Good Liver Health Tips: Take Care Of Your Small ‘Superhero’

  • 8 Mins Read
  • Health Conditions
  • Written by: Reshma Pathare
  • Reviewed by: Blessing Maduelosi, Pharmacist
a healthy liver
  • Liver health is important to keep essential body processes such as digestive and metabolic ones, running smoothly.
  • The liver conducts essential functions like flushing out toxins, regulating blood sugar levels, and helping blood clot properly.
  • Telltale signs of an unhealthy liver include yellowing of nails and eye whites, unexplained itching and rashes, swollen ankles/feet, and abdominal twinges of pain.
  • Habits and things that can cause liver-related problems include consuming foods with excessive salts, excessive sugar, trans-fats; being chronically stressed; being obese; smoking cigarettes; practicing unsafe sex; and consuming contaminated food/water.
  • Taking vaccines on schedule is essential for preventing liver problems arising out of hepatitis viruses.
  • A healthy liver can boost overall immunity, regulate metabolic processes, give good skin and hair, reduce aches and pains, and lessen digestive issues.

Learning about how to maintain a healthy liver through good liver health tips, and then incorporating healthy liver habits (e.g. eating clean, fresh food and drinking enough water) into your daily routine are two of the best things you can do for your overall health and longevity.

At the same time, you need to eliminate habits that damage the liver (e.g. smoking and eating too much junk food) from your everyday activities.

Other ways to take care of your liver include proper hand-washing after using the toilet or before preparing food and doing some exercise regularly. Also, perhaps you haven’t thought of this, but practicing unsafe sex is one of the worst liver-damaging habits you can have because that can lead to hepatitis infections.

Just as the liver performs a broad range of functions, there is a range of things that affect the liver, and it’s essential to know what they are.

Liver health tips

Rightly named the ‘small superhero’ of the human body, the liver works 24/7 to keep our body processes running smoothly. Of its 500-odd functions, the most important ones are related to digestion and metabolism.

When your liver is doing well, your body utilizes food and excretes waste efficiently, and your metabolism remains quick and steady. When your liver starts getting damaged and can’t repair itself enough, the digestion system falters and the metabolism becomes sluggish.

The top two aspects of liver health tips are: pick the right foods and shun the wrong ones to prevent fatty liver disease, liver cirrhosis, and liver cancer; and ensure that you avoid situations that could give your viral hepatitis.

A clean and active lifestyle forms the cornerstone of a ‘how to maintain liver health’ strategy.

Some of the top liver functions are as follows:

  • Ensuring proper metabolism of the fats, proteins, and carbohydrates we consume
  • Producing bile to excrete the waste products efficiently
  • Clearing the bloodstream of toxins
  • Regulating the balance of blood sugar
  • Processing hemoglobin to help use the stored iron in a judicious way
  • Producing certain proteins for blood plasma
  • Ensuring the proper working of the blood-clotting mechanism

As we see, this organ keeps us going, literally. Even the brain and the heart depend on the liver. As the liver filters the blood and cleanses it of toxins, any deficiency in its functioning could send those toxins to the brain via the bloodstream, causing a disease named hepatic encephalopathy.

And as the liver also regularly removes cholesterol, preventing its build-up in the body, any failure to do so would clog the arteries that supply blood to the heart, causing coronary heart disease.

With so much at stake, there’s no time like now to start learning about the liver and figure out how to make your liver healthy. This is a resilient and unique organ, whose cells regenerate constantly, and you can help it along by putting good liver health tips to work.

What can go wrong with the liver?

For such a hard-working organ, so alert to the body’s needs, the liver is surprisingly slow to manifest the symptoms of its problems. Therefore, many people may fail to notice warning signs of the liver getting stressed or scarred until the disease reaches a serious level.

But keep in mind that the following signs could indicate liver trouble:

  • Unusual swelling in the ankles or feet
  • Whites of your eyes/nails getting a yellowish tinge
  • Frequent feeling of nausea
  • Twinges of pain in the abdomen
  • Unexplained itching or rashes

These signs call for a liver health check-up done by the doctor. If such symptoms of weakened liver health are left undiagnosed, they may first lead to swelling of the liver, followed by liver scarring (known as a fibrosis).

Causes of liver health problems

While early detection can arrest liver problems with minimal intervention and easy-to-make lifestyle changes, factors like genetics, visceral adiposity, and chronic stress can cause more serious, long-lasting, and potentially fatal diseases.

