I've decided to make this month Antioxidant August. Just for City Survivor blog purposes; It's not an official 'national awareness month' although they have those for everything now - in case you weren't aware, next month is Sourdough September!! Don't get me wrong, I'm a total bread snob, but.... you know. It's nice bread, not organ donation.
For this first week of the non-official antioxidant month, the focus is antioxidants for your liver. That’s important all the time of course, but since it’s summer I assume there’s a lot of festivals and drinking in the park/beer garden type activity going on, so you might need to give it some extra thought!
What antioxidants do
A brief reminder about antioxidants: they protect cells from free radical damage. Preventative antioxidants stop formation of free radicals, scavenging antioxidants neutralise active radicals that ping around causing damage, and some even recycle other antioxidants!
So, for protective cellular anti-ageing, inside and out, we should eat and supplement a wide variety of antioxidants. I’ve written more in-depth about what antioxidants are and how they work in the body in this post, so you can catch up if you missed it last time.
Our livers work very hard and their busy processes are capable of creating a lot of free radical action. Then we add alcohol to the mix: alcohol causes increased lipid peroxidation (which means free radical damage to lipids in your cell membranes. Or put simply cell damage). But here’s a little good news:
Antioxidants consumed before and with alcohol are able to inhibit free radical formation.
Some lovely antioxidants that help here are:
Cysteine (found as N-acetyl-cysteine in your Pollution Protection Daily Multi)
We should eat proper meals with lots of vegetables when drinking alcohol. I don’t think putting a splash of fruit juice in your drink will be adequate!! Luckily festivals have moved with the times and there are loads of meal options (not just burger vans).
But in addition, having an antioxidant and B vitamin supplement before and after drinking alcohol helps reduce unpleasant symptoms of overindulgence.
Here, as always, ingredient quality matters. If you take a cheap, high dose B vitamin complex that uses inactive vitamin forms, they have to be converted to an active form. That’s extra work for your liver and may account for the fact a lot are excreted in urine instead of being used by the body. I’ve written a brief synopsis about those B vitamins here if you want to know more.
I’ll write a little more about this because it’s not as famous as vitamin C etc. It’s thought to directly scavenge radicals but additionally works as a precursor to glutathione. Glutathione’s made in the body and it’s an essential and highly active antioxidant. The prime antioxidant for livers! Supplementing glutathione itself isn’t known to be very effective - and it’s really expensive. So we’re better off ensuring good levels of its precursors so it’s made abundantly in the body.
Natural Vitamin E
As I always say, ingredients matter. I only use natural form Vitamin E because it’s known to be better absorbed and more effective than the synthetic form. It’s so active as a fat-soluble antioxidant, it’s often deemed the most important one. But as you now know, we won’t take it in isolation because ALL the antioxidants are important together.
I don’t have any exciting festival plans this summer (except I went to Field Day which was pretty weird as its new location in north London is a giant gravel carpark with warehouses instead of a field) so let me know any fun stuff you’re up to - I can live vicariously and help you with supplement advice!!
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PS - hopefully it's clear - I'm not irresponsibly instructing you to booze it up. But people drink alcohol; best we take care when doing so. Even if you don't drink, you still need antioxidants for modern life's chemical onslaught.