Be Kind To Your Liver: Tips For Maintaining A Healthy Liver
- 6 Mins Read
- Health Conditions
- Written by: Team Good Health By Yourself
- The liver is one of the most vital organs in the human body.
- Digestion, metabolism of nutrients, immunity, and excretion of waste products are some of the responsibilities it carries out.
- A poor lifestyle can lead to significant damage to your liver, and this damage progresses in three stages, the last of which is very serious.
- More water, less alcohol; more whole foods and less junk food; more sleep and less stimulants are some of the ways in which you can help the liver.
- Regular check-ups can help you detect the beginning of liver trouble long before the symptoms show up.
- A family history of liver diseases most likely puts you at risk, which is why a medical consultation and screening is essential.
If you had a best friend taking care of your every need, wouldn’t you pray that your friend always remained in good health and ready to be by your side?
You do have that friend — not by your side, but within you. The friend is your liver, and you can master how to maintain a healthy liver by developing healthy living habits and constantly utilizing tips for a healthy liver until they become second nature.
The liver usually doesn’t get as much attention as the heart or the lungs or even the kidneys, but it performs around 500 functions in the body, primarily controlling the body’s filtration system.
It also has one of the most important roles to play in homeostasis, the changes taking place inside the body in response to external stimuli.
If you can maintain a healthy liver, alongside keeping your weight under control, you have a much higher chance of staying fit and disease-free compared to those who don’t prioritize liver health.
Major liver functions
The liver helps convert the nutrients you eat into energy. It also stores carbohydrates and maintains blood sugar levels. The ingested carbs are broken down and stored in the liver. In case your blood sugar level is low, the liver releases this sugar in the blood. If your sugar levels are high, then it does the exact opposite.
The liver also converts amino acids into energy and uses them for the production of other nutrients like carbs and fats. Moreover, the liver utilizes micronutrients like Vitamin K for the production of proteins that are essential for the blood-clotting process.
The liver houses a large number of immune cells. This means that the liver can activate the immune system via these cells very quickly. At the same time, the liver has various mechanisms in place that prevent the unwanted activation of your immune system.
The liver helps in the conversion of amino acids to energy. During this conversion, a byproduct called ammonia is produced. Ammonia is highly toxic and can damage the body if allowed to accumulate. The liver detoxifies this ammonia into a safer compound called urea, which is excreted from the body by the kidneys. In addition, the liver filters and removes toxins from your body.
With the liver being involved in so many different bodily functions, any harm to it will disrupt your well-being. It’s time to start being kind to your liver.
How to maintain good liver health
Keep that water bottle handy!
When thinking of staying healthy, most people think about liver food choices — consuming adequate amounts of good carbohydrates, proteins, unsaturated fats, and micronutrients — and timely meals. But they may not stop to think if they’re drinking enough water. Drinking the correct volume of water daily is necessary to maintain liver health.
As mentioned before, your liver plays a pivotal role in filtering out toxins and converting harmful substances into safe waste products. Being in constant contact with these toxins and metabolites can take a toll on your liver. Drinking the recommended 2 liters of water a day enables the liver to flush out these toxins more easily; the hydration encourages the secretion of bile, which is key to liver functions.
Put that wine glass aside
Pouring yourself a glass of wine or mixing yourself some rum or whisky once in a while won’t harm your liver. But constantly dumping alcohol into your system will damage your liver, and perhaps damage it permanently. Therefore, say “no” to alcohol more often than you say “yes”, for good liver health.
Processing the alcohol in your drinks causes some damage to the liver tissue. Since this unique organ can regenerate its tissues, it can recover from the temporary damage caused by occasional drinking or minimal daily drinking, especially if the liver is helped along by the intake of water in between alcoholic drinks. Excessive and regular alcohol drinking, however, may lead to liver cirrhosis.
Liver cirrhosis doesn’t occur overnight. It progresses in stages and can be divided into 3 stages.
Stages of liver damage
- Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
Heavy consumption of alcohol, even for a few days consecutively, can cause a build-up of excess fat. This can lead to Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (AFLD) and is Stage 1 of alcohol-related liver disease. This stage usually doesn’t show signs and is reversible if you stop drinking alcohol for about 2 weeks.
As mentioned above, Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease is usually asymptomatic. However, if left unchecked, AFLD progresses to alcoholic hepatitis, which is Stage 2. Alcoholic hepatitis means inflammation of the liver, and prolonged alcohol consumption will make this condition worse.
- Liver cirrhosis
The last and final stage of liver damage is liver cirrhosis. In Stage 3, your liver gets permanently scarred and starts failing to function, which eventually leads to death. Progression to this stage is commonly seen in alcohol addicts.
Indeed, alcohol, consumed in any way or form, is injurious to your overall health. Apart from liver damage, it affects your kidneys, too. Drinking regularly can lead to chronic kidney disease, along with liver damage.
