Why your liver needs extra care during the holiday season
It’s almost the time of the year when we get a little relaxed about our diet and regime. With holidays around the corner, we are probably going to indulge ourselves a bit too much at parties and at family gatherings. Even if we are usually conscious about our liver health, winter is the time where we could easily drop our guard to holiday feasts and drinks. While it is apparent that celebration has a negative impact on our liver health, how exactly does it induce liver damage, and what can we do to protect our liver better in this cold season?
1. Festive eating increases our cholesterol level, which could lead to an accumulation of fat in the liver
According to a research published in the JAMA Internal Medicine, cholesterol levels vary across seasons, with winter months having the highest. It’s not difficult to picture why – winter foods like fruit cake and mince pies are packed with fats and cholesterol, and we don’t just eat them once, but several times in the month! When cholesterol level is too high, there could be a restriction of blood circulation, leading to a faster progression of fatty liver disease in the winter.
What should we do instead? Don’t overindulge in high-fat, high cholesterol festive food. Also, when you’re preparing meals, try to include fruits like strawberries and nuts like pistachios and walnuts into your recipes, as they do an amazing job of lowering cholesterol level.
2. Colder weather leads to higher drinking rate and increased cases of alcoholic cirrhosis
It is officially confirmed, the colder the climate, the more likely people tend to drink. A recent study published in Hepatology has found a negative correlation between climate and alcohol consumption. In colder weather, alcohol gives us a pleasant feeling of warmth as it helps increase the blood flow to the skin. Coupling it with festive celebrations, it is no surprise that winter is the perfect season for drinking.
What should we do instead? If you need to drink, don’t engage in binge drinking (defined by having more than 4 drinks for women and 5 drinks for men in about 2 hours). Depending on your gender, limit yourself to only 1-2 alcoholic beverage per day. There are many drinks that can keep you warm and happy, and alcohol doesn’t always have to be in the ingredients. Beverages like hot chocolate or chai tea do the trick too.
3. Winter weather makes us less likely to stay active, which can cause fatty liver to develop or progress
Compared with summer months, cold, rainy winter days are not the exact time of the year when we want to exercise. As a result, we stay home and we don’t do much, which could have a negative impact on our body, including the liver. Together with increased alcohol and fatty food consumption, our liver is more susceptible to developing fatty liver disease during the colder days.
What should we do instead? There are many ways to stay active indoors, and creating a home gym is one of the feasible choices. Equipment like stretch bands and push-up mats make for great exercise options without taking much space at home. When you are at work, try taking the stairs instead of the elevators. Spend as little time as 5-10 minutes climbing stairs is already an efficient workout.
4. Parties can throw the liver off its circadian rhythm
Our body relies on the circadian rhythm to get many of the vital tasks done. And unhealthy patterns of sleep, food, alcohol can mess up the liver’s own schedule. Too many parties, family dinners, and holidays during winter can knock the liver’s own rhythm out of whack. A research conducted by Northeast Ohio Medical University has found that even short-term changes in sleep or diet can drastically disrupt the liver’s ability to process fat.
What should we do instead? Try to maintain a regular sleeping schedule as much as you can. A few late nights during this season might be inevitable, but do not oversleep to compensate the lost hours. Try to wake up at around the same time to create a consistent schedule for your liver.
- JAMA Internal Medicine, https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/article-abstract/217730?resultClick=1, (Accessed Date: 2018-12-14)
- American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, https://aasldpubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/hep.30315, (Accessed Date: 2018-12-14)
- National Center for Biotechnology Information, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30324707, (Accessed Date: 2018-12-14)
- Science Daily, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170422101601.htm, (Accessed Date: 2018-12-14)
- National Center for Biotechnology Information, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26645046, (Accessed Date: 2018-12-14)
- * All research and clinical data should be used as reference purposes only, results may vary.