It’s January. The holidays are over, and the cold seems impenetrable.
If there was ever a time to lock yourself indoors and drink for roughly the next three months, it’s now. And yet, tens of thousands of people have chosen to do the exact opposite — turning January into Dryuary, a self-imposed month of no booze.
If you’re participating, good for you! If you’re not, cheers all the same!
You can, however, split the difference. Which is to say, you can still give a little love to your liver without skipping the sauce for 31 days.
Now, obviously, there’s a lot of BS out there about how juices, pills and powders can drive toxins from your body and make your colon squeaky clean. But what none of these products mention is what exactly you should be trying to purge from your system. (Mainly because they can’t purge much of anything.) Nor do they give credit where credit’s due: Your kidneys and liver are designed to draw out impurities — like drugs, alcohol or exhaust fumes — from your bloodstream and pack them into waste you can pee or poop away. And so, for the most part, your body takes care of itself just fine.
That said, since your liver is responsible for about 500 functions, it could use a helping hand from time to time (especially if you’re a drinker). And given that its two pathways — not-so-cleverly labeled Phase One and Phase Two — keep you from poisoning yourself on a regular basis, it’s really the least you can do.
With that in mind, here are a four Dryuary-ish elixirs for people with zero intention of staying sober this January.
Dandelion Root Tea
What Is It?: Often used as an alternative to coffee for people trying to break their caffeine habit — it tastes more like weak black tea, though — the roots of dandelions have been used as a medicine to treat bile disorders since the 11th century.
The Good Stuff: “Dandelion root is high in potassium, a necessary electrolyte and a general detox mineral that puts a little extra pep in your liver’s step,” says Ann Louise Gittleman, the “First Lady of Nutrition,” a certified nutrition specialist by the American College of Nutrition and the author of more than 30 books on diets and nutrition (e.g., The Fat Flush Plan and Your Body Knows Best).
Recommended Daily Intake: One to three cups a day for at least three days, Gittleman says.
Where You’ll Find It: In stores or online for around four bucks.
Word of Warning: Dandelion tea could lower your blood sugar if you’re diabetic.
Stupid Simple Advice: To stick with your morning routine of drinking something hot and dark upon rising, make a mug of dandelion tea and save your coffee for later. You’ll be helping out your liver and increasing your caffeine buzz by delaying that latte by a couple of hours.
What Is It?: You got this one, right?
The Good Stuff: “Coffee is high in antioxidants, a major boost for neutralizing toxins and creating less work for you liver,” Gittleman explains.
Where You’ll Find It: Um, everywhere.
Recommended Daily Intake: One to three cups is recommended but definitely stop when you get heart palpitations.
Word of Warning: Beware of drinking coffee with a hangover, Gittleman says: That morning cup of Joe is a powerful diuretic, and the last thing you need to be after a night of drinking is more dehydrated.
Stupid Simple Advice: Change nothing. An expert just told you coffee is good for you — you’re welcome.
What Is It?: A water-soluble nutrient similar to B vitamins, choline was declared an essential nutrient by the Institute of Medicine in 1998. It’s key to healthy fetal development, a well-functioning nervous system and preventing fat from developing in your liver.
The Good Stuff: That last benefit — preventing fat from developing in your liver — is essential as fatty liver disease is nothing to mess around with. Excess fat in the liver can build up for many reasons (high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes), but alcohol abuse is the leading cause of a very dangerous form of fatty liver disease called alcoholic steatohepatitis that can lead to liver disease and liver failure.
Recommended Daily Intake: 425 milligrams daily for women and 550 milligrams daily for men.
Where You’ll Find It: Good sources of choline include eggs, cauliflower, mushrooms, dark leafy greens like chard or kale, shellfish, Brussels sprouts, and you guessed it, liver. You can also increase your intake with choline supplements, which run anywhere from $7 to $30 a bottle.
Word of Warning: You’re probably among the 90 percent of Americans who aren’t getting enough choline.
Stupid Simple Advice: If you already take a morning vitamin or medication, adding another pill to the pile won’t take a second thought.
What Is It?: A spice made from the seed pods of various plants in the ginger family, cardamon is featured prominently in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine and has a cumin-y, almost curry-like smell and flavor.
The Good Stuff: “Cardamom is very supportive of the liver’s Phase Two pathway,” Gittleman says. This is when a protein or molecule is added to the offending chemical, turning it into the aforementioned pee and poop. (For its part, Phase One renders a toxin less harmful by converting it into something benign — e.g., water.) Beyond the liver, there’s even evidence of cardamom inhibiting certain forms of cancer.
Recommended Daily Intake: A daily dosage is unnecessary; instead, think about ingesting it once or twice a week.
Where You’ll Find It: Every grocery store (and Indian restaurant).
Word of Warning: “Excessive consumption” of cardamom can lead to gallstones, because your body doesn’t absorb this spice all the way, allowing sedimentation of seeds to accumulate.
Stupid Simple Advice: Add a pinch to your dandelion tea in the morning as a “lovely little adjunct,” as Gittleman calls it, providing your liver with a chaser that’s good for it for once.