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Avoid These 3 Common Holiday Liver Hazards

Learn how you can be proactive this holiday season and bypass the typical December potholes that endanger your liver.

Anyone concerned with their liver’s health is likely aware that the stretch between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve is riddled with potential potholes. The impending vehicle damage from hitting a hole in the road at full speed is dreadful. Besides roadway ruts, potholes that set your liver back in your attempt towards wellness are worth avoiding. Awareness that these potholes may appear during the holidays will help foster preparedness to cruise into 2018 with your liver unscathed.

3 Liver Issues

Worldwide, liver ailments seem to be on the rise. Three of the more prevalent liver issues that can advance to serious liver disease include:

  1. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) – An estimated 30% of American adults have excessive fat accumulation in their liver. Excess liver fat, or NAFLD (which is not due to drinking alcohol), can lead to serious liver problems if not addressed. When caught in its earliest stage, NAFLD can be reversed through lifestyle changes.
  2. Alcoholic liver disease (ALD) – Caused by excessive consumption of alcohol, ALD is a common, but preventable, disease. For most people, moderate drinking will not lead to ALD. Alcoholic hepatitis is when the liver becomes inflamed and damaged due to excessive alcohol consumption. If alcohol use is not stopped, ALD can progress to liver failure.
  3. Chronic viral hepatitis – More than five million Americans have a chronic viral infection of the liver – one million are infected with Hepatitis B and four million with Hepatitis C. While there is a preventative Hepatitis B vaccine series, there’s no vaccine to prevent Hepatitis C. Luckily, newer medications are proving effective in eliminating Hepatitis C from the liver. Those who have battled or are currently battling chronic hepatitis may have sustained liver injuries that require astute care.

3 Liver Holiday Foes

The liver is a complex organ, affected by a large number of everyday activities. How you feel, what you eat, and what you drink all impact your liver’s ability to contend with NAFLD, ALD or hepatitis. Thus, there are many choices made around the holidays that can either support or harm your liver’s well-being.

Despite the pervasive joy and spirit of giving that is supposed to embody the month where Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Three Kings Day, Boxing Day, Yule and Festivus are celebrated, the holidays are easily filled with three liver foes: alcohol, fatty and sugary foods, and stress.

  1. Alcohol – The holidays are known for overindulgence in alcohol. Aside from the usual culprits – spiked eggnog, coquito, mulled wine, hot toddy, Christmas punch, mimosa and hot buttered rum – alcohol use runs rampant during the holidays. Intended to loosen people up to help them enjoy themselves, alcohol has a direct negative impact on the liver – especially if the person has a preexisting liver ailment. As the liver breaks down alcohol, the byproducts actually kill liver cells. Ideally, alcohol should be completely eliminated – but that may not always be realistic. If alcohol consumption is unavoidable, consider consuming a large glass of water alongside your alcoholic drink to dilute its potency in your liver. In addition, give your liver some help with a high quality milk thistle supplement (preferably one made with silybin phytosome) to help this critical organ stave off cellular damage.
  2. High-fat and high-sugar foods – Part of the allure of the holiday season are all of the tasty treats that magically become acceptable to eat. Usually, those eating well for their liver’s sake would avoid foods high in fat and sugar because of the unnecessary burden they place on liver cells. Besides contributing to the progression of NAFLD, these kinds of foods exacerbate the inflammatory process in the liver – a precursor to liver cell injury. Holiday staples such as cookies, pies, candy, candied yams, creamy dips, green bean casserole, croissants, cheese balls, popcorn balls, stuffing, fried potato pancakes, and macaroni and cheese all are known to clog up and inflame your liver. If you choose to indulge in a high-fat or high-sugar food, do so sparingly. Make the rest of your meal count towards liver health by choosing fresh vegetables, complex carbohydrates, and lean meat or fish. In addition, help your digestive system break down and process the food you’ve eaten by taking a digestive enzyme supplement.
  3. Stress – Pressure to purchase the right gifts, decorate festively, spend time with challenging family members, and survive business parties all contribute to holiday stress. Unfortunately, stress has a negative impact on your liver’s health. When people feel stressed, natural killer cells are expanded in the liver – which contributes to liver cell death. Recognizing ahead of time that December might get stressful can urge you to be proactive. Scheduling time strictly geared towards relaxation (such as meditating, doing yoga, taking a peaceful hike, singing Christmas carols, watching a funny movie, receiving massage or acupuncture, or soaking in a hot tub) can ease the burden of stress on your liver.

Don’t let these three common holiday potholes gang up on your liver. Instead, plan ahead to minimize the impact of alcohol, fatty and sugary foods, and stress. The strategies described for mitigating each pothole may seem minor – but they can make a really big difference. Especially if you are managing NAFLD, ALD or chronic hepatitis, agree to make good decisions over the holidays so that 2018 greets you in good liver health., Alcohol-Related Liver Disease, Retrieved November 26, 2017, American Liver Foundation., Liver Disease: The Big Picture, Retrieved November 26, 2017, American Liver Foundation, 2017., Your Liver Doesn’t Know It’s the Holidays, Steph Yin, Retrieved November 24, 2017, The New York Times Company, 2017.

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About the Author

Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., MTCM, Dipl. Ac. (NCCAOM)®

Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., MTCM is a long time advocate of integrating perspectives on health. With a Bachelor's degree in Neuroscience from the University of Rochester and a Master's degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine from Five Branches Institute, Nicole has been a licensed acupuncturist since 2000. She has gathered acupuncture licenses in the states of California and New York, is a certified specialist with the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association, has earned diplomat status with the National Commission of Chinese and Oriental Medicine in Acupuncture and Chinese Herbology and is a member of the Society for Integrative Oncology. In addition to her acupuncture practice that focuses on stress and pain relief, digestion, immunity and oncology, Nicole contributes to the integration of healthcare by writing articles for professional massage therapists and people living with liver disease.

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