Stress on the liver can lead to inflammation, which in turn can lead to inflammation-induced ailments ranging from cirrhosis to liver cancer, or autoimmune liver diseases such as chronic hepatitis, primary biliary cholangitis, and primary sclerosing cholangitis.

The most life-threatening consequence that can creep up in just a few days or weeks is acute liver failure.

Liver-damaging habits and diet

If you’re wondering how to keep your liver healthy so that it doesn’t fall prey to the above-mentioned problems, it’s best to stay away from habits that damage the liver and the kind of food and drink that can damage the liver.

Let’s take a look at some key habits and dietary elements that damage the liver:

  • Salt-laden diet: Consuming more than 2300 mg of salt per day can lead to several problems for the liver. Salt intake, be it directly, or through processed/preserved foods, if left unregulated, can lead to excessive blood pressure that can induce chronic liver disease.It also has several negative repercussions at the cellular level, resulting in low cell division, a high rate of cell death, and the production of irregularly-shaped cells, all of which can lead to liver fibrosis.
  • Sugar-rich diet: Sugar is required by the body to produce energy, but is best consumed in natural forms, such as via vegetables, fruit, sugarcane juice, etc. When consumed in other forms, such as fructose, fructose-laden corn syrup, refined sugar, or artificial sweeteners like saccharine, it burdens the liver.The types of complex sugars that are found in flavored sodas, candies, pastries, etc. are converted to fats, which if left uncured, lead to Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) and other liver diseases.
  • Excess alcohol consumption: It’s best not to consume alcohol at all, but if you do, then show moderation. Alcohol converts into formaldehyde, a toxic systemic poison that can cause liver inflammation, leading to Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, Alcohol-Related Liver Disease (ARLD), or even liver cirrhosis.The more the amount alcohol consumed, the harder the liver has to work to lessen its toxicity, and the more the liver cells are damaged, without adequate time for regeneration.
  • Trans-fat laden diet: The hydrogenation process that converts the oil into solids leads to creating trans-fats. Thus, foods that are cooked in the hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated form (such as chips, packed baked goods, margarine, etc) are a storehouse of trans-fat.Similarly, foods cooked in oil that haven’t been changed for days on end also become heavy with trans-fats. Trans fats cause immense stress on the liver by burdening it with fat deposits, and also by increasing the levels of blood sugar. The fat on the liver leads to hardening and scarring of the organ, further causing NAFLD and cirrhosis.
  • Being overweight or obese: Obesity, especially visceral adiposity, can put immense stress on the liver, and lead to scarring (cirrhosis). Fat deposits on the liver also lead to NAFLD. Fatty liver caused by obesity is more common than fatty liver caused by alcohol consumption.
  • Smoking: Cigarette smoking has a three-fold negative effect on the liver. The cytotoxic substances in cigarettes cause oxidative stress on the liver, thus leading to scarring and fibrosis.Since the deposition of oxidative substances make it stressful for the liver to detoxify the bloodstream, smoking also becomes causative to liver cancer (especially, hepatocellular carcinoma) in the long run. Furthermore, smoking has negative immunological effects by releasing pro-inflammatory cytokines like IL-1, IL-6, IL-8, and TNF-α that cause cell injury in the liver.
  • Drinking too little water: Plain water is the best gift you can give your liver. It helps the liver flush out the toxins built up by the consumption of food, alcohol, etc. It helps the body excrete the waste material efficiently, thus reducing the burden on the liver, which needs to create bile to aid this process.Water helps to dissolve the fats and soluble fibers. It helps to keep your body weight in control, thus preventing problems like fatty liver disease. If you’re consuming less than 1.5-2 liters of water a day, it can lead to fatty liver and reduced liver function.
  • Unsafe sex: Unsafe sexual practices are causative of three types of hepatitis virus infections, namely Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C. Of these, the most commonly spread virus is Hepatitis B, which can get transmitted through contact with body fluids (like semen, saliva, blood, vaginal fluids) of an infected person).Hepatitis A spreads by having anal sex followed by oral sex. Hepatitis C is passed by contact with blood, semen, and rectal mucus. It’s primarily passed on via contact with infected blood. Hepatitis B and C can lead to inflammation of the liver, resulting in cirrhosis, liver disease, or hepatocellular carcinoma.
  • Lack of personal hygiene: Sharing of nail clippers, razors, scissors, or any such item of personal hygiene that can lead to transmission of infected blood or saliva, can lead to hepatitis infections. If left unnoticed and untreated, or if allowed to happen repeatedly, they can cause cirrhosis, liver disease, and probably, even liver cancer.Similar problems happen by sharing needles or getting infected by contact with surgical instruments that may contain infected blood.
  • Consuming contaminated food/water:  Consumption of water contaminated with sewage water or feces of an infected person; or consumption of food prepared using contaminated water or by the unwashed hands of an infected person can lead to Hepatitis A and Hepatitis E, both viral liver infections.
  • Chronic stress: Stress that remains at a very high level for a long period leads to over-stimulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the sympathetic nervous system. Certain chemicals are then released into the bloodstream, which leads to an inflammatory response in the liver.Chronic stress can trigger several problems ranging from NAFLD, liver cirrhosis, liver cancer, and autoimmune disorders like chronic hepatitis, primary biliary cholangitis, and primary sclerosing cholangitis.

