Your liver is one of the most important organs in your body, with hundreds of jobs to do. It breaks down fats, removes toxins and other harmful chemicals from your blood, and helps fight infections. Your liver can repair damage to itself and even regrow, but there is a point at which it becomes beyond repair.
Unfortunately, you can have liver disease without knowing it because there are usually no symptoms until the late stages. So it’s important to take steps to keep your liver healthy.
Causes of Liver Disease
Three of the major causes of liver disease are obesity, excessive alcohol consumption, and viral hepatitis. In many cases, you can prevent liver disease by adopting a healthier lifestyle and avoiding these causes.
Here are seven ways to look after your liver and help avoid the onset of disease.
1. Manage Your Weight
Even those somewhat overweight are in danger of having a fatty liver that can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Losing weight can play a vital role in helping to reduce liver fat.
Obesity can cause liver disease, as well as other health problems such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, arthritis and some cancers. A study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) in 2010, showed that 65% of obese people with BMIs over 30 had non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and that figure rose to 85% in those with a BMI over 40.
If you are concerned about your weight and have any health problems, talk to your doctor about the best strategies for you to lose weight safely before you adopt a new diet or exercise routine.
Reducing the calories, avoiding sugar, increasing fruit and vegetable intake, and replacing processed foods with a wide variety of more natural, basic foods will all help you look after your liver, improve your general health, and lose weight. Adopting healthy diet and exercise also helps your liver manage cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood.
2. Limit Alcohol
Your liver treats alcohol like any other toxic chemical. Too much alcohol can overwhelm your liver’s capacity to break it down, and this can damage the cells and lead to fatty liver, fibrosis, and the deadly disease, cirrhosis. Abusing alcohol by drinking excessively can also cause alcohol-related injuries and accidents, and worsen other diseases, such as heart disease and forms of dementia.
Recommendations for alcohol consumption vary from one country to another, and the size of a “unit” of alcohol also varies. In the US, for example, the most recent Health.org recommendations are to drink no more than two drinks a day for men and one for women, with a “drink” being equivalent to 5 fl oz wine (12% alcohol), 12 fl oz beer (5% alcohol), or 1.5 fl oz of spirits (40% alcohol, 80 proof). In the UK the latest recommendations are no more than 14 standard drinks per week for both women and men and to have several alcohol-free days each week.
The benefits of a longer break were demonstrated in a 2015 study partly funded by London’s Royal Free Hospital, which asked over 100 people who regularly drank more than the recommended levels to stop drinking for a month. The study found their blood sugar and cholesterol levels improved and fat in their liver dropped by 15 percent on average. Liver stiffness improved, their insulin resistance dropped by 28 percent, and they lost weight.
Overindulging in alcohol can damage or destroy liver cells and scar your liver. Talk to your doctor about what the right amount of alcohol is for you.
3. Increase Exercise
Exercise is good for your liver and for your body in general, and you don’t have to go to a gym and wear special clothes to do it (although you can if you want to). Another way is to simply make exercise a regular part of your life, by walking, cycling, gardening, dancing, swimming or playing sports.
Simple changes you can make include taking the stairs instead of elevators or escalators, parking as far away from shopping mall doors as possible, taking a bus and getting off a couple of stops early and walking the rest of the way, or going for a walk after dinner instead of sitting watching TV.
4. Watch Your Medications
Some medications cause problems, especially if you take too much. Over-the-counter medicines that can damage the liver if they are used excessively or for long periods include acetaminophen (in Tylenol and an ingredient in some prescription painkillers and cold and flu tablets), aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. Even large doses of vitamins can cause damage. Many prescription medicines can also harm the liver, including all the statins, niacin, valproic acid, halothane, isoniazid, phenytoin, and azathioprine among others. The website livertox.nih.gov lists all the medications that have been associated with liver damage.
It may not be possible to avoid medications if you have health issues, but you can help yourself by only taking the medications you really need and avoid combining drugs and drinking alcohol, as this can increase damage to your organ.
5. Avoid Hepatitis
Hepatitis A, B, and C are all serious diseases that can damage the liver. The Hepatitis A virus can be caught from drinking dirty or infected water, while hepatitis B and C are transmitted via bodily fluids. There are vaccines for type A and B, but no vaccine exists yet for Hepatitis C.
To avoid these diseases and help your liver, make sure your drinking water and food are clean, avoid sharing needles, toothbrushes and other personal items with others, and always practice safe sex.
Viral hepatitis can be present for many years without producing symptoms, so if you think you may have it ask your doctor if a blood test is advisable for you.
6. Use Non-Toxic Products and Organic Foods
Your liver is the main weapon of the body in the fight against toxins in the environment and in food, and you can help your liver by reducing the toxic load.
Homes, schools, and workplaces can become toxic environments if non-natural cleaning products, insecticides, and other aerosol products are used. Toxins such as pesticide and herbicide residues can also enter our bodies via non-organic foods and foods that are not washed properly. There is growing evidence that glyphosate, which is widely used on food crops and thought to be safe around the home, can cause liver damage.
Use natural alternatives whenever possible to help your liver. Good non-toxic cleaning products include sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), and ordinary white vinegar. Wash fruits and vegetables carefully, and choose organics if you can.
7. Keep Chronic Conditions Managed
Conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol are major risk factors for fatty liver disease. Keeping them under reasonable control with diet can help limit and prevent liver damage.
Smoking has been linked to liver cancer and can also enhance the toxic effects that some medications have on the liver.
What is Fatty Liver?
Fatty liver disease is a common condition caused by the storage of extra fat in the liver. Most people have no symptoms, and it doesn’t cause serious problems for them. In some cases, though, it can lead to liver damage. The good news is you can often prevent or even reverse fatty liver disease with lifestyle changes.
What are the symptoms of liver failure?
Liver failure can take years to develop. The symptoms of liver failure often look like symptoms of other medical conditions, which can make it hard to diagnose in its early stages. Symptoms get worse as your failing liver continues to get weaker.
Chronic liver failure, or liver failure that occurs over many years, may cause:
- Loss of appetite
- Vomiting blood
- Blood in the stool
As liver failure advances, symptoms become more severe. In later stages, symptoms of liver failure may include:
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
- Extreme tiredness
- Disorientation (confusion and uncertainty)
- Fluid buildup in the abdomen and extremities (arms and legs)
Sometimes, the liver fails suddenly, which is known as acute liver failure. People with acute liver failure may have the following symptoms:
- Changes in mental status
- Musty or sweet breath odor
- Movement problems
- Loss of appetite
- General feeling of being unwell
7 Foods That Are Good for Your Liver
Here are the seven best foods to eat to keep your liver healthy:
- Coffee and Tea
- Fish and chicken
- Olives and olive oil
- Leafy vegetables
When to go to the emergency room?
Use the following guidelines to determine if you need to go to ER of Texas emergency room near you:
- BLEEDING: My stools are black and tarry. I’m vomiting blood.
- CONFUSION: My head is cloudy. I’m so confused and sleepy I can’t do anything.
- FEVER: I have a fever and I can’t stop shaking.
- JAUNDICE: My eyes are suddenly turning yellow.