Natural cleansers help rid the body of accumulated irritants, waste products and toxins. Barley water, lemon juice, coconut water and bel sherbet are very effective liver tonics, says Shashibala, senior consultant, Ayurveda, Moolchand Medcity, New Delhi. “Juice of wheatgrass is a very good source of vitamins A, B, C, E and K, as well as calcium, potassium, iron and amino acids, making it one of the most effective natural detoxifiers,” adds Hakim Mohammad Tariq, Unani physician, Hamdard (Wakf) Laboratories.
Illustration: Jayachandran / Mint
Eat plenty of raw vegetables
“Eat generous amounts of raw fruits and vegetables, especially dark green leafy vegetables and orange, yellow, purple and red coloured fruits and vegetables,” says Hakim Tariq. “These contain living enzymes, vitamin C, natural antioxidants and anti-cancer phytonutrients. Carrots, beetroot and broccoli are great for the liver,” he adds.
Fresh juices help too. “Pomegranate and sugarcane juices help strengthen the liver as they are natural toners and energizers,” says Hakim Tariq. Dr Shashibala adds that it is important to have small quantities of food at short intervals for easy digestion; this keeps the liver happy and healthy.
Good to know: Eat more bitter leafy salad greens such as dandelion, chicory or rocket. Their bitterness helps stimulate bile flow in the liver.
Cut down on alcohol
Alcohol tops the list of liver toxins. “Excessive consumption could lead to alcoholic fatty liver, cirrhosis and may eventually even cause cancer,” points out Ashwini Setya,
senior consultant, gastroenterology, Max Hospital, Noida.
So how much is safe?
“Generally one drink (30-60ml) a day on an average. But take into account individual differences and also remember that men are able to metabolize alcohol better than women. A drinking binge could overwhelm the capacity of the liver to metabolize, leading to liver damage,” says Dr Setya. “But the good news is that it is never too late to give up alcohol, especially till the reversible stage (the fatty liver stage), when it can revert to near normal. Beyond that too, one can arrest the damage by quitting the bottle.”
“Like alcohol, most medications are metabolized or eliminated by the liver, and some of them may cause liver injury in susceptible individuals. Avoid taking unnecessary aspirin, ibuprofen and especially acetaminophen (commonly known as paracetamol) and never have them with alcohol,” warns Dr Setya. “Drugs like herbal medication and some Ayurvedic medicines, especially those which contain heavy metals and some antidepressants, cholesterol-lowering drugs, anti-tuberculosis medications, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and certain antibiotics such as an Amoxicillin-Clavulanate combination, too can adversely affect the liver,” adds Ashutosh Shukla, head of department, internal medicine, Artemis Health Institute, Gurgaon.
Cut down on fat
The liver is the metabolic workhorse of the body so if there is excessive fat in your diet, it gets stressed, leading to the deposition of fat in the liver cells, eventually causing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (Nafld). Diabetics need to be very careful as they show a high incidence. “Somehow excess sugar and metabolic aberrations in a diabetic predisposes him/her to a fatty liver which, if not controlled in time, may lead to chronic liver disease,” says Dr Setya. “Also it is important to understand that as we don’t have a curative mechanism for fatty liver. Prevention is the best course,” he adds.
“Non-alcoholic liver disease has been linked to obesity, hypertension (high blood pressure) and hyperlipidemia (high lipid levels in the body). A pragmatic approach to prevention, therefore, would be a reduced calorie–balanced diet, keeping emphasis on maintaining a balance of the Mufa (mono-unsaturated fatty acid) and Pufa (poly-unsaturated fatty acid) intake. An optimal intake of fruits also helps to improve the antioxidant status and contributes to prevention, as does omega 3 fatty acids (found in fish and fish oils) due to their triglyceride-lowering effect,” says Hemangini Hoskote, a consultant clinical nutritionist based in Dubai. So avoid the fats that lead to a higher workload for the liver, such as full-cream dairy products, margarine, processed vegetable oils (hydrogenated fats), deep-fried foods, and foods that are not fresh and contain rancid fats (preserved meats, animal skins and fatty meats). Eat instead the “good fats” which contain essential fatty acids—oily fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel, fresh nuts and seeds (flax, sunflower, safflower, sesame, alfalfa), pumpkin and legumes (beans, peas and lentils).
Good to know: Cut down on junk food as it is a deadly combination of high cholesterol, high sodium and fat, particularly trans-fats.
Hygiene is important
Several liver diseases are caused by unhygienic habits. “Hepatitis A and E are transmitted by contaminated food and water. Hepatitis B and C are transmitted through blood transfusion and sexually,” points out Dr Shukla. “All may lead to chronic liver disease. And all are eminently preventable simply by being careful,” adds Dr Setya.
Also Read Protect yourself this monsoon
• Get an annual blood test: Get a liver function test (LFT) and ultrasound done after the age of 35 to check your liver’s health. Elevated serum levels of the enzymes alanine and aspartate transaminase (ALT and AST) are an indication that something is wrong
• Look out for symptoms such as malaise (recurring fever), low grade fever and loss of appetite
• Ensure that you have been vaccinated with the full schedule for protection from Hepatitis A and B. Vaccines for Hepatitis C and E are not available yet
HERBS THAT HELP
Hakim Mohammad Tariq lists the important ones:
• Saunf (bitter fennel): 5-6g of ‘saunf’ on a daily basis helps improve the functioning of the liver
• Turmeric: The herb contains curcumin that helps in the liver detoxification process. Curcumin prevents alcohol and other toxins from being converted into compounds that are harmful for the liver
• Bhringraj (thistles): It protects the liver from toxic substances and is used in the treatment of hepatic disorders
• Black pepper: Recognized as a carminative (a substance that helps prevent the formation of intestinal gas), it has a beneficial effect on the liver.
• Kasni (chicory): A good source of vitamins A and C, it is useful in eliminating obstructions to enable the healthy functioning of the liver
EASE YOUR LIVER’S BURDEN
• Go easy on the painkillers: Do not pop a pill for everything and never take more than the recommended dose
• Have some snacks with barley grass and alfalfa. The chlorophyll in these acts as a liver tonic and a cleanser
• Oxygenate your blood and liverwith gentle yoga ‘asanas’, deep breathing and brisk walks. Do not smoke
• Drink large amounts of fluids such as water, raw juices and teas (green tea, herbal and regular weak tea). Aim for at least 2 litres of fluid daily.
• Go organic: Keep pesticides and toxic residues out of your system. Check your toiletries and perfumes for this too
• Do regular aerobic exercise: Work out for 45 minutes daily to burn the extra fat
Also See The New Pinprick Programme (PDF)
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©2009/THE NEW YORK TIMES
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©2009/THE NEW YORK TIMES
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