Everything you eat or drink, including medicine, passes through your liver so taking care of it is essential. Learn how to take care of your liver here.
Liver disease is growing rapidly in the U.S. Between 1999 and 2016, deaths from liver disease increased by 65 percent and the rate of liver cancer doubled. This increase isn't just in older people—the greatest increase was in young people from 25-34.
Everything you eat or drink, along with medicine, passes through your liver so taking care of it is essential. Learn how to take care of your liver here.
Why Your Liver is Important
Your liver's main job is filtering the blood from your digestive system before it goes to your body. It also detoxifies any chemicals and metabolizes drugs.
The liver also secretes bile that goes to the intestines. This organ also produces proteins that are vital for blood clotting along with other functions.
The liver is on the right side and is a large organ. It typically weighs about 3 pounds. It has two sections that border the pancreas, intestines, and gallbladder, and these organs team up to process, absorb, and digest food.
There are various types of liver disease including:
- Cirrhosis: Causes permanent scarring that prevents the liver from functioning
- Hepatitis: Creates inflammation of the liver from viruses, obesity, drugs, allergic reactions, and drinking
- Liver cancer: Occurs when cirrhosis is present
- Liver failure: Comes from a genetic disease, excessive alcohol, and infection
- Hemochromatosis: Allows iron to build-up in liver and deposit throughout the body
These are just a few of the more common liver diseases. Hepatitis has three different forms including A, B, and C. There are ways to help prevent these diseases.
Watch Your Diet
Try to avoid saturated fat, high-calorie meals, sugars, and refined carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta, and white rice. To have a well-rounded diet, make sure you eat plenty of fiber that you can get from whole-grain bread, brown rice, fresh fruit, and vegetables.
You also need to include dairy, good fats like seeds, nuts, and fish, and also meat. Limit the amount of red meat you eat. It's also important to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water.
Watch Your Weight
Being overweight or even slightly overweight can put you at a higher risk for a fatty liver. This can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). This disease continues to grow at an alarming rate.
Weight loss can also minimize liver fat. If you are looking for a non-surgical way to lose weight, read more here.
Limit Your Alcohol
Drinking excessively can lead to swelling and scarring to your liver cells. This can lead to cirrhosis, a disease that can be fatal.
Limit your alcohol. Moderate drinking for adults is defined as one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men.
Exercising helps your body burn triglycerides for fuel, which can reduce liver fat. The various types of exercise you can try include jogging, walking, lifting weights, hiking, or even dancing. Aim to get your heart rate up for 30 minutes a day 4-5 days a week.
Be Careful With Some Medications
There are some drugs that have side effects that can create liver problems. These medications include painkillers like acetaminophen (Tylenol) and cholesterol drugs. Too much of these medications can hurt your liver.
Acetaminophen is in more medications than you may think. It's also in prescription pain medications and cold medications.
Read the labels on all your medications. There are some medications that can damage your liver if taken with alcohol. Others can cause issues when combined with other medications.
Be sure you talk to your pharmacist and doctor about the best ways to take these medications and be safe. You should also advise your doctor about all the supplements, over-the-counter medicines, or other herbal treatments you're taking. Even these can cause issues if mixed with the wrong medication.
Toxins can damage liver cells. This is why you should limit all your contact with insecticides, chemicals, additives, aerosol, and cleaning products. When you use cleaning or aerosol products, ventilate the room and also put on a mask.
Smoking also releases toxins that can damage your liver. Don't smoke or try to quit as soon as possible.
Watch Supplements and Herbs
Some of these "natural" products can also damage your liver. A few that have caused issues with the liver include kava, chaparral, cascara, and ephedra.
There are some supplements and herbs that advertise that they can restore your liver including chanca piedra, milk thistle, and borotutu bark. There is no evidence that these work, so be careful.
Tips for Preventing Liver Issues
Besides avoiding alcohol, refined carbs, and other toxins, there are a few things you can do to help prevent liver issues. Try these in conjunction with an otherwise healthy lifestyle.
Research studies have shown that coffee can lower the risks of developing liver disease. No one knows the specifics as to why, but enjoy some coffee and keep an eye on research studies.
There are some vaccines to help protect you against hepatitis A and hepatitis B. Unfortunately, there is not a vaccine for hepatitis C virus.
Get Tested for Viral Hepatitis
It's important to get a blood test for viral hepatitis because there are no real symptoms. This means you could have it for a long time, even years, and not know it. If you think you have been exposed to the virus, talk to the doctor to get a blood test.
The baby boomer generation has a high rate of hepatitis C. If you were born between the years 1945 and 1965, you should talk to your doctor if you have not been tested.
Hepatitis is a serious disease that damages your liver. You can get hepatitis A from drinking or eating something that has the virus. If you are travelling to another country, you should get the vaccine to prevent an outbreak.
Hepatitis B and C can be spread through body fluids and blood. This is why you should never share razors, needles, or even toothbrushes. You should also limit your sex partners and always use a latex condom.
How To Care For Your Liver: Final Thoughts
Now you know how to care for your liver—follow a healthy lifestyle, keep a watchful eye on medications, and limit your alcohol. Check out our blog for other health advice like diet, weight loss, and exercise. Your liver will thank you for living a healthier lifestyle.