Your liver is the largest organ in the body and performs around 500 functions, from filtering the blood and breaking down harmful substances to digestion, metabolization, and detoxification.
We’ve recently listened to the Made of Stronger Stuff’s episode on the liver, and something Dr. Xand said stuck in our minds: “If you want to know what the liver does, think of something in the body, say that, and the liver does it.” This line perfectly sums up the liver’s importance – yet, it’s one of the most underrated and neglected organs.
According to the Liver Foundation, around 5.5 million Americans are living with chronic liver disease or cirrhosis, while 20-30% of American adults live with excessive fat in the liver, which can lead to fatal complications. Dr. Gautam, hepatologist and liver specialist in the UK, believes society is on the cusp of an epidemic of liver disease.
What is there to be done, then? According to Siggi Clavien, detox expert and herbologist with over 20 years of experience, prevention is key when it comes to liver disease. In this short interview, he shared a few insights regarding the impact of drinking & eating habits on the liver. We hope to inspire our readers to be more conscious and take better care of their livers, as it’s the one organ that keeps all our internal systems running smoothly.
The deadly combo: unhealthy diet & alcohol
Siggi has talked in-depth about America’s drinking problem before. In short, the main problem is that we tend to combine too much alcohol with calorie excess (often from fast food). “A diet abundant in sugar, processed foods, and fatty foods can result in fatty liver disease, which often leads to chronic illness. Pair an unhealthy diet with binge drinking, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for long-term disaster,” Siggi mentioned.
Your liver is closely related to the gut, the most blood-rich organ. Its barrier is quite strong and protects us from bacteria – but it does have its limits. If you drink over 300ml of alcohol at once, the gut barrier will start to break down, and bacteria will enter the blood, causing inflammation.
“Recent research suggests that gut bacteria may also play a role in alcohol addiction via the so-called brain-gut axis. Another study showed that when you replace gut bacteria of patients struggling with alcohol addiction with bacteria from healthy individuals, the cravings diminish drastically, along with depression and anxiety systems. However, it’s still too early to conclude, and many other factors come into play – from diet and genetics to age and even socioeconomic background,” Siggi added.
One thing is certain: too much alcohol and unhealthy food can take a toll on the liver-gut system. “I am not saying that you should go raw-vegan right now and not touch a drop of alcohol ever again. While I encourage plant-based diets, beets, ginseng, carrots, grapefruit, turmeric, green tea, and other similar natural antioxidants, I am not a fan of extreme diets. I think, and so do scientists, that it’s perfectly fine to indulge in a glass of wine and eat that cake – just do your best to be moderate.”
The add-ins to the diet that keep our liver healthy
We already know that the liver is our body’s natural detox system, but could we give it a helping hand? Siggi Clavien answered:“ Oh, most definitely yes. There are certain foods and spices commonly found in every kitchen in the US that promote body detox. In combination with black pepper, turmeric is a strong natural antioxidant that boosts the body’s enzyme defenses.
Honey is also full of antioxidants and promotes liver health. Peppermint is yet another strong antioxidant that promotes bile flow from the liver to the gall bladder while aiding digestion. Grapefruit and citrus fruits, in general, along with potassium-rich foods and fatty fish, are your liver’s best friends.”
What about actual detox?
“I want to make one thing crystal clear: there’s no potion, veggie juice, or magic pill that can clean up your liver and restore its health to 100%. Fortunately, the liver is extremely resilient and powerful – studies show that if you remove 70% of a healthy person’s liver, the remaining 30% will regrow to the same number of cells the individual had before. There are certain conditions that are irreversible, but if you’re dealing with a fatty liver, you can get it to its original shape by stopping alcohol intake.
The most efficient form of detox is to eat and drink responsibly, drink water, be active, try to keep stress at bay and lead an overall balanced lifestyle. There are 100% natural antioxidants that enhance overall body health and stimulate the liver’s natural processes– like de-liver-ance – but they will only work in combination with a healthy lifestyle. If you consume alcohol constantly, de-liver-ance may help you restore your mental clarity the next day and diminish the hangover’s impact. But you still need to address the root of the problem, and that may require specialized help,” Siggi added.