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The key to surviving the holiday party season, from me, your liver

Katherine Ellen Foley
A cartoon liver frowning and saying "I hope you have fun while some of us have to work overtime!"

Hey. Psst. It’s me. No, not your phone. Down here, tucked in the lower half of your right ribcage. Your liver!

First, I want to thank you from the bottom of my portal vein for all the effort you put into taking care of yourself this year. I appreciate that you’re usually on top of your fruits and veggies while going easy on the fried foods and red meats, and you don’t smoke. Huge weight off the hepatic artery on that last one, can’t thank you enough. And I am l o v i n g what you’ve been doing with your workout routine! Mixing in some strength training with cardio, not too much running, adding in some yoga—truly, you’re the ideal host for a little three-pound slug-shaped organ like me.

But we have got to talk about this holiday season.

Listen, I get it: It’s been a long year. Thanks to your chatty red blood cells, word circulates fast from the eyes, ears, and heart that you’ve had a lot going on. Work, family, friends—especially now, in the final stretch of the year, when your brain is pulling you in all kinds of directions with last-minute project demands on top of end-of-year travel. You need a break!

But please, for the love of all the platelets and plasma I produce, do not take this out on me by over-indulging in booze. I do my best to keep that alcohol out of your blood stream. I know you kinda like that warm, fuzzy, and dare I say, flirty feeling. But honestly, it’s really overwhelming work for me. I can’t always keep up with you, and then I get blamed when you’re tired with a headache and diarrhea the next day. Do you have any idea how crappy it is for me??

Yes, technically, I’m always here for you to break down that ethanol before it hits the blood stream, whether it’s wine, beer, or even a holiday margarita. That’s what I’ve got alcohol dehydrogenase for, after all. But it’s not a pretty process: It ends up making acetaldehyde. There’s no good way to put this, but that stuff messes with cellular DNA.

I mean, sure, I’ve got your back: I’ve got some aldehyde dehydrogenase in my back pocket for that nasty little byproduct, and, like the skin, I can regenerate any cells that get a little too sloppy. But I can only take so much, dude. All that work can get real tough on me: I’m talking fatty liver, cirrhosis, cancer—eventually, they’ll get in the way of me doing my job, which is keeping you up and running.

When, exactly? I don’t know! Last time I checked, even scientists aren’t sure. But let’s not find out!

I’ve got a lot going on. I’m keeping some 500+ odd jobs going at once. I sort out the waste from the blood in your gut, break down medications, help you digest food with enzymes, and I do a lot of specialized work, too! Need I remind you that I’m the only one here who can make albumin? Oh, you’ve never heard of it? It’s that protein that keeps all the fluid in your blood vessels. Yeah, bet you just thought it just stayed in there on its own. Oh-ho, no that is all me.

We are ride or l i t e r a l l y die, my dude. And sure, you’d die without a lot of your other organ buddies, but that heart up there is a glorified pump. They have machines that can do its job these days! Meanwhile I, like Beyoncé, am irreplaceable. (Except through transplants. But I don’t want it to get to that point!)

I don’t ask for much, but I’m begging you: Please please please do not go too hard. If you must drink, keep it to one or two, maybe three, spread out over a couple hours with lots of food and water in between. It means so much to me, really. Oh, and also—if you’re worried about a headache later, please don’t take Tylenol. Can’t handle that on top of booze, nosiree. Advil or some other ibuprofen instead.

I’m not trying to yuck on your yums, and I realize my opinion is only one of many you’re trying to balance this year. Remember, holding onto 13% of your blood at any given time means I hear everything that’s going on. Are you still trying to swap spit with that crush of yours on New Year’s Eve? (Your weirdest custom by far, but who am I to judge? I don’t even have lips!)

So if you really have to indulge at all those holiday parties this year, maybe consider taking a break in January? True, I don’t need a full month to recover from your debauchery—remember, I’ve got regenerative superpowers—but I’d love it if you could just try to break some of your drinking habits, and remind yourself that you can have fun without it!

Love,

Your liver

Top image used with permission from Nick Seluk, the creator of The Awkward Yeti comic.

 

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