The sun is shining and it’s time for some spring cleaning – inside and out. We’re not just talking about our homes either. March is Liver Health Month, and it’s the perfect opportunity to take some time to make sure one of the most crucial organs in our body is in tip-top condition too.
WHY YOU SHOULD LOVE YOUR LIVER
The liver is the biggest organ in our bodies, and much like an engine that keeps a sports car running smoothly, it is vital to the healthy functioning of our body.
Just how important is it? Well did you know that the liver carries out more than 500 crucial tasks for us? In fact, as a key part of our digestive system, it helps process everything we eat, drink, breathe, or rub into our skin.
Our liver does this by filtering the blood it receives from the intestines, full of nutrients and byproducts, then transforming, storing, or resupplying these to our body as needed. Firstly, this allows our liver to metabolize any alcohol, drugs, or chemicals we have consumed, and destroy any toxic substances that could poison us. Secondly, it enables our liver to regulate our body’s supply of vitamins, minerals, glucose, proteins, hormones, and cholesterol. Finally, our liver produces bile, a liquid essential to the digestion of fat, and stores it in the gallbladder for when it’s most needed by our digestive system.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the hundreds of ways in which our livers keep our bodies in shape. It really is a powerhouse.
LIVER AFFLICTION AWARENESS
Unfortunately, unlike a purring car engine, our liver does all of this essential work silently, only making its presence known when there is a serious problem. That means it can be easy for us to overlook this vital organ, under appreciating its presence until it’s too late.
Liver disease is a very real problem. There are hundreds of afflictions that can affect the human liver, all of which can lead to permanent damage (cirrhosis) and life-threatening liver cancer or liver failure if untreated. Indeed one-in-four Canadians will suffer from liver disease at some point in their lifetime.
Some liver diseases are caused by genetics, viruses like hepatitis, or toxins like alcohol. But the most common liver disease in Canada can simply be the result of our diet and lifestyle. The most common form of liver disease in Canada is Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Usually caused by obesity and unhealthy lifestyle, a staggering 7 million of us already suffer from it according to the Canadian Liver Foundation.
Also known as “fatty liver”, NAFLD is caused by a buildup of fat in the liver, due to the fact that any surplus fat or sugar we consume is stored in the organ as fat cells.
This buildup makes our liver more vulnerable to damage. Most people with NAFLD have no symptoms, and given enough time, the liver can repair its damaged cells. But if the damage affects 75% of the liver, it won’t be able to rebuild, and that’s when sufferers can experience serious health issues. When this happens damaged cells become permanent scars, and liver function progressively decreases, causing a wide range of serious symptoms. By then the damage may be so severe that only a liver transplant can help.
SO WHAT CAN WE DO TO PREVENT THIS?
Since NAFLD is most commonly caused by obesity, the logical step is to endeavour to lead a healthy lifestyle and in doing so, prevent obesity. Like the sports car engine we mentioned earlier, it’s also important to make sure you’re fuelling your body to ensure that you get the best out of it.
The Canadian Liver Foundation advises adopting a healthier diet, with less saturated fats and sugars, and more vegetables, to reduce the fat cells available to build up in our livers.
As well, the Foundation advises more physical activity. This means our bodies will need more fuel, leading fat and sugar to be converted into energy instead of stored.
Following this advice can not only prevent the development of NAFLD, it can also reverse fatty buildup that has already happened – so it’s worth making the effort.
WHERE DOES WASABI COME IN?
Alongside a healthy diet and more exercise, the Canadian Liver Foundation also advises maximizing our intake of raw vegetables with a high sulphur content, and one of those vegetables is wasabi.
Cruciferous plants, like wasabi – but also broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower – all contain a type of phytonutrient called glucosinolates, more so than any other vegetables. When broken down, these glucosinolates produce sulforaphane, which extensive research has shown can prevent and reduce liver damage in a whole host of circumstances. Another study in Nutrition Research and Practice has also shown that wasabi can help reduce weight, prevent obesity, and even inhibit fatty buildup in the liver.
All of which is good news for wasabi fans who are looking to show their livers a little love. The problem is that not just any wasabi will do when it comes to looking after your liver. That’s because the health benefits of wasabi are locked away in the plant and are only released through chewing or grating fresh wasabi.
That means that unless you’re going to start carrying a fresh plant around with you at all times, it can be difficult to experience the full benefits that wasabi has to offer. But at our family-owned and operated farm, we use modern technology to dry and powder our real, organic wasabi, so that we can capture its full potential and turn it into easily consumable capsules. It’s our way of making it easier to keep your body’s engine purring!
So this Liver Health Month, we hope you’ll join us in keeping our livers lively, by enjoying healthy eating, plenty of exercise, and all the benefits of real, organic wasabi.