Taking Heed of ‘Love Your Liver’ Month
January often comes as a shock to the system for many of us. After all the over-indulgence of Christmas and New Year, it’s pretty common to feel overweight, bloated and sluggish during January. Which is almost certainly why from 2017, January has been designated ‘Love Your Liver Month’ by the health charity the British Liver Trust.
For many of us, the New Year is full of good intentions: we promise ourselves that we will lose weight, exercise more, give up smoking or just look after our bodies better. January is also a popular time to cut back on the booze or going for a full ‘cold turkey’ and stopping drinking. In fact, more than two million drinkers signed up to Alcohol Concern’s Dry January incentive in 2016 alone and many more just gave up drinking under their own steam.
‘Love Your Liver’ Month
The British Liver Trust is a small charity tackling the serious and growing health problem of liver disease. They are there to support patients with liver disease and raise funds for treatments as well as educating people about the importance of good liver health and the dangers of social drinking.
As part of Love Your Liver Month, the charity has launched an online self-screening tool and information and advice on issues that can arise as a result of poor or decreased liver function.
In previous years, The British Liver Trust assessed the liver health of nearly 500 people in 8 locations in January 2013. Over 20% of people assessed were advised to visit their GP and request a Liver Function Test (a simple blood test) or a non-invasive scan that evaluates the degree of liver stiffness, or scarring, known as fibrosis.
Of course, they also promote ways to keep your liver in tip top condition to help you lower the risk of contracting liver disease and other associated conditions. They offer a simple, three-step plan that explains how we can all love our liver in 2017.
Step 1 – Cut back on the booze
Most adults who drink alcohol know that it has a negative effect on the liver if consumed in large quantities and that too much alcohol can cause serious and lasting damage. The charity says that if you want to keep your liver in good order, you should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol a week; have three alcohol-free days every week to give your liver a chance to repair itself and avoid alcohol if you are pregnant or trying to conceive.
Step 2 – Eat well and exercise
Your liver processes a lot of the nutrients in the food you eat, but it also has to break down bad stuff such as saturated fats. If you are overweight, you increase the risk of developing Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, which, over time, can cause lasting liver damage. The advice offered by the British Liver Trust is to make sure you eat a healthy balanced diet and drink plenty of water, as well as reducing your portion sizes and cutting down on your fat and sugar intake. Taking regular exercise can also help you to process nutrients more efficiently.
Step 3 – Get vaccinated against liver-destroying illnesses like Viral Hepatitis
Blood-borne viruses such as Hepatitis B and C can cause permanent liver damage and increase the risk of liver cancer. You can help to protect your liver by ensuring that you and your family are fully vaccinated before travelling abroad to any areas where these diseases are rife. It is also advisable to speak to your doctor if you have any reason to think that you could have contracted the disease from previous travels or been in close contact with anyone who is infected. Hepatitis can be spread by sharing toothbrushes, having unprotected sex, or being exposed to unsterilised needles when you have injections or for tattoos and piercings.
Many people also opt to use Milk Thistle as a traditional herbal remedy to help support their liver as it is often prescribed as an antioxidant and liver detoxification agent. The medicinal compound in Milk Thistle is silymarin, an extract of milk thistle seeds. According to the University of Maryland Medical Centre, “Several scientific studies suggest that substances in milk thistle (especially a flavonoid called silymarin) protect the liver from toxins, including certain drugs, such as acetaminophen [Paracetamol in the UK], which can cause liver damage in high doses. Silymarin has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties”.
However, as with any medicine, it is very important to make sure you always choose a product such as HRI Milk Thistle that as been approved by the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency and which carries the Traditional Herbal Registration (THR) logo. You should always take great care to only take the recommended amount and always read the patient information leaflet enclosed with every pack.
You can read more about the properties of Milk Thistle here.
So why not love your liver this January so that 2017 can be the year that your liver loves you back!