Article written by: Kirstin Sharpe
Having a healthy diet is the first order of business to looking and feeling good – exercise just isn’t enough to keep you going in terms of longevity. Men generally struggle with maintaining a healthy diet which is a contributing factor to feeling tired, stressed and like your bandwidth is always stretched thin. Your ability to pay attention, stick with your plans, make good decisions, and resist temptation all depend on your mood! Have you ever felt like going to the gym after eating a cheesesteak? Or been able to concentrate deeply on a task after eating a high-carb breakfast? The food choices you make greatly impact your decision making so there’s no better time than now to start using food to your advantage!
High-Quality Foods to Support Your Liver
Choosing to eat high-quality foods ensures a boost in mood and will provide your mind and body with the fuel and energy it needs to perform at an optimal level. Weight gain around the abdomen, excessive fatigue, blood sugar imbalances, and poor digestion are all signs your body needs more attention and love from you, especially your liver. The liver carries out extensive functions acting as the manufacturing and detoxifying center of the body. From packaging nutrients so you can use them, to regulating blood sugar, to primarily flushing out toxins from the body and filtering harmful substances from your blood, the liver is crucial to keeping you healthy and alive. Unfortunately, a recent report shows that our livers have been another victim of COVID-19. This study showed that increased alcohol consumption and higher amounts of food intake were associated with an increase in the amount of fatty liver disease, particularly in people under 60 years old.
Fat in the liver can be harmful by causing inflammation, which damages your liver and creates scarring. This scarring over time can lead to liver failure, and you can only survive a day or two if your liver fails.
A study reviewed by the American Liver Foundation on the Mediterranean diet and people with fatty liver disease demonstrates that adding more healthy fats to your diet significantly lowers the amount of fat in the liver. The Mediterranean diet takes a lot of its calories from fat, and the high fat content leaves people feeling full for longer. Despite the fact that nuts are very high in fat, people who eat more nuts actually lose more weight!
Using MRI, researchers looked at the amount of fat that was reduced in the liver in participants that went on either the Mediterranean diet or a low fat/high carbohydrate diet. The data in the study shows the amount of liver fat in the participants on the Mediterranean diet reduced by 39% while the low fat/high carb diet only saw a reduction of 7%. Additionally, in the Mediterranean diet participants, insulin sensitivity improved and was not changed by the low fat/high carb diet. Insulin resistance is the primary cause of type 2 diabetes. Weight loss was not different between the two, a compelling finding that indicates the Mediterranean diet helps the liver improve fat quantity, independent of the effects of weight loss. Note: the diet is high in healthy fats, and urges people to avoid simple sugars, high glycemic index foods, soda, fruit juice, and high fructose corn syrup.
According to the American Liver Foundation, 1 in every 4 people in North America has fatty liver disease, which is now the second most common indication for placement on the liver transplant list (alcohol induced liver disease is the number one cause of liver transplants).
Poor liver health in the late stages can lead to cirrhosis; a disease in which the liver has been largely replaced by scar tissue that permanently damages the liver and increases the risk of developing liver cancer.
Common causes of cirrhosis
- Alcoholic Liver Disease
- Autoimmune Liver Disease
- Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)
Risk of Alcohol
Long-term heavy drinking causes premature aging and takes a toll on the body. Have you ever woken up with a puffy face or red skin after drinking more than a few drinks? Alcohol triggers inflammation throughout the entire body and you can physically see the repercussions in your face but not in your liver. Of course, most know that excessive alcohol use can hurt the liver, but what is excessive?
The CDC guidelines to reduce the risk of alcohol related harm is to drink in moderation. In the U.S., 1 drink is usually considered to be 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1½ ounces of hard liquor. Men are more likely than women to drink alcohol at risky levels and in 2016, around 39% of adult men drank alcohol compared to only a quarter of women (25%). Men should limit their intake to no more than two drinks in a day and women to one drink or less. In terms of the adverse effects on the body, drinking seven drinks one night of the week is not equivalent to drinking one drink each night of the week; while the consumption amount is the same, the health implications are not.
