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Nutrient - Christmas excess? - Tips to keep your liver in great shape!

By Debbie Paddington DipION

With all the extra indulgences at Christmas, your liver may need a little extra support to help it cope with the demands made upon it. These top 10 tips can help you enjoy the festive season and support your liver at the same time.

Increase fruit and vegetables

Fruit and vegetables are a good source of antioxidants needed to protect the liver from free radical damage, so make sure you pile your plate high with them. Fruits and vegetables that are particularly good for the liver include artichoke, beetroot, broccoli, cabbage, garlic, leeks, onions, parsley, watercress, apples, pears, apricots, berries, grapes, oranges and watermelon. Ideally, fruit and vegetables should be organic to avoid pesticides. 

Cut down on alcoholic drinks

Of course, its not just food in which we overindulge at this time of year. With seasonal lunches, dinners and catching up with old friends, the amount we drink can really start to add up as well. To help your liver, try alternating every alcoholic drink you have with a soft drink or water. Try making your own mulled Christmas punch by mixing orange, apple and cranberry juice together and adding some cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Gently warm the punch and enjoy! 

Take milk thistle

Milk thistle has been traditionally used for liver and gallbladder support for over 2,000 years. Nicholas Culpeper, a 17th century pharmacist, cited its use for opening “obstructions” of the liver and spleen and its numerous benefits for the digestive system have been well-documented. A flavonoid complex called silymarin can be extracted from the seeds of milk thistle and is believed to be the biologically active component. Silymarin is a powerful antioxidant and helps to protect and support liver function, as well as providing digestive support.

Look after your digestion

We all tend to eat more than we normally would around Christmas and this can leave us feeling bloated, sluggish and suffering from wind and constipation. Onions, garlic, artichoke and leeks are very good for supporting liver function and also help to feed our good bacteria, aiding our digestion. A digestive enzyme, taken just before a meal, may also help. 

Increase lecithin

Whether it’s mince pies, Christmas cake, cream or pastries, at this time of year, our intake of fatty foods can surge dramatically, making the liver work harder than ever. Lecithin originates from the Greek “lekithos”, or  egg yolk, and is a common compound found in cells of all living organisms. It is an essential component of bile, which is produced in the liver and stored in the gallbladder. Lecithin helps to emulsify fats, aiding their absorption, and is, therefore, an important nutrient for those who have difficulty digesting fats or whose gallbadder has been removed. Lecithin also supports healthy cholesterol levels and is a rich source of phosphatidylcholine, a precursor to acetylcholine, which, in turn, is a key chemical for supporting brain function, including memory and concentration. 

Lecithin is, therefore, an ideal choice to help your body digest and process any surge in fatty foods over the festive period. It is found in eggs, peanuts, cauliflower and oranges or can be bought in a convient granule form. Simply sprinkle over cereal and cooked or fresh food, or mix into juices and soups. 

Eat good-quality protein

Protein; such as turkey, chicken, fish, lentils, beans, eggs and nuts; contains the amino acids glutamine, taurine, methionine and N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC), which are all key for the health of the liver. 

Methionine, together with choline and the B vitamins, helps to support fat metabolism in the liver and the excretion of bile. Taurine also aids fat digestion and has a positive effect on cholesterol levels in the body, too. Glutamine is the primary fuel for the digestive tract, as well as fuelling brain cells, and can be converted into several different chemicals that support blood sugar levels, reducing our desire for substances such as sugar and alcohol. NAC has antioxidant properties and is involved in the production of glutathione. 

Increase your B vitamins

B vitamins are very important for liver function and can be depleted in the body by alcohol and stress. Good sources of B vitamins include cereals, wholegrains, green leafy vegetables, eggs, bananas and beans. If you find this time of year particularly stressful, you may find taking a B complex supplement useful. 

Raise your glutathione levels

Glutathione is a key nutrient to help support the capacity of your liver to detoxify environmental pollutants, alcohol, drugs, including prescribed medications, and other chemicals. It also supports liver function by helping to convert fat-soluble toxins into water-soluble toxins. If these toxins are not removed effectively from our bodies, our health may suffer. Nutrients such as methionine, NAC and alpha lipoic acid may help to influence the levels of glutathione in the body. 

Drink green tea

According to the University of Maryland, people who drink green tea are less likely to suffer with liver disorders and it may help to protect the liver from the damaging effect of toxins, such as alcohol. The healthful properties of green tea are largely attributed to polyphenols, chemicals with potent antioxidant properties. Polyphenols contained in teas are classified as catechins. Green tea also helps to increase metabolism and can, therefore, aid weight control. It is a good source of theanine, a relaxing amino acid particularly useful for the more stressful times that this season can bring.

Exercise

Studies have shown that exercise improves liver function and it can also help reduce weight and stress levels. 


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