Like it or not, alcohol is the acceptable face of civilisation’s penchant for drug use and globally we consume around six litres of pure alcohol per person each year. In the UK we put away nearly double this figure and it’s no secret that binge drinking and harmful drinking is increasing in the country. If you’re worried that you need to give your body a bit of a detox, what can you do to clean up your act?
Quite simply, there’s no fast-track way to get rid of alcohol from your system, but the most reliable way is to stop drinking it. Once you do, the good news is it leaves relatively quickly. It takes about an hour for the body to process one standard drink, and this is true regardless of your size or sex. It’s after the booze has drained out that you need to start rebuilding though. A night on the tiles will drain you of body salts, water and nutrients, so after a session you have to rehydrate, get some salts in and eat something healthy. While most parts of the body are affected by alcohol, it is your liver that has the unenviable job of processing it.
Everyone knows it is the liver that bears the brunt of excess alcohol. This rather remarkable organ cleans the blood and of course alcohol is a toxin. Excess alcohol can cause healthy cells to turn to fat and this can then lead to scarring of the liver. Laying off the booze is of course the best way to help your liver. It is the only internal organ that has the ability to regenerate itself, but this is not indefinite.
There are foods believed to be better for your liver than others. Cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower; beetroot and carrot; avocado; whole grains; onion and garlic; and turmeric all have benefits for the liver. Foods that are high in sugar, fat and salt – perhaps predictably – are those to avoid. There are other supplements that claim to have a beneficial effect on the liver – most famously milk thistle. However, the medical jury is still out on this one and no firm scientific evidence has been found of its liver benefits.
Break it down
As with most things that are worth doing, there is no quick fix for remedying the effects of excess alcohol consumption on the body. Having a few weeks off once a year might give you a false sense of security and almost give you an excuse for drinking to excess the rest of the year. The alcohol awareness group Drinkaware recommends any long period of abstinence shouldn’t replace shorter and more regular breaks from alcohol. This will give your liver regular breaks and reduce your tolerance for alcohol, meaning you won’t have to drink the same amount for it to have the same effects.