At this time of year we have a real tendency to overindulge, and with good reason. Christmas and the New Year is celebrated with good food, good wine and (hopefully!) good company. Consuming too many of the things we love though, can leave us feeling tired, rundown and off colour. This issue I'd like to talk about some complementary approaches to recharge the liver and flush out the toxins.
Large amounts of alcohol cause the obvious initial symptoms of merriment, impaired judgement, uncoordinated movement and memory loss, but what actually causes the hangover? Excess alcohol irritates the stomach lining. It also shuts down the production of anti-diuretic hormone, which in turn causes the excessive urination that leads to dehydration.
Almost 2/3rds of our body weight is water weight. In fact our brain is 74% water. The symptoms of a hangover are due to dehydration of the brain and an irritated stomach lining, causing nausea and headache. As alcohol is a diuretic, it also causes us to wee out our water-soluble nutrients, the main ones being vitamin B complex, zinc, chromium and vitamin C which leaves us with very low blood sugar, hence fatigue.
Why is it that a good fry-up can alleviate a hangover? Alcohol is also high in sugar. This causes a sharp rise in blood sugar and then, unfortunately, a sharp fall. This is called reactive hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) and produces a craving for food, particularly foods that raise the blood sugar quickly. The low blood sugar causes shakiness, tiredness and feeling like a bear with a sore head. Bacon and eggs raise blood sugar levels quickly to alleviate symptoms of lethargy. Fatty foods in particular, increase a hormone called cholecystokinin that slows down digestion and promotes a feeling of fullness and satiety.
The body eliminates toxins either by directly neutralising them or by excreting them. Toxins produced by overindulgence that the body is unable to process are stored in our fat stores. There are many nutrients that assist our bodies' detoxification processes. Everything our body does requires nutrients. They act as cofactors in enzymatic reactions that stimulate all metabolic processes, including detoxification pathways. In particular, the liver uses lots of vitamins to detoxify alcohol and fatty foods. Without these the liver cannot function and toxins will re-circulate in the body causing us to feel unwell and accumulate in the fat stores.
Here are some great remedies to help alleviate the symptoms of overindulgence
- B complex: before and after drinking to prevent depletion due to the diuretic effect.
- Chromium picolinate will help balance blood sugar.
- Vitamin C powder in the form of calcium ascorbate is gentle on the stomach and can assist detoxification pathways in the liver.
- Nux Vomica 6c 3 times a day, is a homoeopathic remedy for symptoms that occur after overindulgence of food and drink. Nux vomica is the "hangover" remedy.
Nutrients to Improve Liver Function
Lipotropic agents including choline, inositol, taurine, methionine and carnitine help the liver breakdown fatty foods by promoting the flow of bile.
Specific nutrients for each phase of detoxification are;
- Phase I: vitamins A,C,E, B1, B2, B3, Zinc, Calcium, Magnesium, Iron and amino acids
- Phase II: Selenium, Zinc, Chromium, vitamin B2, B3, and amino acids, cysteine and methionine
A good multivitamin can supply these nutrients.
Milk thistle called the trophorestorative of the liver. This means that it the best herb to heal the liver. It works to regenerate liver cells and restore liver function. It can actually protect your liver from chemical damage and can assist detoxification pathways in the liver.
Bitter foods stimulate digestion and promote bile flow. In this way they assist with detoxification. Include these in the diet and soon you will be feeling fresher. Bitter greens include radicchio, chicory, endive, cos lettuce, mustard greens and dandelion leaves. Ask your green grocer to supply these. They are also rich in vitamins A, E, K and iron.
Here's a juice recipe to flush out the liver. Juice fresh beetroot, carrot, apple (equal parts) and a thumbnail of ginger. This juice can also be used to treat pre-menstrual tension and indeed any "liverish" condition such as anger or melancholy.
Remember to drink 6-8 glasses of water a day to flush out the toxins and get at least 20 minutes of exercise daily to promote health.