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Many holiday traditions can turn mild liver disease into a more severe illness. By making these six healthful holiday customs your own, liver disease need not put a cramp in your holiday style.
In anticipation of the 2009 holiday season, many people are getting excited about the festivities ahead. However, those whose health requires them to be vigilant about their lifestyle choices may be slightly less enthused. Individuals with chronic liver disease are often in this situation – where partaking in holiday traditions could worsen the progression of their illness.
A majority of our everyday choices directly impact the liver. Especially important for those with chronic liver disease, some things can aggravate the liver (may cause liver damage) or they can be supportive (may protect the liver from harm). Whether managing a fatty liver, chronic hepatitis or some other type of liver disease, at least a quarter of Americans are vulnerable to aggravating their liver’s health by making poor choices.
Many holiday traditions emphasize inactivity, gluttony and alcohol indulgence – a nasty trio for anyone with liver concerns.
· Inactivity – Some common sedentary customs include sitting on a couch and watching football, lounging at a dining table for hours on end or enjoying time off by lying around in bed. Blood circulation through the liver is impeded by large periods of inactivity; thus, being sedentary strains the liver by increasing its workload.
· Gluttony – Holiday foods are known to be decadent. Whether they are loaded with sugar, cholesterol or saturated fat, most traditional fare is lacking in sufficient antioxidants, vitamins and fiber. Both sugary and fatty foods are well known to cause liver inflammation, an event capable of escalating liver disease severity.
· Alcohol – Being responsible about alcohol consumption often diminishes during the holidays. Traditionally used as a social lubricant, beer, wine and spirits dominate many holiday celebrations. While some liver diseases are actually caused by alcohol consumption, experts agree that even the smallest bit of alcohol can exponentially worsen any kind of liver problem.
To prevent this trio of choices from further scarring your liver, consider implementing some newer, healthier traditions. Six suggestions that can help you enjoy this holiday season without compromising your liver’s health include:
1. Get Active – Participate in activities that are not centered on being sedentary and eating. Some ideas include sledding, skating, walking or caroling. Such choices will keep your blood flowing smoothly through your liver.
2. Eat Lean Protein – Instead of eating heavily marbled cuts of meat, opt for white turkey meat, which is naturally low in fat. Besides sparing your blood and liver from wading through excess fat, turkey contains vitamins B, B1, B6, zinc, selenium and potassium – substances that promote vitality and aid in detoxification.
3. Cruciferous Veggies – As long as they are not deep-fried or prepared with heavy cream, cheese or fried onions, cruciferous vegetables help the liver detoxify the blood. Besides their ability to neutralize toxins, cruciferous veggies contain glucosinolates, which cause the liver to produce detoxification enzymes. Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower and cabbage.
4. Go Green – Pass on the richness of Caesar salad and opt for a vibrant mixed salad with bitter greens. Bitter leafy greens (like dandelion, watercress, chicory, endive and rocket) will prevent stagnation in the liver, because they help stimulate bile flow.
5. Festive Fruits – Try to look past the candy bowl and pastry display in search of an antioxidant-packed fruit salad. Some fruits have especially high levels of antioxidants, such as berries (blue, black and red), plums, oranges, grapefruit, cantaloupe, apples and pears. Such antioxidants will help protect the liver from free radicals, which contribute to liver damage.
6. Herbal Insurance – Even after incorporating the choices listed above, some detrimental holiday traditions may be tough to skip. In such cases, milk thistle* can be used to give the liver an extra layer of protection against impending damage.
Avoiding inactivity, gluttony and alcohol during the holidays can be tough if you don’t have another plan. Working in several of the suggestions listed above can help you make it to the New Year without worrying about your liver. Without stressing about your liver’s health, these new healthful traditions could bring a new level of relaxed enjoyment to your holiday season.
*Editor’s Note: Although milk thistle can help strengthen liver cell walls to reduce the likelihood of injury, this herb will not protect the liver from alcohol. Experts agree that there is no safe level of alcohol ingestion for those with liver disease.
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