A variety of problems can occur with the liver which, due to the organs amazing ability to regenerate and sustain itself over a long period, usually do not show any symptoms until the damage is irreversible. Early symptoms that your liver is flagging are easily missed amongst the everyday stresses of modern life and include; a sore feeling under the right side of the rib-cage, poor skin condition, fatigue, irritability and brittle nails. Much later symptoms become more dramatic, such as a yellowing of the skin and eyes, ascites, muscle wasting, intense itching of the skin, vomiting blood, mood swings and depression.
Alcohol and the Liver
The liver can only process one unit of alcohol an hour. A 175ml glass of 13% wine is approximately 2/3 units. The safe limits when drinking alcohol are shockingly low! Men should not exceed 3-4 units per day and women 2-3 and even then the liver needs a completely clear day after alcohol is consumed to escape unscathed. To a certain extent the liver will generate new healthy cells but if it is constantly/daily bombarded with an excess of this limit, its ability to regenerate is drastically compromised. As it persists with its renewal the new tissue is scarred, repetitive scarring known as cirrhosis displays dramatic symptoms at the irreversible stage and upon diagnosis a patient can expect a life expectancy of 5-10 years if they stop drinking alcohol completely. It is becoming increasingly common for people to receive this terrible news in their forties and even thirties.
Did you know..? It is nearly impossible to lose weight when consuming alcohol daily not just because of the calorific level but also because the liver's ability to rid the body of daily fat intake is seriously impaired when it has to cope with alcohol.
Caring for the Liver
Healthy diet and exercise is the usual answer! However here are some particularly good dietary aids to optimise liver function:
Fresh berries of all description.
Seeds and Grains: Linseeds, Sunflower, Pumpkin, Millet and Quinoa.
Vegetables: Asparagus, Celery, Cucumber, Broccoli, Turnips, Cabbage, Brussels Sprouts, Beetroot and Cauliflower.
Herbs and Spices: Cumin, Basil, Cardamom, Black Pepper, Rosemary, Ginger, Garlic, Fennel, Dill, Nettle, Dandelion and Milk Thistle.
As well as alcohol try to avoid as much processed food as possible and refined products such as white flour, white rice and white sugar, look out for the brown/wholegrain option. Include plenty of cold pressed oils such as olive or rapeseed oil in the diet, ignore the calorie content of these oils as it is easily negated by their amazing ability to enable the liver to thoroughly rid the body of unwanted fat.
Every so often try a one-day-detox in which you spend the day eating only (preferably organic) fruit and vegetables and perhaps some home-made veggie juices and plenty of filtered or bottled water. Try this simple recipe first thing in the morning on the day of your detox:
Blend together, 100ml apple juice
Juice of 1 lemon
1 heaped tblsp of berries (blueberries/raspberries/strawberries, or a combo)
2 crushed cloves garlic
1cm grated ginger root
30ml olive oil,
and drink it down quickly.
Make a cup of liver cleanse tea:
Grind a heaped teaspoon of milk-thistle seeds and put them with 200-250ml of filtered or bottled water in a saucepan (preferably glass) and bring to the boil. Allow to boil gently for 15-20 mins. Remove from heat and add a generous dessert-spoon of dried dandelion leaf and allow to infuse for about 10 mins. Pour through a strainer into a mug. If the taste is not pleasant to you add either a squeeze of lemon or lime and/or a teaspoon of honey.