Alcohol Overload? How to Minimise the Harmful Effects of Excess Drinking
Excessive alcohol consumption is often considered a central part of being social and having a good time. One of the reasons it is so popular is because so many people in today’s society are affected by stress and self-consciousness. And as alcohol is considered a legal, ‘socially acceptable’ substance that helps us to relax and lessen our inhibitions, it tends to be the drug of choice for many.Unfortunately alcohol isn’t as innocuous as the playful, comforting advertising campaigns would like us to believe. It is a drug, after all. The damaging effects of excess alcohol go beyond the humiliation of doing something silly, like dancing on our boss’ desk at the annual Christmas party. Many studies have clearly demonstrated that alcohol can have extensive negative effects on our social, psychological and physical health.
Binge drinking, which is defined as consuming an excessive amount of alcohol over a short period of time, is very widespread. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one in six adults binge drinks about four times a month. Adding to the concerns, a new study by University of Missouri School of Medicine researchers looked at the effects of binge drinking combined with chronic alcohol abuse.
“Heavy binge drinking by those who habitually consume alcohol is the most common cause of liver damage in chronic alcoholic liver disease,” said Shivendra Shukla, Ph.D., the Margaret Proctor Mulligan Professor of medical pharmacology and physiology at the MU School of Medicine and lead author of the study. “We know that this behavior causes large fatty deposits in the liver that ultimately impair the organ’s ability to function properly. However, we wanted to understand the mechanism that causes this damage and the extent of the harm. Our research focused on different forms of alcohol abuse and the results of those behaviors.”
The research team used mice to investigate the levels of liver damage caused by chronic alcohol use, repeat binge episodes and a combination of both. During a four-week period, the research team discovered that the rodents subjected to chronic alcohol intake combined with frequent binge consumption showed the highest rates of liver damage.
“Either chronic alcohol use or acute repeat binge episodes caused moderate liver damage when compared to the control group not exposed to alcohol,” Shukla said. “This outcome came as no surprise. However, in the mice exposed to both chronic use and repeat binge episodes, liver damage increased tremendously. Even more shocking was the extent of fatty deposits in the livers of those exposed to chronic plus binge alcohol consumption. It was approximately 13 times higher than the control group.”
Shukla also advised that, because of the interconnected nature of our organs, the negative effects of chronic and excessive alcohol consumption extend beyond liver damage alone.
“Drinking alcohol excessively can create an inflammatory response to the liver and other organ systems in the body,” Shukla stated. “If those organs work at a lower level of function, then a whole host of physiological processes can be affected. It is important for us to understand the extent of damage caused by alcohol abuse, which also can lead to other health issues such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some forms of cancer.”
How to support your liver and minimize the harmful effects of alcohol consumption
Having recently come through the holiday season, a period when alcohol consumption tends to be notoriously high, there are undoubtedly countless people around the planet whose livers are in dire need of a little tender love and care. If you think you might fall into this category here are a few things you can do to help your liver feel loved and healthy.
Foods that support liver function
Garlic: Just a small amount (preferably raw) will help cleanse the liver and activate enzymes that help our bodies to flush toxins.
Beets and Carrots: Both these vegetables are high in plant flavanoids and beta-carotene and help promote liver function.
Lemon and lime: Drinking water with either lemon or lime first thing in the morning helps to stimulate the liver. Also the vitamin C helps the body to synthesize toxic substances.
Leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables and cabbage: All these foods are liver friendly ones because of their ability to assist with detoxing the body by activating enzymes that help flush out toxins. The chlorophyll in the greens also assists with cleaning up environmental toxins in the blood.
Herbs that support liver function
Milk Thistle Seed: Milk thistle is an excellent product to assist with the detoxification of toxins such as alcohol, regeneration of damaged liver tissue, stimulation of bile production, and improved digestion. In order to minimize the negative effects of alcohol on the liver tablets can be taken before and after alcohol consumption.
Borotutu Bark: Borotutu bark can be used for liver cleansing and digestive system support (it contains antioxidants which help protect liver cells from damage). There is even evidence that it can assist with combating biliary colic, and jaundice.
Dandelion Root: This amazing plant with yellow flowers that tends to be hated by those in pursuit of the perfect green lawn is an amazing liver cleanser. The root can be roasted and made into a coffee-like drink that tastes great and acts as a powerful support for the liver. The unroasted root can be made into a tea that is also highly beneficial to liver function. Dandelion root stimulates bile flow from the liver, and is often recommended as a treatment to help fight fatty liver, and cirrhosis.
Organic Turmeric: This yellow/orange root is a powerful liver protector and even acts to regenerate liver cells. It helps stimulate enzymes responsible for flushing out toxins (including carcinogens).
All these herbs and foods can help to minimise the negative effects of alcohol on our livers, however nothing works as well as limiting our consumption. Because alcohol is such an entrenched aspect of our culture, it can initially be a challenge to cut back or abstain. A decision to eliminate alcohol from our lives can even be met with disappointment and even ridicule by members of our social circle. However, ultimately it is up to us to decide what is in our best interest. If our sense of health and wellbeing is improved by limiting our alcohol consumption, the people who really care about us will support our decision, and if they don’t, they likely care more about the ‘party’ than the friendship.
Of course we don’t have to all become teetotallers to enjoy good health. Bringing conscious awareness, moderation and good dietary choices into the equation can contribute to ensuring that we and our livers remain healthy and happy.
Safer alternatives to alcohol
Are there any ‘healthy’ alternatives? Unfortunately there are no ‘safe’ alternatives to alcohol that I would use without hesitation.
Professor David Nutt, a top drug expert, has designed a synthetic alcohol substitute from chemicals related to Valium that he claims offers the ‘high’ without the risk of addiction, organ damage or hangover. Many suggest this new ‘safe’ drink, which is not yet available commercially, might be the solution to the alcohol problem. But, being made of synthetic chemicals, like e-cigarettes, I can’t help but wonder if today’s solution might become tomorrow’s problem.
Another alternative, a natural one, is the root of the Kava plant that grows in the western Pacific. It has traditionally been used as a ceremonial drink and boasts sedative qualities and an ability to relieve anxiety. Because of its relaxing attributes and ability to produce a ‘buzz’ it is often suggested as a less toxic substitute for alcohol. However, unfortunately like alcohol, this natural herb has been implicated in liver damage. Proponents claim that it is only when the bark is added as a means to bulk up cheap versions of the product that it leads to liver damage. However, until we have a better understanding of the true effects of Kava on the liver, I would only suggest occasional moderate use of the highest quality products.
source:wake up world
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