Friday, January 21, 2011

How does alcohol affect your liver?

Since we’re in the business of detoxing and all that jazz, we thought it was high time we got up close and personal with that lovely (not so little) organ of ours: yes, the liver.

The liver is the largest internal organ in the human body (the largest organ overall being on the outside: the skin). Soft pinkish-brown in colour, our liver weighs approx 1.4 to 1.6 kilos (yikes!). It sits in the upper right hand side of the abdominal cavity, just below the diaphragm.

Its job: multi-faceted. The liver is the master of all trades: detoxification, metabolism, glycogen (glucose) storage, protein synthesis and hormone production to name a few.

But let’s get down to the nitty gritty, the question we all have playing on our minds. How have the end of year (and new year) festivities taken their toll on our livers?

How is your liver really doing? To get a clearer picture, here are a few useful facts:

  • When you sip on that beautifully chilled glass of pinot gris, you’re essentially asking your liver to halt all of its normal activities and deal with the incoming toxin of the moment: alcohol. Processing alcohol (or more specifically its component ethanol) is the priority – normal metabolism slows down; toxins build up.
  • Your liver can only metabolize about ½ an ounce of ethanol (contained in a beer, a shot, a small glass of wine) in an hour. Any more than that (put your hand up if you're guilty) and the alcohol spills into other parts of your body (yuck!), circulating until your liver is ready to metabolize it. This is one of the reasons we feel so awful the day after a bender - your body is deperately trying to catch up.
  • If you drink in excess frequently, your liver’s ability to break down lipids (yes, fat) can be reduced on an ongoing basis and these lipids then build up in the liver (hence the term ‘fatty liver’). 
  • Symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, skin trouble, bloated tummy (to name a few) are all signs that your liver needs some TLC.

There is still hope to repair your poor liver. Aside from moderating your alcohol intake (try drinking a glass of water for every alcohol drink… this really helps you to pace yourself!), we suggest that you give your liver a break every now and again to allow it to rest and repair. Detoxing your diet is a great place to start but a juice cleanse can really push your liver cleanse that step further!

Oh, and if you really want to give your liver that extra bit of love and attention, supplement with milk thistle. Flordis do a great supplement called Legalon.

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