September 04, 2020
Your body’s largest internal organ—the liver—helps you digest food through the production of bile, removes toxins from your blood, and provides you with energy. A healthy liver ensures that you receive the nutrients you need from each meal while filtering out any substances that could be harmful to your body. Want to keep yours in good shape for years to come?
Follow these five easy tips for good liver health:
There are countless benefits from exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy body weight, and good liver health is yet another. Being overweight can put you at higher risk of developing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, a buildup of fat that can leave you feeling tired and with pain in the abdomen. Exercise can help to reduce the buildup of fat in the liver (like everywhere else in the body), keeping it healthy and ready to do its job.
Because so much of the liver’s function involves processing the food and beverages you ingest, putting the right things in your body makes a huge difference when it comes to liver health. Alcohol, in particular, can take a serious toll on the liver (in addition to other health problems). Too much alcohol consumption can cause fatty liver disease on its own, leading to more significant problems over time. Do your liver a favor by dialing back on the booze, increasing your water intake, and maintaining a diet that promotes liver health. Coffee, oatmeal, green tea, garlic, berries, grapes, and grapefruit are just a few of the foods and beverages that can be beneficial to your liver.
The liver works hard to purge all the toxins that enter your body – not just alcohol. Some chemicals – such as dry-cleaning solvents, herbicide, and industrial chemicals – can take a toll on the liver as it works to prevent them from entering your bloodstream. Even prescription medications can be dangerous if the instructions are not followed, as it’s your liver’s duty to process them. Using heroin (as well as abusing drugs like dextromethorphan, inhalants, and steroids) can damage the liver. And sharing needles for illicit drug use can transmit hepatitis C, a virus that can cause chronic liver problems.
Hepatitis C, and more commonly hepatitis B, can spread via sexual intercourse. Both are contracted via direct contact with an infected person’s blood, and hepatitis B can also be spread via semen and other bodily fluids. Practicing safe sex can help protect your liver and prevent the spread of many other diseases.
There are vaccines available for both hepatitis A and B. Both viruses can cause flu-like symptoms which last for months, and while they’re both avoidable (hepatitis A spreads through direct contact with an infected person’s stool), why take the risk? Most people receive these vaccines as children, but if you haven’t, you can still get inoculated. If you’re traveling, make sure you’re up-to-date on your shots – there are places where both diseases are common. Untreated water has also been linked to hepatitis.
Following these five steps can help prevent a number of serious liver diseases, including hepatitis A, B, or C, and fatty liver disease. Any of these ailments, especially when combined with obesity or heavy alcoholism, can lead to cirrhosis—a scarring of the liver that prevents it from completing its vital work. And all of these things can progress in certain instances to liver cancer.
One final tip: even if you do follow the five steps above, be sure to see your doctor if you think there’s something wrong with your liver. Common symptoms include bruising, jaundice, and changes in the color of stool and urine. As the largest internal organ, your liver is one of the most important, so it’s always better to play it safe if you think anything is amiss.
Information on this site is provided for informational purposes and is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or other medical professional. You should not use the information contained herein for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication. If you have, or suspect that you have, a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider.