How to be kind to your liver this silly season

Good’s nutrition columnist Ben Warren of BePure shares his advice on being kind to your liver this silly season 

Words Ben Warren. Illustration Janelle Barone, Makers MGMT

As Christmas parties and long days at the bach approach I thought I’d give you some tips to survive and come out on top, this silly season. The biggest issue I see at this time of the year is the amount of alcohol that is consumed. Alcohol is really hard on the liver and causes your body to lay down increased body fat, and can even lead to a fatty liver.  

Here’s how to minimise the effects of alcohol this silly season:

· Pre-load before you go out with food that is! There are two main benefits of eating a meal balanced with protein, fat and vegetables before you head out to a party. Firstly, the food will help buffer the alcohol so you can stay in control of how many drinks you have. Secondly, you’ll be less tempted by the high-calorie foods that are often common fare at parties.

· Once you’re at the party stay away from spirits and stick to beer and wine as the lower alcohol content and increased fluid again helps you stay in control of how much you’re consuming. I also recommend having a glass of water on the go at the same time, so you can alternate between the alcohol beverage and the water.  Throw some ice and lemon in a glass and nobody would know it’s not a vodka tonic. Once you get home drink two glasses of water before bed, again to help with dehydration and reduce the symptoms of a hangover the next day.  

· Upon waking, squeeze half a lemon in a glass of water, and drink. The citric acid will jumpstart your energy and detoxification pathways. Follow with a green smoothie; your liver requires nutrition to do its job. Include plenty of leafy greens, parsley, beetroot, carrot and apple in a base of coconut water (the coconut water is a great electrolyte replacer). I prefer the new blenders for this, as the fibre is retained.

· Although you might not be feeling your best with the addition of reduced sleep you should still try and get to the gym. Your nervous system won’t be up for much so opt for a body balance class, stretching or a very light cardio workout. The exercise will help your lymphatic system drain. Then hop in the sauna for 20 minutes, again being sure to drink plenty of water the whole time. The sauna will help the alcoholic metabolites leave your body (saving them from having to go through the liver). Often you can literally smell the alcohol coming out of the skin.

· At this time of year you may find yourself relying more heavily on coffee to get you through the day. I don’t have a major problem with this, short term – just remember that with coffee you are stealing energy from the future and you’re going to have to pay it back at some point (restful days at the beach are great for paying it back).

· Once the holiday season is over make a commitment to yourself to ‘detox’. I would recommend taking on a specific detox programme with a health practitioner, but you could simply make a commitment to be alcohol- and caffeine-free for a couple of weeks while focusing on clean eating. 

· And one more thing… the silly season is often ‘holiday time’ for Kiwis. With more time to focus on what you’re eating and how much you’re exercising, try to think of your holiday as being a time to look after your body more than usual. When you head back to work you’ll take some of those good habits you’ve developed over summer with you.

Ben Warren is a nutrition and holistic health expert. For more visit bepure.co.nz

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