The Beer Diet

Health advice for those of us who enjoy tipping back a few brews...
or sometimes a few too many!

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Gary's Natural Health Blog

To fully enjoy drinking beer for as long as you can, you have to take good care of your body.
And that's best done the natural way.

User's Manual for the Liver

 By Gary Greenberg 
  SuperWriter, Inc.

    The most damaging substance in beer is alcohol, and one of its primary targets is the liver. When you drink a beer or three, the liver processes the alcohol, which is basically a poison. Even though the liver is one of the hardiest organs in the body, a constant onslaught of alcohol can take a devastating toll that may eventually have your doctor telling you that
The Liver
you should no longer drink beer.
    While you may ignore such warnings, they are sure to incite your wife, mother, child and/or other loved ones to constanty bug you about your beer consumption so it becomes less fun. And no one wants that. So you need to take good care of your liver, and it, in turn, will take good care of you.
    Weighing in at about three pounds, the liver is the most versatile and hardest working organ in the body, serving more than 500 functions. Fortunately, it needs no conscious supervision from us, and goes about its many tasks with a mind-boggling efficiency.

    “The liver is a remarkable organ,” says integrative family physician Dr. Elson Haas. “It’s basically a biochemical factory, the body’s master lab.”
    Among other things, the liver processes nutrients from food to build, fuel and maintain the body; filters toxins from the blood; produces bile, cholesterol and blood clotting factors; regulates blood sugar; stores vitamins and minerals; balances hormones; and supports the
Hannibal Lecter
Hannibal Lecter
immune system. It is also tasty, according to cannibal Hannibal Lecter, who enjoyed eating one or more of his victims' livers with fava beans and chianti.
    The liver is as tough as it is versatile, in part because it can regenerate itself. But it’s not invincible.
    "The liver’s durability is a double-edged sword because it can take a beating without showing any signs of damage until it’s too late,” says UCLA hepology professor Dr. Sammy Saab. “A simple liver enzyme test can detect problems before symptoms show, but it often isn’t part of a routine blood panel.”
    The most widespread problem these days is non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). An estimated 100 million Americans have some form of it, and most have no idea.
    “Fatty liver is the most common reason for liver damage in the U.S. and the world,” says Saab. “Generally, it is the result of being overweight due to a diet high in sweets and processed food, and a lack of exercise.”
    Not surprisingly, the demon alcohol is another major cause of liver disease. It destroys the organ’s cells and leaves scarred tissue, a condition called cirrhosis. Shockingly, one of the most affected demographics is women in their 40s.
Dr. Sammy Saab
Dr. Sammy Saab

   “We don’t know if it’s an Uber-Lyft generation that isn’t worried about drinking and driving, or just that the drinking culture has become more fashionable, but we’re seeing a huge upswing of young women with serious liver disease,” notes Saab.
    Meanwhile, another generation faces a different threat, undiagnosed hepatitis C. The
government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that Baby Boomers are five times more likely to be harboring the hepatitis C virus than other adults.
    “Hepatitis C can lead to liver damage, cirrhosis, and even liver cancer,” notes the CDC, adding that most people who are infected don’t know it. Fortunately, a simple blood test can reveal all variations of the virus, which is treatable with medications.
    Speaking of medications, since the liver metabolizes them, they can also take a toll.
    “Try to avoid any unnecessary medications and supplements,” says Saab. “Even over-the-counter drugs like Tylenol and Motrin should be taken in moderation because they can cause liver damage.”

    The best way to take care of your liver is to regulate your beer-drinking, and be selective about what you put in your mouth. Like the rest of the body, the liver thrives on natural, whole foods.
    A liver-healthy diet is heavy on fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, with modest amounts of fish, poultry, dairy and monounsaturated fats. To help your liver deal with environmental toxins such as pesticides, beets can’t be beat because they contain potent antioxidants and the super-fiber pectin. Other liver-detoxifying foods include garlic, onion, fermented vegetables, dark leafy greens, lemon, grapefruit, apples, berries, cruciferous veggies, avocados, walnuts, olive oil, green tea and turmeric.
    And it likely won't hurt beer drinkers to take a milk thistle supplement before and after indulging. A funny-sounding flavonoid in the herb, called silymarin, has potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that help to protect the liver from the toxins it metabolizes.
    “Believe it or not, studies show that coffee is very protective against liver damage,” says Saab. “Drink two to three cups a day, but without a lot of cream and sugar.”
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