With this past Friday being St. Patrick's Day, I thought I'd help those who celebrated (and those who didn't..we all have livers to support regardless) with a little 101 on how to protect your liver. Check out the video and article below!
Get a good dose of B vitamins
B vitamins are water soluble and quickly become depleted with alcohol consumption. The breakdown of alcohol in the liver requires most B vitamins and when you don't have enough of them, you're not going to be able to properly clear the toxic by-products that alcohol can produce in our bodies. Popping a B vitamin before a night of having a couple drinks can help your body tremendously. My favourite B vitamin is by a company called AOR as it's super potent, bioavailable and doesn't cause stomach upset for most people. Dosing of a B vitamin can be recommended to you by your naturopathic doctor as dosing is highly individualized for each person.
My favourite liver supporting herbs
Making teas or taking herbal tinctures (extracts of herbs) can help support the liver, depending on what types of herbs you're consuming. My favourite, and safest, herb for the liver is dandelion root. You can make an infusion out of it by boiling the root for about 10 minutes and drinking that during the day. Dandelion root is also what's called a cholagogue, meaning it helps stimulate bile production, which can aide in digestion and help regulate the gut.
Another great herb for liver support is milk thistle. This is most commonly found in powder or tincture form and is usually in combination with a few other liver supporting herbs. Milk thistle is known as a liver tonic, meaning it's best for all-round liver support. It's also a great antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, making it an excellent choice for when it comes to protecting our over-burdened livers.
Lemon water is traditionally known to help with alkalinizing our bodies and therefore helping to reduce inflammation. It's also fantastic at stimulating the liver and gallbladder to push out bile, once again aiding with digestion. Having a cup of warm lemon water in the morning is a great way to stimulate the gastrocolic reflex, which tells us it's time to have a bowel movement - yet another built-in mechanism our bodies have for toxin elimination.
Simply squeeze half a lemon into a cup of warm water and drink this in the morning. If you're using organic lemons you can put the entire half lemon into the water and let it sit overnight before drinking. This provides the added bonus of a bitter taste, which is exactly what your liver needs in order to become stimulated. But make sure you're only soaking organic lemon rinds - non-organic rinds will leach pesticides into your water which completely defeats the whole purpose of liver-supporting lemon water.
As I mentioned above, bitter foods are great for your liver. They help stimulate the release of bile and the up-regulation of natural detoxification pathways. My favourite bitter food for this is baby arugula. You can easily whip up a small salad or toss them into a green juice for that added bitter taste. Another option is juicing beetroot, ginger and grapefruit. All three of these foods aide in digestion as well as liver support and are a great and tasty option to try out.
And for when you are feeling "under the weather"
When you are feeling a little "off" the next day from a night out, it's best to keep some ginger on hand. Gingin chews are ginger candies that can be found at most health food stores and are wonderful to cut the nausea. Gravol ginger is also another option. If you're feeling really motivated, you can make your own ginger tea by grating 1 tbsp of fresh ginger into a cup of hot water and let sit for 10 minutes before sipping.
Hangovers are a combination of poor sleep, dehydration and toxic alcohol byproducts eliciting a list of negative effects on your body. This is where IVs can come in handy. A simple Myers cocktail can provide your body with the B vitamins, antioxidants and hydration it's desperately looking for the morning after. Not to mention the magnesium in a typical Myers cocktail can help curb the head pain. If you've been properly screened by a naturopathic doctor and it's been deemed safe to receive such a treatment, the occasional Myers cocktail can help you out tremendously in the long run.
Alcohol causes vasodilation in our bodies, meaning it can lower blood pressure, cause our tissues to swell and our heads to hurt. The last thing you want to do is make this worse by taking a hot shower or doing anything strenuous. On the other hand, it's worthwhile to perform activities that are going to get your heart pumping and your lungs working. This is a great way to introduce more oxygen to your system to help combat the oxidative stress as well as push out the toxic byproducts. Going for a light run or walk or heading to a yoga class can help with this.
On a more serious note...
We all overindulge on occasion. But if you're noticing you're feeling hungover more often than not, you may want to talk to someone about it. There's no harm in having a social drink with friends or a glass of wine in the evenings, as long as it's not directly affecting your quality of life in the process. Moderation is key and if you're feeling as if moderation isn't what's going on, then it's time to do something about it.