By Theresa Albert, DHN, RNCP nutritionist and founder or www.myfriendinfood.com Your poor liver never gets any attention; it is a total wallflower who just quietly takes what you have to dish out. Overlooking this gem is a big mistake because it supports you in more than 500 ways. You can’t live without it and living with a clean liver gives you more energy, helps control your weight and cholesterol levels plus makes you look and feel better. On top of that, it regulates sex, thyroid and stress hormones. Fear not, some of the things that you can do to protect this critical organ are already things you are doing to protect your heart. That said, some of the “don’ts” may surprise you but they as easy as pie (or, for clarity, easy as avoiding pie). The liver acts like a filter in a fish tank, have you ever seen a fish tank that has been neglected? The water is murky, filled with detritus and it smells. Everything that you eat, every medication that you take, every breath of toxic air and, yes, sip of alcohol you take has to go through the liver to be processed and eliminated. Here are the top do’s and don’ts to keep your liver working at peak performance: Avoid:
- Let’s start with the one you already know: Alcohol. Any amount of alcohol can damage your liver. Yes, there is evidence that it can protect your heart but the down side is that it is putting a strain on your liver.
- To make matters worse, if say, you overindulge and take an acetaminophen to try and prevent the headache, you are asking for trouble. The combination of this pain reliever and booze creates a toxic soup that the liver has a hard time dealing with.
- Fatty foods all have to be processed by the liver and when this organ gets overwhelmed, it accumulates fat itself (think foie gras). Fatty Liver disease can lead to liver inflammation (and therefore malfunction) and cirrhosis that looks just like the alcoholic sort.
- Sugared soft drinks, cakes, pastries, candy bars etc “contain table sugar which contains fructose and the effect of fructose on the liver cells is similar to alcohol: fat accumulation and oxidation. The current epidemic of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is because we eat too much table sugar!” says Dr Eric Yoshida, Medical Advisor, Canadian Liver Foundation
- Foods that can carry Hepatitis may surprise you: Raw oysters and under cooked shellfish or pork. Dr Yoshida says that pork raised in Canada or the US is likely safe but pork grown in other countries like China or Italy have had problems.
Scared yet? There is good news about beautiful food that can protect and prevent liver damage. It’s not all about avoid, avoid, avoid… Add this list:
- Brazil nuts, brewer’s yeast, kelp, brown rice, garlic, onions and molasses are high in selenium which is required for enzyme activity
- Eggs, fish, legumes and seeds are high in methionine which aids in detoxification pathways
- Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts are high in sulphur compounds with aid in detoxification pathways
- Whole grains, chicken, wheat bran and nuts contain vitamin B5 which speeds up detoxification of acetaldehyde after alcohol consumption
- Wheat germ, dried peas and soybeans contain vitamin B1 which reduce the toxic effects of alcohol, smoking and lead
When you take a step back and look at it, these tips make good old common sense and good eating. The difference is that now you know what they are doing for you in addition to making dinner more pleasurable.