Liver health: do you know your limits?
Are you taking part in Dry January? Giving up alcohol can do your insides a lot of good, and it’s great news for your liver in particular. It may be that after the festive period our liver needs a little bit of rest!
Did you know that alcohol consumption across the UK increases by a staggering 41 percent more than the annual monthly average in December? That’s more than anywhere else in the world.
The effects of alcohol on your health really depend on how much you drink and how often, but as the statistics show, more of us increase our uptake of alcohol over the festive period.
So how does this impact our body?
The results of over indulging vary from a hangover, a poor night’s sleep, to causing an irregular heartbeat, and in some cases, excessive alcohol intake can lead to liver damage. This can be a very serious condition, given the liver’s vital role in the body.
The liver plays a central role in all metabolic processes. In fat metabolism, it breaks down fats and produces energy. When we intake alcohol or drugs, the liver metabolizes the drug and detoxifies chemicals. And it also makes proteins important for blood clotting and other functions.
Following these processes, the liver also secretes bile that ends up back in the intestines and helps the digestion of fats and oils, otherwise known as lipids.
As Randox Health Expert Dr. Gary Smyth explains:
“The liver is one of the most complex organs in the body and also one of the most important. Although it is very resilient, each time it has to filter alcohol some of its cells die. The liver can develop new cells, but abuse over a prolonged period reduces its ability to regenerate, causing serious damage.”
It is not just heavy drinking over years that can cause liver disease – binge drinking is also a culprit and can lead to your liver becoming fatty and inflamed. The best advice is to drink in moderation. Simple tips like taking a glass of water in-between alcoholic drinks are key to staying hydrated.
Know your units;
- According to drinkaware.co.uk, unit guidelines are now the same for men and women.
- Both are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week
- This equates to 6 pints of 4% beer / 6 glasses of 13% wine / 14 glasses (25ml) of 40% spirits
- But don’t save up your 14 units, it’s best to spread evenly across the week.
- If you want to cut down the amount you’re drinking, a good way is to have several drink-free days each week.
- If you’ve had a heavy drinking session, avoid alcohol for 48 hours.
What does one unit of alcohol look like?
One unit of alcohol is the amount of alcohol an average adult can process within one hour so that so that there’s no alcohol left in their bloodstream.
One unit of alcohol equates to:
- 218ml of standard 4.5% cider
- 76ml of standard 13% wine
- 25ml of standard 40% whiskey
- 250ml of standard 4% beer
- 250ml of a standard 4% alcopop
How many units are in my drink?
- Small glass white / rosé / red wine (125ml 12%) = 1.5 units
- Standard glass white / rosé / red wine (175 ml 12%) = 2.1 units
- Large glass white / red / rosé wine (250ml 12%) = 3 units
- Pint of lager / beer / cider (5.2%) = 3 units
- Bottle of lager / beer / cider (330ml 5%) = 1.7 units
- Single small shot of spirits (25ml 40%) = 1 unit*
*taken from NHS Live Well Guidelines
Having your liver health checked after Christmas is a great way of tracking any changes that you may need to make to your lifestyle, for better or for worse – essential for helping you prevent liver disease and allowing you to take early action if it is diagnosed.
At Randox we offer a comprehensive menu of liver function tests to determine the health of your liver. Provided by Randox to a wealth of hospitals, laboratories and research facilities across the globe, these tests are also directly available to you, the consumer, via our Randox Health clinics.
- Alanine Aminotransferase (ALT) – an enzyme mainly found in the liver. Liver injury or disease will release ALT into the bloodstream, thus elevating serum ALT levels. Moderately high or mildly elevated ALT levels can be associated with chronic liver disease, such as cirrhosis, which is scarring of the liver.
- Aspartate Aminotransferase (AST) – an enzyme found predominantly in the heart, liver and skeletal muscles. Cell injury or disease will release AST into the bloodstream, thus elevating blood AST levels. Increased AST levels may be associated with hepatitis (inflammation of the liver), cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), or drug-induced liver injury.
- Gamma-Glutamyltransferase (GGT) – an enzyme found mainly in the liver. Increased levels of GGT in the blood may indicate bile duct injury, hepatitis (inflammation of the liver), cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver necrosis (death of liver tissue), liver tumours or the use of drugs that are toxic to the liver. A high GGT level is frequently associated with increased alcohol consumption, as this liver enzyme is involved in the breakdown and removal of alcohol from the body.
- Glutamate Dehydrogenase (GLDH) – an enzyme located within the mitochondria (energy-producing machinery) of cells, particularly within liver tissue. Significant liver cell damage may cause release of GLDH into the bloodstream. Toxic liver damage, liver cell necrosis (cell death) or hypoxic liver disease (where liver cells are deprived of oxygen) may cause an increase in GLDH. Measurement of GLDH in combination with other liver markers may help distinguish between different causes of liver dysfunction.
- Bilirubin – a yellowish-brown pigment found in bile (a fluid produced in the liver that facilitates digestion in the intestine). Increased levels may be associated with liver or bile duct blockage (eg due to gallstones), hepatitis (inflammation of the liver), cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), trauma to the liver, a drug reaction, long-term alcohol abuse or rare inherited disorders (eg Dubin-Johnson syndrome which is characterised by mild jaundice).
- Albumin – produced by the liver, albumin is the most abundant protein in the blood. Albumin plays in important role in maintaining blood pressure and transporting a wide variety of small molecules, such as hormones, vitamins and drugs, throughout the body. Various conditions are associated with decreased albumin levels, including kidney and liver diseases.
- Copper – an essential mineral that plays a part in many enzyme systems within the body. Excess or deficiency of copper is very rare, however raised copper levels may be caused by chronic liver disease or acute hepatitis (inflammation of the liver).
And when used in conjunction with the wide variety of other tests available within the world’s most comprehensive and personalised health testing menu, you can obtain an understanding of your full body health like never before.
That’s why we don’t test in isolation, which can give a patchy representation of your health and can fail to pick up on related symptoms elsewhere in the body. We test up to 350 tests across 25 areas of your health – giving you the power to take your health into your own hands.
Contact the Randox Health team today to determine the health of your liver, and of your body.
Call 0800 2545 130 or click here.