January sees our National ‘Love your liver’ campaign, strategically positioned just weeks after the nation’s overindulgence and in time for New Year’s resolutions.
The liver is an incredibly robust organ, catering for over 500 bodily functions. Primarily filtering out and metabolising toxins, but it is also important for hormone production, processing Cholesterol and balancing the body’s energy stores.
Common causes of Liver disease are weight and diet related ‘Fatty Liver’, excessive alcohol use and Viral Hepatitis.
‘Fatty liver’ is largely related to obesity and diet. It is common, and does not often cause problems but can develop into significant liver disease. Eating a balanced, healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight and regularly exercising can combat ‘Fatty Liver’ disease.
There are several strains of Viral Hepatitis (A to E), Hepatitis A and E is spread through poor sanitation, contaminated food and water; Hepatitis B and C is predominantly transmitted through blood (blood transfusions in certain countries, sharing needles, unregulated Tattoo/piercing parlours and unsafe sex). There are Vaccinations for Hepatitis A and B only, and it is worth having these if you are travelling to certain countries. If you feel you may have been at risk of Hepatitis or had a blood transfusion before 1991 (before blood products were routinely screened), visit a GP to have a simple blood test. Even though Hepatitis C is uncommon, up to 3 out of 4 people carrying the virus are unaware they are carriers and can be asymptomatic for many years.
Excessive alcohol use and ‘binge’ drinking is a huge risk factor and many of us are in denial. Generally speaking, women should aim for less than 2-3units/day and men 3-4units/day.
The benefits of alcohol uncovered:
Red wine is considered to be healthy in measured daily amounts of 1 to 2 small glasses per day, but last year a study from the British Medical Journal concluded that a reduction in your alcohol intake even if you are a low or moderate drinker, can show cardiovascular benefits. There is still some uncertainty as to whether red wine in moderation compared to any other unit of alcohol offers additional health benefits. I would suggest everything in moderation, try not to binge drink and aim for 2 or less units of alcohol per day.
These recommendations are based on spreading the units equally through the week, as short and heavy ‘binge’ drinking is considered unhealthy, despite periods of respite in between.
1 bottle wine/wk (9units) is within safe limits with possible benefits.
2 bottles wine/wk (18units) safe but uncertain benefits.
3 bottles wine/wk (27units) bordering on unhealthy for men, and unhealthy for women.
4 bottles wine/wk (36units) Hazardous drinking- this is bound to have health effects, but also increases risky behaviour.
5 bottles wine/wk (45 units) Hazardous drinking- this may be causing liver damage (Cirrhosis-scarring) as well as risking heart disease, high blood pressure, certain cancers and depression.