There is some evidence of possible health benefits of alcohol. It does raise high-density lipoprotein or ‘good’ cholesterol and there is data that red wine has antioxidants. However, this is definitely not the kind of benefit in which – if some is good, then a lot is better. It’s not recommended to start drinking alcohol if you don’t, but as long as it is not associated with risky behavior, alcohol can be fine to enjoy in moderation.
Benefits of Coffee
Coffee can lower the risk of liver cancer and liver disease up to an exhilarating 50% in those who drank 3 cups of coffee per day.
A dietary intake questionnaire collected by the National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that caffeine intake was independently associated with a decreased risk of development of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease.
Furthermore, coffee consumption also has the ability to reduce alcohol induced cirrhosis by about 22%, and mortality from cirrhosis due to alcohol by 66%.
Magnesium and the antioxidant quinine are naturally found in coffee, and the two combined lower blood sugar and may also lower the risk of the development of type 2 diabetes. Coffee can even prevent dental cavities; it contains the antibacterial compound trigonelline which also gives coffee its aroma. On paper it seems as though coffee is quite healthy… Why isn’t everyone fully experiencing the benefits then? More on this in next month’s article!
Gut Bacteria and Liver Health
Gut microbiota are the microorganisms, including bacteria, that live in the digestive tracts of all vertebrates. There are over 100,000,000,000,000 microorganisms living just inside your gut! Bacterial toxins can cause direct injury to the liver because the toxins from those bacteria can seep through the intestinal walls and into the bloodstream. When people have significant liver dysfunction their gut walls can become leaky, a condition termed “leaky gut syndrome.” Probiotics improve total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein, and tumor necrosis factors in NAFLD patients and in general help improve liver enzymes, digestive health, and heart health.
Modulation of gut bacteria may represent a new way to treat or prevent metabolic fatty liver disease. The notion is that you ingest good bacteria to change the composition of the bacteria in your gut. By doing so, you are adding to the population of good bacteria in your digestive system to have a healthier gut microbiota. Probiotics are live microorganisms that provide all sorts of powerful benefits for your brain and body when consumed in the form of probiotic agents like a pill or fermented food and drink such as yogurt and Kombucha.
Probiotics are your soldiers and prebiotics are your soldiers’ supporting agents. Prebiotics stimulate growth among the preexisting good bacteria. You can find many of these natural plant fibers in fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains (bananas, apple skins, berries, onion, asparagus, garlic, wheat, oats, and barley).
Eating high quality foods that are ideal for your body will increase feelings of satiety, sharpen cognitive function, and above all… boost your mood!
Quick Tip – How to Choose Yogurt in 3 Easy Steps
- Make sure to choose yogurt that has active or live cultures! (optimally 3+ strains and look for the LAC (Live & Active Cultures) seal)
- Look for a short ingredient list
- Check the protein content (optimally >10g)
The Anti-inflammatory Way
A healthy diet is not a list of certain foods you can eat compiled with a much larger list of things you can’t eat. Ideally, a healthy diet is a list of nutritionally rich foods that make you feel so good you decide to habitually eat them. Global Action on Men’s Health reported that on average, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains were less heavily consumed by men than women. Healthy nutrients are essential for the development, growth, and maintenance of body functions. When making healthy food choices is a priority, deprivation isn’t necessary. You can still allow yourself the freedom to healthily indulge in those bad food cravings when ideal nutrients are optimally being consumed.
It is easy to forget about your liver – but as you can see it is critically important to your overall health and wellness. Follow these tips to keep running smoothly and keep your metabolism balanced. The rest of your body will thank you for it!
About the Author
“Kirstin attended Temple University in Philadelphia, PA where she fell in love with psychology and the idea that mindset plays a huge role in success in every area of life. She developed a keen understanding of habit change and what it takes to eradicate unwanted behaviors and more importantly, how to make new habits stick. This was the start of her endeavor as a health coach, helping others bridge the gap between their current lifestyle and the lifestyle they desire.”
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