How to keep your liver healthy

As seen above, several risk factors can make a person prone to different kinds of liver problems.

A lot of these problems are preventable and treatable. Here are some things that make your liver healthier:

  • Eat salt in moderation: The body needs around 2300mg of salt per day. To control your sodium intake, cut down on processed and preserved foods, and also replace white table salt with pink or black rock salt.
  • Avoid complex sugars: Consume sugar only in its simple, natural form, as found mainly in fruits. Avoid complex types of sugars such as fructose and artificial sweeteners found in pastries, sodas, etc.
  • Eat a nutritious diet: Have meals that are prepared fresh and are packed with vitamins, minerals, proteins, good carbs, and fiber. Avoid consuming products like doughnuts, French fries, frozen pizzas, packed pastries, microwaveable popcorn, etc.
  • Minimize alcohol: Cut your alcohol intake as much as you can, or at least dilute the alcohol with water and eat some healthy food, e.g. cucumber slices, along with it. Around 30 ml per day for women (of a drink like rum or whisky), and 60ml of alcohol per day for men should be the limit. That’s a rough measure, but the limit of consumption is determined by the percentage of alcohol in what you drink. The higher the percentage of alcohol in the drink —for example, “80 proof” on the bottle label means 40% alcohol in the drink — the less you should drink.
  • Have an active lifestyle: Be sure to take up some form of light exercise, like walking, cycling, and swimming, which helps reduce weight and cuts visceral flab.
  • Drink clean water: Consume around 1.5-2 liters of water a day. This should be plain water, without any additives. Also, use only clean filtered water or boiled water for drinking and cooking food.
  • Quit smoking: Giving up tobacco, especially cigarettes, brings you nothing but health benefits. Your lungs can fight ambient pollution better, your heart health improves, and you can prevent all the immunological, oncologic, and toxic damage to the liver that happens due to the various toxins, carcinogens, and carbon monoxide than cigarettes contain.
  • Practice safe sex: Use condoms, and be sexually active only with people whose sexual history is known to you; or better still, be in a monogamous sexual relationship.
  • Maintain strict hygiene: Keep your items of personal hygiene separate and exclusive. Do not share razors, scissors, nail clippers, or toothbrushes with anyone. Wash your hands thoroughly after going to the toilet, changing a baby’s diaper, before eating food, before cooking, and so on.
  • Tackle stressors: Break the pattern of chronic stress, if you suffer from it. Yoga, meditation, laughter therapy, playing with pets, and being sociable are all simple lifestyle changes that can help you emerge from the tunnel of stress. If nothing works, go to a mental health practitioner and receive counseling/medication.

Hepatitis vaccines for liver health

One of the things to do for a healthy liver is to ensure proper vaccination against hepatitis infections. A baby should get Hep A and Hep B vaccines in the given schedule (at birth; after 6 months of birth; and then after 12 months of birth), with follow-ups to be done in teenage as prescribed.

Adults who have not been vaccinated fully (or at all) against hepatitis are prescribed dosages in adulthood with a doctor’s due consideration. This is prescribed if the adult is at increased risk of contracting the infection due to exposure to any particular factor(s).

Conclusion

A healthy liver is central to your life, and you owe it as much attention as you’d give to the heart or the lungs. Thus, practising healthy habits for the liver by following good liver health tips, and getting rid of bad practices are very important for maintaining overall human health.

Keeping the liver healthy ensures hormonal balance, increased levels of energy, a slower rate of aging, fewer aches and pains, fewer digestive issues, good skin and hair, and stronger immunity. So, keep the liver healthy to stay fit and strong for a long time.

Keep reading for credible information about similar health conditions, and how you can get good liver health with a good diet and healthy food.

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