A brief scan of headlines under New Year’s Diets for 2016 revealed the following diet fads: the master cleanse lemonade diet, all kale and chewing gum, no sugar at all – no carbs ever, the bulletproof coffee diet (a coffee filled with butter and MCT oil – synthesized medium chain triglycerides), super elixirs, super trim pills, veganism, paleo diets and “all juice – all the time”. We’ll also see kelp replace kale as the new superfood, people soaking in epsom salts to “remineralize” and an increase in matcha green tea drinks and bone broths instead of fruit and vegetable juicing according to the always trendy Harper’s Bazaar.
A recent article entitled “A Healthy Diet’s Main Ingredient: Best Guesses” in The New York Times cautions away from these “one true path” regimens because ultimately our bodies are as complex as they are individual. Some researchers feel it could take another 200 years before we truly understand the human body well enough to prescribe diets and they will most likely be highly individualized when we do.
I’ll talk about how the trend for Designer Juice Cleanse companies is currently growing by 4 – 8 per cent annually and some of the pros and cons of juicing on Alberta at Noon today. I’ve posted on the very January tendency to want to “detox” here. Turns out we don’t need to detox because our brilliant liver does that for us on a continual basis.
This post will discuss specific ways you can support your liver and feed your body with guidelines from Canada’s Food Guide, The Canadian Liver Association, The British Liver Trust and some sound thoughts from Dr. Mark Swain, Head of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at the University of Calgary.
We all know the legal limit of alcohol which defines a DWI (driving while impaired) charge but how many of us know what a healthy and non-impaired amount of alcohol is? Not too many of us – as shown in this video.
The Canadian Liver Foundation supports the level of alcohol consumption proposed in Canada’s Low Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines:
10 drinks a week for women with no more than 2 drinks a day;
15 drinks a week for men, with no more than 3 drinks a day.
The Canadian Liver Foundation also recommends that the following people should avoid alcohol completely:
People with liver disease, as determined by a doctor
People taking medication – prescription or over-the-counter
Pregnant women or nursing mothers.
The Canadian Liver Foundation recognizes that alcohol consumption is very much part of everyday life. There are even health benefits to alcohol consumption, but there are also health hazards to excessive alcohol consumption.
One drink of alcohol a day is know to decrease the risk of heart disease. But, this is definitely not a case of “if some is good, more is better”. More than 3 drinks a day for men or 2 drinks a day for women increases morbidity through the subsequent increased risk of liver disease.
This seems to be a key bit of information that people either don’t know or choose to ignore. We’re mostly all stuck in the “if some is good, more is better” thought pattern which is reinforced by social norms and media advertising.
Differences in the way alcohol is metabolized by the body are influenced by factors such as age, gender, body weight and genetic factors. People with impaired liver function due to many different causes of liver disease are at higher risk of additional damage due to alcohol. Therefore the Canadian Liver Foundation says “there is no reliable way to determine how much alcohol is ‘safe’ for an individual”.
Dr. Mark Swain agrees with The British Liver Trust that “taking a day or 2 off from drinking each week – especially for those who drink beyond these limits – is reasonable”. He explains that it gives our miraculous livers a chance to regenerate. Yes, you read correctly, the liver is the only organ that can regenerate itself (the Prometheus myth has some truth- his liver was eaten daily by an eagle and regenerated overnight because he was a God). I was surprised to learn that half the liver can be removed and a healthy liver will grow back completely (just like it was) in 6 weeks.
Swain also says that the liver is a biological machine and not a filter or a sieve as the designer juice producers want us to believe. He says that it is easier for most people to understand the sieve/filter concept because it is a visual they can relate to from their everyday lives. This is why brands that market using these common and relatable objects have so much impact. The concept of a biological machine is more complex, so harder for people to understand and therefore not so good for marketing.
Dr. Swain says, “No juice, concoction, or herbal remedy will detox the liver – PERIOD. People want to be able to simply take a pill/herb/juice/vitamin to make their livers healthy – but none exist, and if a product claims it does this – well, Santa will be bringing them a piece of coal next year”.
So there you have it. You can use these limits to safely enjoy the slightly euphoric effects of alcohol and have peace of mind in the knowledge that you are taking care of your liver – our inherent, always on, amazing and regenerative biological detox machine.
That’s drinking taken care of. Now, what about eating well?
The Mediterranean Diet is believed to be the healthiest in the world and I’ve written (in a fun way) about that here. I hope you do as the people of the Mediterranean do and marry a little alcohol with your food. One of the great things about that diet is that it is loaded with fresh vegetables. To inspire you to eat more vegetables, I share two fresh ways to add lots to your diet without resorting to juicing in this post.
Now pour yourself a tall glass of sparkling water, throw in a wedge of lime and a dash of cranberry or muddle lime in a glass and douse it with half ginger beer and half club soda. Give yourself a daily club soda challenge. Turns out, club soda is a good club to belong to. Let this become a habit and pretty soon, you’ll realize you don’t need alcohol to savour it all. Life is refreshing and flavourful, all on it’s own.