If you’ve celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in the past, you know that it’s not all about corned beef and cabbage, pinching people for not wearing green, and green food coloring. People around the world like to observe this official Christian feast day with shots of Irish whiskey, creamy pints of Guinness, and Baileys-spiked coffee.
But the liver can only handle so much booze.
When this crucial organ is inundated with alcohol, it produces an enzyme — acetaldehyde — which can damage liver cells and lead to permanent scarring. Years of heavy drinking can lead to a number of alcohol-related liver diseases such as fatty liver disease, alcoholic hepatitis, and alcoholic cirrhosis. Over time these conditions may result in an enlarged spleen, stomach bleeding, or kidney failure. Short-term binge drinking can also dehydrate the body, leading to that nasty post-drinking hangover.
So to avoid inflaming, damaging, or scarring your liver, follow these four helpful tips before you start celebrating on St. Patrick’s Day.
If You’re Going to Drink, Do It Slowly
The liver, not the stomach, is responsible for metabolizing alcohol, but it can only process around one drink per hour. That means one shot of Jameson (or any of these eight Irish whiskey’s that aren't Jameson) along with a beer will leave traces of alcohol in your bloodstream. Two standard drinks an hour will give you an enjoyable buzz, but you can slow down the pace by alternating each drink with a glass of water. You’ll be able to hold a glass in your hand (people will just think it’s a vodka soda), keep drinking longer, and have less of a hangover in the morning.
Get Extra Selenium
Selenium is a rarely discussed trace mineral found in Brazil nuts, grass-fed beef, and sardines, but this micronutrient plays an important role in preserving liver health. Selenium helps the liver form two essential enzymes, which indirectly prevent oxidization and liver damage. Try incorporating some into your diet before the festivities begin.
Have a Nice Greasy Meal
Alcohol is eventually absorbed by the bloodstream, but before it gets there it must pass through the stomach. Eating a rich, calorie-dense hamburger and some starchy French fries helps avoid a hangover, because it slows down alcohols progress to the stomach. A person drinking on an empty stomach will reach peak blood alcohol content — which makes the liver work harder — much faster than someone who has just had a big meal.
Take Milk Thistle
For centuries, milk thistle (also called St. Mary’s thistle) has been used as a homeopathic remedy for liver disease. Recent research has confirmed that milk thistle can reduce the risk of developing alcoholic cirrhosis and fatty liver disease while also alleviating alcohol-induced liver damage. Milk thistle — which is prescribed as a medicine in most of Europe (and can be purchased in this prepackaged Japanese miracle hangover cure) — also contains agents that can lower cholesterol levels, help with gastrointestinal issues, and slow the aging process.