The Liver & Toxic Overload
Did you know that the liver is the body’s largest internal organ? Weighing in at about 1.5 kg in adults and performing more than 500 functions including:
- Processing nutrients from food
- Storing energy
- Making bile to aid digestion of dietary fats
- Filtering toxic chemicals and bacteria from the body
- Helping with blood clotting
- Processing medicines
The liver is the body’s filter, continuously cleaning the blood of everything we absorb through our gut (food, additives, drugs, alcohol and nutrients), our skin (deodorants, creams and perfumes) and our lungs (pollution and sprays). This all gets broken down, enters the bloodstream and at some point will end up in the liver!
The liver is full of enzymes which serve to break down all the toxins that enter the blood and process them for use in cells or elimination via the kidneys or bowel. You can liken the liver to a sieve which filters all the rubbish out of the blood – the sieve being full of enzymes breaking down the waste allowing it to pass through for safe elimination.
The typical lifestyles of Western culture mean that we are absorbing many different creams, perfumes and artificial additives in our food, alcohol and pollutants. Together with the aging process our bodies may become less efficient and the enzymatic processes slow down. To add to this, modern day farming, storage and processing methods lead to a depletion of important nutrients including vitamins and minerals important to support health and aid the livers detoxification pathways. This means that the toxins start to build up in the liver as it tries to keep up with the ever increasing overload. Add Christmas binge-booze-festivities into the mix and eventually the sieve starts to overflow!
Toxic overflow is re-absorbed into the bloodstream and circulates your system potentially causing cell damage along the way. Alcohol, as we know, causes liver damage – owing to the fact that once the liver’s ability to detoxify alcohol is exceeded, the body produces a toxic substance which is even harder for the body to breakdown and eliminate. It is this substance which is the cause of hangover symptoms.
Remember: The body is designed to metabolize and digest food, not chemical additives – so be mindful to drink in moderation including 2 alcohol-free days weekly where you can.
What happens after you drink alcohol?
Did you know that approximately 25% of alcohol is absorbed straight from your stomach into the bloodstream, the rest being mostly absorbed from your small intestines. The rate at which may vary for example:
- Drinks with a higher alcohol concentration are generally absorbed faster
- Carbonated drinks (e.g. champagne) are absorbed faster than non-sparkling drinks
- Food slows down the absorption of alcohol
Once alcohol has entered the bloodstream it remains in the body until it is processed. About 90 – 98% of alcohol that you drink is broken down in the liver the remainder removed in urine, breathed out through your lungs or excreted through sweat.
An average person will take approximately an hour to process 10g of alcohol but genetics plays an important role in the rate at which this happens. The enzymes required to process alcohol (ADH) alcohol dehydrogenase and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) vary from person to person. So for some, they may be more efficient at breaking down alcohol than others.
If you are healthy, eat a balanced diet and take regular exercise then sensible drinking should not cause your liver problems.
But what is sensible drinking?
The Department of Health currently offers the following advice:
- Both men and women should not regularly drink more than 14 units in a week
- It is advisable to take 48 hours off drinking a week to allow your liver to recover.
For more information on sensible drinking visit: https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/.
Why not visit our Woburn Osteopaths Nutrition Advisor, Emma Berridge for tips to support good liver health?