Last updated on Jun 23rd, 2021 at 12:24 pm

Overindulgence hurts the liver

If you hurt your liver it will hurt you back.

When your liver gets hurt, it releases chemicals into your bloodstream called cytokines. Cytokines are highly damaging inflammatory molecules and one of the main causes of damaged arteries and heart attacks. They also contribute to insulin resistance, diabetes and weight gain.

What causes liver damage?

So what increases cytokine release and risk of liver damage?

Lipotoxins are chemicals commonly found in food and drink that can damage the liver. There are four main lipotoxins:

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  1. Alcohol, especially binge drinking.
  2. Sugar, especially fructose (conventional table sugar comprises 50% of fructose).
  3. Excessive amounts of omega-6 fats (found in sunflower and maize oil for example).
  4. AGEs (advanced glycation end products), found in foods that have been made crispy by grilling, braaing or frying (e.g. chicken skin, bacon, grilled cheese, etc.). The chemical reaction that occurs between protein, fat and carbohydrate molecules in this high-heat flavour-enhancing crisping reaction is known as glycation, forming AGE chemicals.

How to protect the liver

If you want a healthy liver and reduced cytokine production try to avoid these four lipotoxins.

Milk thistle is the most important herbal supplement you should be taking, on a regular daily basis, to help protect your liver should you struggle to avoid these lipotoxins.

SOLAL’s pharmacist, Brent Murphy, answers some questions:

  1. What causes the effect alcohol has on us? 

Alcohol activates GABA receptors in the brain.  When these receptors are activated, inhibitions and anxiety is reduced.  These are the same receptors than benzodiazepide tranquilisers (like Xanor, Ativan, Rohypnol and Valium) activate.  Alcohol also supresses NMDA receptors.  NMDA receptors boost are responsible for vigilance, coordination and memory.  Therefore by blocking (deactivating) NMDA, alcohol has the effect of causing unsteadiness, stupor and memory loss.

  1. How can this be prevented?

There is a difference between the effects of alcohol (light headed, giggly and less inhibited), and the effects of a hangover (headache, discomfort, irritability, feeling toxic).  The former is caused by alcohol itself and occurs almost immediately after commencement of drinking. The second (a hangover) is caused by a metabolite that your body converts the alcohol into called acetaldehyde.  Since it takes your body much longer to excrete acetaldehyde than it does alcohol, the unpleasant effects of hangovers occur many hours later and last much longer than the somewhat pleasant effects of alcohol itself.  Now, there is very little you can do to reduce alcohol levels in the blood, or to hasten its excretion.  Therefore there is very little you can do to reduce the effects of alcohol itself.  Eating a meal at the same time as alcohol usually lessens but lengthens the effects of alcohol.  However there are things you can do to hasten the excretion of acetaldehyde, thereby preventing and reducing the severity of hangovers the next day.

  1. What can you do the night before to prevent a hangover the next morning, and what are the best supplements to take during the “silly season” to help you cope with the after-effects of overindulging?

There are supplements you can take to help prevent hangovers by reducing acetaldehyde:

  1. Milk thistle acts as a shield that helps protect liver cells from damage caused by alcohol and acetaldehyde.  Milk thistle is most effective if taken before drinking.
  2. Curcumin, an extract from turmeric spice, stimulates the rate at which acetaldehyde is removed from the body by the liver.
  3. SAMe, contains s-adenosyl-methionine, an amino acid that the body uses to neutralise and destroy acetaldehyde produced during and after alcohol consumption.
  4. Pantethine, also known as co-enzyme B5, helps to protect against fatty liver disease caused by alcohol and acetaldehyde.  If left unchecked, fatty liver disease can develop into liver cirrhosis and result in death.  Pantethine also helps protect the blood brain barrier from acetaldehyde damage.  When the blood brain barrier is damaged, acetaldehyde and other daily toxins can enter the brain and irreparably damage brain structures.

Alcohol, hangover and acetaldehyde protection protocol:

On occasions you drink one or two alcoholic drinks daily: 

  • Take two capsules of milk thistle one to three hours before drinking

On occasions you drink three or more drinks, or if you binge drink:

  • Take two capsules of milk thistle one to three hours before drinking
  • Take another one milk thistle capsule, one SAMe tablet and one Pantethine capsule after drinking is finished.
  • If you wake up the next day with a hangover, then repeat with one capsule each of milk thistle extract, SAMe and Pantethine.  If you don’t have a hangover, there’s no need to repeat this last dose.
  1. If you have had “one too many” the night before, what can you do first thing in the morning to get yourself office ready?

Take two capsules each of milk thistle extract, SAMe and Pantethine. You will be right as rain in no time!

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.