How You Can Take Care of Your Liver
words Nick Empey
If you’re anything like me, the last few months have not been the best for your liver. You went home for the holidays, then came back to catch up with your friends, and have been spending Friday nights out in the embrace of the drink. Your liver is probably working quite hard filtering out those toxins from your body. Thankfully, spring is on the way and with it, the tools to treat your liver better.
What does your liver do?
I took it upon myself to figure out what my liver does. As someone who didn’t take biology in high school, I was quite surprised by how important this organ is. Not only does it filter toxins like alcohol from your blood, it also creates acid to help digest your food, breaks down fats, moderates blood pressure, and stores vitamins and minerals. The liver has well over 400 functions to the human body, and I must admit, I was ashamed that I had treated it so poorly over the past few months.
What are unhealthy habits for our livers?
Topping the list of things that hurt your liver is alcohol. In essence, too much alcohol can scar your liver, which stops the scarred tissue from regenerating. This leads to something called Cirrhosis—your liver ceases to function properly because of excessive damage. A little bit of alcohol here or there won’t make much of an impact, but nights of binge drinking almost certainly will. According to Liver Care Canada, one in four Canadians may be affected by liver disease, and nearly half of those affected won’t even know.
What helps keep our livers healthy?
There are several recommendations for promoting your liver’s wellbeing. One of the most important things you can do is to eat healthy foods, especially antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables. Try eating several smaller meals each day instead of gorging and do your best to stay hydrated. Other beneficial practises include exercise and avoiding harmful home cleaning supplies. While you’re watching your habits, remember to also be conscientious of hepatitis—a bloodborne virus that often leads to severe liver disease.1
Why is this relevant now?
As traditional Chinese medicine tells us, spring is a time to care for our livers. Many of the fruits and vegetables that are fresh at this time of year are excellent sources of nutrients for our livers. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, as well as many citrus fruits, are often recommended to purge our livers of harmful toxins and put them back on track.2
While it’s not recommended by anyone to have 10 shots in one evening, many college students like myself will still do it on occasion. At least, I could stock my fridge with oranges and broccoli to make myself feel a little bit better while nursing a hangover.
1 Medline Plus: Bloodborne Pathogens – Medical Encyclopedia (Hepatitis B & C). https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000453.htm
2 Guan, Yong-Song, and Qing He. “Plants Consumption and Liver Health.” Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM vol. 2015 (2015): 824185. doi:10.1155/2015/824185