January is in the rear view, and so is your self-imposed ban on alcohol. So now what?
What do you do after a month-long liver detox? As you look ahead to the rest of the year, here’s a deeper dive into the benefits of a “Dry” January, as well as a few smart habits you can incorporate into your routine to ensure your liver health is going strong throughout February and beyond.
The Rise of Binge Drinking
If there’s an annual event called Dry January, then you know that excessive drinking has become a lot more socially acceptable. According to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 17 percent of adults binge drink approximately once a week, consuming an alarming average of seven drinks per binge.1 On top of that, after the pandemic shut everything down in March 2020, sales of spirits and wine skyrocketed.2
Alcohol and the Liver
All this drinking takes a toll on your liver. That’s because the liver has to process most of the alcohol you drink in order to remove it from the body. In doing so, a highly reactive and toxic byproduct called acetaldehyde is created, which can severely damage vital liver cells and tissues.3 Over time, this can lead to alcoholic liver disease, ranging from mild symptoms to alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis.
The Benefits of Dry January
Once you abstain from alcohol in January, your liver started to repair itself. In fact, the beneficial effects start immediately. And the longer your liver doesn’t come in contact with alcohol, the more it will benefit.4 But these benefits aren’t just reserved for occasional drinkers. Even if you’ve chronically used alcohol for years, the liver can still regenerate itself and recover a significant amount of its original mass after quitting.5
Take This Opportunity to Cut Back
A liver detox is certainly a worth-while endeavor, but it won’t really do you much good if you just go right back to knocking back a bunch of cold ones every night. Instead, why not use the momentum from Dry January to keep your alcohol consumption on the lower end? Now could also be a good time to think about whether the hangovers and the drain on your bank account are really worth it.
Focus on Liver-Supporting Foods
Adding the following liver-loving foods and beverages to your diet can help your overall health as you reset from overindulging in alcohol.
Coffee. A cup of joe can do more than give you that morning pick-me-up. Studies show that consuming coffee can have a positive effect on liver health after excessive drinking. It can even reduce cirrhosis and the risk of liver cell carcinoma and fibrosis. It also promotes the liver’s antioxidant capacity and modulates several inflammatory mediators.6
Tea. One of the world’s most popular beverages, tea has been shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that support liver health. A recent study showed that oolong tea could prevent chronic alcohol exposure-induced fatty liver disease by modulating gut microbiota.7
Leafy Green Vegetables. A large population-based study found that eating plenty of leafy green vegetables had a positive impact on liver disease, particularly for women and non-obese participants.8
Some of the tastiest leafy greens include spinach, kale, collard greens, and arugula.
Broccoli. This cruciferous vegetable packs a liver-protective punch. Regularly adding broccoli to your meals can decrease inflammation, improve lipid parameters and insulin sensitivity, and alter the gut microbiome.9
Berries. Loaded with antioxidants, berries can play a big role in liver health. One study showed that blueberries can protect liver cells from oxidative stress.10 Another trial reported that cranberries have positive effects on the liver as well.11
EVOO. Extra-virgin olive oil is has numerous liver-health benefits. EVOO can influence different signaling pathways in the specialized liver cells that prevent inflammation and oxidative stress. A 2018 report showed that this wonder oil not only prevents but may even resolve liver damage.12
Avoid Environmental Toxins
Another smart way to improve your liver health is to limit your exposure to toxins. That means opting for organic foods whenever possible. Conventionally grown produce is laced with harmful agricultural chemicals and pesticides that can put a burden on the liver’s detoxification capabilities. So it’s no surprise that several studies have linked pesticide exposure to the development of liver disease.13
Get More Quality Sleep
Catching a solid seven to nine hours of quality sleep every night is key to a healthy liver. People with unhealthy sleep behaviors, including late bedtime, snoring, and daytime napping are at a significantly increased risk of developing liver disease, according to new research published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.14 And although having a drink or two may help you relax, consuming it before bed will actually have the opposite effect, disrupting the quality of your sleep.
Add a Liver Health Supplement
Paired with the above health tips, adding a high-quality supplement like Kyolic Liver Support to your daily routine can help maintain a healthy liver. These vegan capsules provide an array of liver-boosting herbs and nutrients like Aged Garlic Extract, milk thistle, and glutathione which have been shown to confer antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antifibrotic benefits to the liver.15
Regardless of whether you choose to drink or not after a Dry January, you can take proactive steps to protect your liver. Eating healthy, clean foods, getting quality sleep, and adding a liver-supporting supplement can keep your liver health on point all year long.
- Kanny D. Trends in total binge drinks per adult who reported binge drinking — United States, 2011–2017. MMWR Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2020;69:30–4.
- Hu Y. Human mobility data and machine learning reveal geographic differences in alcohol sales and alcohol outlet visits across U.S. states during COVID-19. PLOS ONE. 2021;16(12):e0255757.
- Zakhari S. Overview: how is alcohol metabolized by the body? Alcohol Research & Health: The Journal of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. 2006;29(4):245–54.
- Morgan TR. Treatment of alcoholic liver disease. Gastroenterology & Hepatology. 2017;13(7):425–7.
- Leggio L. Treatment of alcohol use disorder in patients with alcoholic liver disease. The American Journal of Medicine. 2017;130(2);12–34.
- Morisco F. Coffee and liver health. Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology. 2014;48(Suppl 1):S87–90.
- Li B. Effects of tea against alcoholic fatty liver disease by modulating gut microbiota in chronic alcohol-exposed mice. Foods. 2021;10(6):1232.
- Li H. Does a high intake of green leafy vegetables protect from NAFLD? Evidence from a large population study. Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Disease. 2021;31(6):1691–1701.
- Zandani G. Dietary broccoli improves markers associated with glucose and lipid metabolism through modulation of gut microbiota in mice. Nutrition. 2021;90:111240.
- Wang YP. Effect of blueberry on hepatic and immunological functions in mice. Hepatobiliary Pancreatic Disease International. 2010;9(2):164–8.
- Masnadi Shirazi K. Effect of cranberry supplementation on liver enzymes and cardiometabolic risk factors in patients with NAFLD: a randomized clinical trial. BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies. 2021;21:283.
- Soto-Alarcon SA. Liver protective effects of extra virgin olive oil: interaction between its chemical composition and the cell-signaling pathways involved in protection. Endocrine, Metabolic, and Immune Disorders Drug Targets. 2018;18(1):75–84.
- Saad-Hussein A. Early prediction of liver carcinogenicity due to occupational exposure to pesticides. Mutation Research/Genetic Toxicology and Environmental Mutagenesis. 2019;838:46–53.
- Yang J. Sleep factors in relation to metabolic dysfunction-associated fatty liver disease in middle-aged and elderly Chinese. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. 2022;107(10):2874–82.
- Federico A. Silymarin/silybin and chronic liver disease: a marriage of many years. Molecules. 2017;22(2):191.
This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.