of (soluble) fibre rich foods such as pears, oat-bran, apples and legumes.
- Increasing your intake of water, keeping hydrated with 8-10 glasses of water a day.
Supplements may offer additional liver support, and support the livers detoxification process.
Highfields Vitamins MSM Methyl Sulphonyl Methane – 120 tablets – £9.95 – This supplement is a form of sulphur – and may help to support the sulphation process in the liver, which is the chemical process used to detoxify substances such as alcohol and Paracetemol
Viridian Organic Milk Thistle – 30 tablets – £8.85 – An antioxidant supplement that may help to support and repair the liver, with much research supporting its benefits in diseases of the liver
1 in 5 people in the UK have a fatty liver, and rates of liver disease in the UK are rising NHS.
It can be hard to notice the first signs of liver issues as the liver has no nerve endings. However, if you feel you have been overindulging over a long period of time and are worried 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. Stopping at Portsmouth, Bristol, Cardiff, Birmingham, Liverpool, Bradford, Leeds, Middlesbrough and Glasgow.