The health of your liver tends to be a hot topic of conversation around the holidays, with the multitude of occasions for drinking. But that definitely doesn't mean you should ignore this vital organ for the rest of the year.
The liver's main role in the body is for detox, by taking in blood from the digestive system and filtering out toxins like alcohol and byproducts of medication to be excreted. It also helps in the maintenance of energy in the body by breaking down fats for use, as well as helping to maintain a healthy blood sugar level.
So while it's easy to get caught up in cleansing and detoxing trends that seem to promise a brand new body untouched by booze, experts say that focusing instead on the health of your liver can be a far better way to ensure everything is working as it should. Below, Dr. Nancy Reau, Vice President of the American Liver Foundation's Board of Directors in Illinois, gives her advice on how to keep your liver healthy.
1. Balance That Diet: "The liver likes a balanced diet, just like the rest of your body," explains Dr. Nancy Reau, vice president of the American Liver Foundation's Board of Directors. She notes that an extreme elimination diet is generally not good for your system, and any benefit it may give you disappears once you go back to eating regularly. For the liver (as well as the rest of your body), look to high-fibre vegetables and lean proteins.
2. Get Some Exercise: Exercise not only makes you look good on the outside, but is hugely beneficial to your organs as well. "Exercise builds muscle, which produces anti-inflammatory signals," notes Dr. Reau. In addition, muscle helps to clear toxins from your system, and performing weight bearing exercise regularly prevents osteopenia (the precursor to osteoporosis).
3. Keep The Drinking To A Minimum: While some alcohol use can be beneficial for your health in moderation, binge drinking is definitely costly and dangerous. As is well known, regular heavy alcohol use can lead to permanent liver damage, as well as other health problems. If you have indulged too much, drinking a lot of water is your best solution to get back on track. Coffee, meanwhile, has also been linked to reducing cirrhosis (particularly alcoholic cirrhosis), so don't fear the java.
4. Avoid Supplements: "A well-balanced diet is much safer than adding additional nutrients into your system," says Dr. Reau. Some dietary supplements have been linked to liver damage, as the New York Times reported last year.
5. Juice Cautiously: Dr. Reau readily notes that juicing can be an easy way to add fruits and vegetables into your diet, but points out that it can take some of the fibre out of the food, reducing the nutritional value. As well, some concentrated drinks can be higher in calories than you might expect, so you'll want to account for those in a balanced diet.
6. Don't Cleanse: Programs that claim to cleanse your liver (and kidneys, for good measure) aren't doing a thing except for making you buy into them. "The liver is a self-cleansing organ," says Dr. Reau. "That is its main job."