Try limiting your intake of alcohol. Experts recommend drinking no more than 2 drinks a day or 10 drinks a week. What really matters is the alcohol content of your drink, e.g. “80 proof” on the label means 40% alcohol in the drink. The higher the content, the less you should drink.
Destress to avoid liver distress
With increasing workload, lifestyle demands, and financial obligations or income loss, everyone is facing some sort of stress in their life. Did you know that stress causes more than headaches and sleepless nights? Research has shown that psychological stress can lead to liver injury and damage.
Stress triggers a reaction inside the body that leads to the release of certain chemicals, and that in turn leads to liver inflammation. Continued stress will prevent the liver from recovering, and a stressed liver will disrupt vital physical functions. Therefore, treat destressing like daily medication; you need activities to relax and feel happy as much as — or more than — you need prescription pills.
Furthermore, research has shown that even a single episode of stress worsens symptoms in patients with hepatitis. So, manage stress through therapy or any other means that you enjoy.
Keep up with your check-ups
Signs of liver damage might not manifest themselves until it’s too late. Initial stages of liver damage like fatty liver disease produce no signs; symptoms may only show up when the disease has progressed to hepatitis or cirrhosis. By that time recovery to optimum function is difficult or impossible.
It’s best to get regular liver check-ups done, especially if you’ve got vices like binge drinking and heavy smoking.
Get vaccines, get information
Here are a few more practices that will help you maintain liver health.
- Get vaccinated
Vaccines for diseases like Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B are available. Immunize yourself against them to prevent any future infections and complications.
- Know about your family history
Did you know that family history puts you at risk of liver disease? Hemochromatosis is a genetic disorder that causes an excessive build-up of iron in the body. If left undetected and untreated, hemochromatosis can cause liver cirrhosis and hepatic cancer
- Get screened
If you’re at risk of liver disease (through drinking, smoking, and unprotected sex), then ask about the various screenings that can be done. Your doctor might suggest a liver function test.
Pick power foods, and sleep enough
Keeping the liver in good health is easy. Just acquire good habits, give up the bad habits, and relax. You can help your liver even more by choosing some nutrient-packed power foods and getting the amount of sleep that makes you feel energetic all day.
Power foods for the liver
- Carrots: Carrots contain carotenoids, which are strong antioxidants. These carotenoids present in the bright orange vegetable help lower liver oxidative stress.
- Figs: Figs are small, sweet, and bite-sized treats that double as great hepatoprotective agents. Research has shown that figs contain fumaric acid and fucin, which help in combating fatty liver.
- Whole grains: Whole grains such as oats and barley protect your liver from oxidative stress and fatty liver disease, respectively. Whole grains like wheat and brown rice helps improve lipid metabolism and anti-inflammatory activity, respectively
Sleep the hours you need
Once you eat the right foods and give up or minimize alcohol consumption, you’ll automatically start losing some flab. This will be helped further if you exercise for 30 minutes regularly. But none of that will matter if you don’t sleep enough.
The hours of sleep are when the body repairs itself; every one of your organs, including the liver, needs you to sleep enough. While the general rule is 8 hours every night, what’s enough for you depends on the amount of sleep you need to feel active and energetic throughout the day without artificial stimulants.
The liver is one of the most vital organs in the human body. Being involved in digestion, metabolism of nutrients, immunity, and excretion of waste products, the liver is constantly under significant stress. If you burden it with a poor lifestyle, then you’re paving the way for a world of pain. Liver cirrhosis, hepatic cancer, and liver failure are at the end of this road.
It’s time to lighten the load on your liver. Ditch those junk food take-outs and cold beers. Instead, try and have some scrumptious veggies, fruits, and whole grains. Having a well-balanced diet and keeping yourself hydrated goes a long way in preserving hepatic health.
Check-ups, destressing activities, exercise, and sleep round off the list of things you should do to maintain liver health. Try and adopt these tips in your daily life for preserving your health.
- How does the liver work? Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279393/
- Heymann F et al. Immunology in the liver—from homeostasis to disease. Nature reviews Gastroenterology & hepatology. 2016 Feb;13(2):88-110.
- Billman GE. Homeostasis: the underappreciated and far too often ignored central organizing principle of physiology. Frontiers in Physiology. 2020:200.
- Guan YS et al. Plants consumption and liver health. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2015 Jan 1;2015.
- Alcohol-related liver disease. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/alcohol-related-liver-disease-arld/
- Alcohol FAQs. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/faqs.htm
- How much alcohol is safe to drink? https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/alcohol/about-alcohol/how-much-alcohol-is-safe-to-drink#:~:text=To%20reduce%20the%20risk%20of,drinks%20on%20any%20one%20day.
- Joung JY et al. A literature review for the mechanisms of stress‐induced liver injury. Brain and Behavior. 2019 Mar;9(3):e01235.
- Hereditary Hemochromatosis. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/genomics/disease/hemochromatosis.htm