We're always told that it doesn't matter what we eat, as long as we control our calorie intake: Eat less, move more, and we'll be fine. If that doesn't work for us, then we're just too greedy and too lazy. But what if it's not that simple? Our body chemistry has a whole arsenal of 'chemical weapons' that make us go in search of just the foods we're trying to avoid. Willpower doesn't even get a look in.
British cauliflower is now in season. It's a great cheap, nutritious and particularly versatile addition to the menu.
The festivities are over, and here we are with a brand new year! The New Year is a great time for fresh starts, and in January most of us don’t even mind giving our bodies a break after all the indulgences of Christmas. Maybe now would be a good time for a gentle detox.
We don’t think about our liver very much, least of all in December, and yet it is such a busy and efficient organ. It is the body’s chemical factory that builds and recycles substances we need and breaks down those we don’t. About 4 pints of blood pass through the liver every day, and a healthy liver is able to filter up to 99% of bacteria and toxins from the blood. Said toxins do not just enter the body from the air, water and food we take in, but also occur as normal waste products generated by a healthy metabolism.
Unfortunately, however, 21st century livers have so much more to deal with than just metabolic waste: environmental pollutants (e. g. cigarette smoke, traffic and industrial fumes, paints, glues), recreational and prescription drugs, alcohol, food additives, trans-fats, and plastics, to name but a few. Most people’s livers today work only at around 35 – 40% capacity due to the amount of toxins they have to process. The brain heavily relies on the liver to filter the blood before it gets to it, as it does not have any other way to protect itself. If the liver is overloaded, we will soon notice symptoms of the kind that are all too often just accepted as normal: headaches, low mood and irritability, difficulty concentrating, fatigue and listlessness, skin eruptions, bloating, flatulence and constipation, hangovers that appear to linger for longer … None of these appear serious enough to see the GP about, but they are annoying and unpleasant, especially if we are experiencing more than one. More than anything though, symptoms like these can be the liver’s cry for help.
Toxins filtered out by the liver are collected in the bile and leave the body via the colon. Those caught by the kidneys are excreted via the urine. Some can be exhaled, and some are excreted via the skin, which is the largest of the detox organs. If the liver is overloaded and struggling, the skin has to detox more – and it shows. Accelerated aging, acne, eczema, psoriasis and other skin conditions can be symptoms of a sluggish liver. So, if you want to look your best, improve your skin and glow, it’s not the latest expensive moisturiser you need, but liver support to help your skin from the inside.
While it would be impossible in this day and age to avoid all external toxins, there is a lot we can do to help our liver by decreasing our exposure to many of them and by supporting it with the right food and drink, by learning how to manage stress, by exercising and by getting enough sleep.
Why don’t you join me in a gentle detox online programme for just £1.50/day, starting on 17 January. Receive a daily email for 14 days and join our special Facebook group for more tips and tricks and community support. The programme can be seen as a one-off detox, but is designed to set you up for a fresh start into 2016 with a cleaner, healthier diet afterwards.
With Christmas and the Christmas Party Season behind us, most of us have by now had their fill with rich food and alcohol. But one great party night – New Year’s Eve – is still ahead of us. Yes, most of us will have a few drinks – again -, but armed with a few tips, you may be able to welcome 2016 as fresh as a daisy anyway. Probably the most common symptoms of a hangover are headache and thirst, closely followed by tiredness, listlessness and sensitivity to light and/or noise. Many feel nauseous and dizzy, some experience diarrhoea. Other possible symptoms are anxiety, depression, moodiness and irritability, not to speak of the very common ‘blackout’ – alcohol induced temporary amnesia. Altogether not a pretty picture. Nobody wants to feel like this, and yet we keep inflicting this avoidable condition on ourselves time and time again.
Needless to say: The only true cure is not to drink alcohol in the first place. You could volunteer to be the designated driver – although it can sometimes be taxing to be the only sober person in a group of revellers who are getting more and more inebriated …
If you are going to drink – and let’s face it, most of us do like a few drinks on New Year’s Eve – try the below.
On New Year’s Eve
Eat before you drink. Alcohol is absorbed straight through the lining of the stomach. If your stomach is empty, that process is very fast. So, have a proper dinner first, ideally one containing fat and protein.
Drink water throughout the evening. Alcohol makes us go to the toilet more often and we can end up dehydrated. Did you know that hangover headaches are caused by your shrinking – dehydrated – brain tugging at its tendons? Apart from helping us to stay hydrated, alternating alcoholic drinks with water means that we will drink less alcohol.
You may come across advice to take a painkiller, such as aspirin or paracetamol before bed in order to avoid a hangover the next morning. However, aspirin can irritate the intestinal lining and therefore make gastro-intestinal symptoms more likely and/or worse. Paracetamol puts extra strain on the liver, which will be busy enough trying to process the alcohol. So, my advice is to stay away from such drugs. It might be a good idea, however, to support your liver with milk thistle (e. g. by A Vogel) on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
When you go to bed, take make sure that there is water by your bedside.
The morning after
You will have heard of ‘the hair of the dog’ as a hangover cure. You won’t need me to tell you that drinking more alcohol is not the way to relieve a hangover. You’ll only suffer for longer.
While many crave caffeine to wake them up after a night of drinking, this is just another toxin you are asking your liver to handle. Take a break from caffeine today and stick to water or herbal teas.
All those trips to the toilet the night before didn’t just mean a loss of water, but also of ‘electrolytes’. Electrolytes are minerals that control nerve and muscle function, blood pH, hydration, and the repair of tissue after injury. Both dehydration and over-hydration lead to imbalanced electrolytes and some of the symptoms of hangovers are attributed to them.
Top up your magnesium by tucking into green leafy vegetables. A green smoothie would be a perfect drink. Just this once, add a pinch of good quality sea salt to replenish sodium levels as well.
Other nutrients you lose with water are water-soluble vitamins: vitamin C and those of the B-complex. B vitamins are involved in energy production, and low levels can leave us feeling dizzy and tired. Foods rich in B vitamins are eggs (also a good source of magnesium), avocados, mushrooms, brown rice, wholegrain bread, cauliflower, fish, seafood and nuts
A great breakfast would be a slice of wholegrain rye bread topped with eggs Florentine (eggs on a bed of wilted spinach) or a spinach and mushroom omelette. If you are really hungry – and hunger can be another symptom of hangover – you may find room for some avocado there as well.
After breakfast, go back to bed if you can and rest. Sleep and rest is the best cure for a hangover.
Maybe on New Year’s Day you’ll resolve to give your body a break and take it easy for a few weeks in January. Chances are, you won’t really like alcohol much after the party season anyway. If you would like some extra support, why not join me for my Gentle Online Detox ProgrammeGentle Online Detox Programme beginning on 17 January (Day 0 – with meal plan and shopping list)? You will be receiving one email per day with valuable nutrition and detox information for just £1.50 per day. That’s less than even the simplest coffee from a fancy coffee shop!