FROM THE EXPERTS
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Hong Kong's tainted water scare

Hong Kong lead-in-water scare reminder of liver health's importance

We must learn to protect our liver and hence enhance its function since it's the first line of defence and a barrier to filter toxins in our body

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 July, 2015, 9:07pm
UPDATED : Monday, 27 July, 2015, 11:02am

Hong Kong people are running scared of lead poisoning following the discovery of excessive levels of the heavy metal in drinking water in three public housing estates.

The latest scare has become a political hot potato amid fears that even more homes, including some private residences, may have been affected.

Scores of people who drank the tainted water in Kai Ching Estate in Kowloon City, Kwai Luen Estate in Kwai Chung and Wing Cheong Estate in Sham Shui Po, have been sent to hospital for blood tests, fearing they may have suffered lead poisoning.

While children are particularly susceptible to the effects of lead poisoning, among other problems it can also worsen liver disease and chronic sufferers should be particularly vigilant. We must learn to protect our liver and hence enhance its function since it's the first line of defence and a barrier to filter toxins in our body.

Cleaning up the bloodstream by filtering damaging toxins is one of the main functions of the liver. Those who have liver disease have fewer active liver cells working on purifying the blood, so toxins stay in the liver and the bloodstream. This higher concentration of toxic poisons speeds up liver deterioration, so minimising exposure to toxins is vitally essential to maintain health.

According to Chinese imperial doctors the liver looks after our blood and when we are in a resting position the blood will return to the liver. Therefore, we need to rest well. Between 11pm and 3am is the best time for our liver to rest and repair damaged cells and help pass toxins.

In Chinese medicine, when the liver is not functioning well, symptoms will first show in our nails. They will appear rough and the colour will be dull with fine white lines on the surface. In some cases the nails will break easily. Other tell-tale signs include dry eyes, yellow shading on the face and prblems concentrating.

Natural remedies include green vegetables and fruits, especially dark green vegetables that are rich in vitamin A. Black fungus, mulberry and black sesame are good for the liver as well as the kidneys.

Recognised by the Institute of Chinese Medicine for the treatment of liver health issues, black fungus can be stir-fried with vegetables or used in fish soup. An added bonus is that black fungus improves circulation, lowers cholesterol and is also beneficial for the lungs and stomach.

Other lifestyle recommendations: don't work overnight, avoid cigarettes and alcohol, deep fried or oily food and don't eat raw food.

Green beans help to cut down excess heat in our organs and reduce toxins. They can be served either as a tasty soup or as a sweet dessert.

Warm lemon water, green tea and oolong tea also cut down toxins, while all types of mushrooms are known to provide a boost to the immune system.

Another factor to consider is that while a number of reputable studies have documented the relationship between lead exposure and hypertension, very few people recognise how this affects liver health.

The link is due to lead having a direct effect on the contraction of blood vessels. For those with liver problems, increases in vascular pressure have been shown to be worsened by exposure to lead.

So while lead has certainly contributed to the modern way of life, it poses a realistic threat, particularly to the most vulnerable in society.

We should all remain on our guard. Whether occupational or environmental risks threaten your health, you should educate yourself on effective ways to reduce lead exposure and avoid the dangers of its toxicity.

Raymond Lam is a Hong Kong-based registered Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner