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These Times Are Hard On Your Liver

November 30, 2010

Tags: order, food, movement, water, herbs, alcohol, apples, artichoke, artificial coloring, artificial flavors, beer, breathing, cabbages, cakes, carrots, celeriac, celery, cirrhosis, cookies, cucumber, dandelion, detoxification, elderberry, fatty liver, feast, fermented foods, festivities, food – rotten, food – spoiled, gentian root, gizzards, gut, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, herbal tea, holidays, kitchen herbs, liquor, liver, marjoram, massaging, meats, medications – over-the-counter, milk thistle, miso, oxygen, probiotic, radish, raisins, red beets, sage, sauerkraut, soy sauce, spices, stuffing - bread, stuffing - traditional, These Times Are Hard On Your Liver, walking, walnuts, wine

The liver is the heaviest organ in the body, and during the holidays, it is also the hardest working organ. Because the liver is your detoxification organ.

Too much heavy (sweet, fatty, alcoholic) foods hurt your liver – and too much even of good stuff can be hard on this most precious organ. But this is probably not the time to preach moderation. So what can you do to survive these taxing times? (I hope you hear the irony in my voice – when half of mankind is still starving).

Everything unhealthy has to be eliminated via the liver: spoiled and rotten food, modern preservatives, artificial colors and flavorings. If the liver is overloaded with rich foods and toxins, you end up with a fatty liver – a diseased liver that cannot fulfill its tasks properly. And if it gets really bad, you end up with cirrhosis, the shrinking of this valuable organ. Fatty liver is reversible with a better lifestyle; cirrhosis is not.

These are the essentials for a healthy liver:

• Drink enough water – not ice-cold. Herbal teas are helpful, especially in the winter season. Some of the herbs below come also as teas – make use of them. Enough fluid will flush out your liver.
• Elderberry juice helps regenerate the liver.
• Keep alcohol (wine, beer, liquor) at a minimum.
• After a big meal, go for a walk. A walk uses up some of the calories you have been ingesting, and it gives your whole digestive system a little boost – things in your stomach can settle, and the peristalsis gets a jumpstart. In Europe, Sundays and holidays will bring people out of their houses in droves – everybody goes for a walk after a feast.
• These herbs help to improve liver function: Most beneficial is milk thistle – you should have it at hand these days. Also helpful are bitter plants like dandelion, artichoke, sage, and gentian root. Most are available in capsules, often in combination.
• Kitchen herbs and spices also help digestion: For instance, the traditional stuffing for a goose is: grind the gizzards, add cut apples, raisins, walnuts and two hands full of fresh (or less of dried) marjoram. No bread!! Don’t know who invented the bread filling…
• A working gut relieves an overworking liver – and a probiotic helps with useful bacteria.
• Fermented foods like sauerkraut, soy sauce and miso help digestion. Traditional kitchens have very specific fermented foods – explore a Japanese or Korean store. Make sure you buy the real thing – not a modern product that still has the taste but no actual fermentation any more in the production process. Look up “fermented foods” in one of my earlier blogs.
• Make sure you eat not only meats and cakes and cookies – but also cabbages, red beets, celery and celeriac, carrots, cucumbers, radishes are famous for relieving a moaning liver.
• Take some very deep massaging breaths: Always start with exhaling. Deep breathing moves the abdominal organs, and oxygen is required in myriad detoxing chemistry processes of the liver. If you feel stuffed, do the deep breathing by lying on your back.
• Stop all unnecessary medications, especially over-the-counter drugs. They only burden your liver more.

And since we are discussing liver health: Hepatitis A can be acquired through food (especially uncooked oysters, and such), hepatitis B and C through sex, drugs and blood. There are vaccines available against A and B. Unfortunately not against C. It might be wise to get vaccinated. Talk to your doctor.

And enjoy the festivities!

Bowel health II: Fermented Foods

June 10, 2010

Tags: order, food, anti-aging, anti-bacterial, anti-fatigue, anti-inflammatory, antinutrients, bowel health, Bowel health II: Fermented Foods, buttermilk, breads - fermented, cheese - fermented, digestion, cleansing, dilled cucumbers, doenjang, fermented foods, fermenting, kefir, hangover, kimchi, minerals, miso, pao cai, pickled vegetables, pickles, probiotic, saliva, sauerkraut, soy sauce, tempeh, umeboshi plum, vitamin C, vitamins, yogurt - fermented, zha cai

Probiotic pills/capsules provide healthy bowel bacteria.

But there exists an ancient method how to provide those lactic-acid bacteria without supplements: fermented foods.

Many traditional societies have used fermented foods:

• Sauerkraut (Europe)
• Pickled vegetables like dilled cucumbers (China, Europe)
• Tempeh (fermented, pressed soy beans)(Indonesia)
• Miso (Japan)
• Kefir (Turkey, Bulgaria, Russia)
• Buttermilk (Scandinavia, India, Bulgaria)
• Soy sauce (China, Japan, Southeast Asia) (beware of unfermented cheap products!)
• Umeboshi plum (Japan)
• Natto (Japanese soybeans fermented with Bacillus subtilis)
• Pao cai (pickled cabbages) (China)
• Kimchi (pickled cabbages and other vegetables with red pepper) (Korea)
• Zha cai (pickled mustard plant with red pepper) (Southern China: Sichuan)
• Doenjang (dark bean paste) (Korea)

There are many more traditional fermented foods worldwide from fermented fish sauce to fermented breads. A big subgroup are milk products that are fermented like natural cheeses and yogurts. On the other hand, modern products like soy sauce pickled dills might not have undergone the fermentation process; the taste comes from spices and preservatives.

Like probiotics, fermented foods are good for your health. Fermenting reduces so-called antinutrients (like lectins), making foods easier to digest. Fermented foods increase saliva and digestive juices flow, and provide vitamins and minerals which have been “pre-digested” by bacteria and therefore are more easily available for the human body. Sauerkraut was traditional a source of vitamin C during the winter and fresh things were scarce. Fermented foods are thought to have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial effects and help cleanse a system overloaded with toxins (or a hangover). They work against fatigue and aging.
Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

Alexa Fleckenstein M.D. 2012, by Lolita Parker jr.

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