Our liver helps to flush out toxins from our body. When it stops functioning properly, these toxins build up inside of us and slowly damage the rest of our body. Incidents of liver disease are on the rise and so are liver disease related death. Here’s how you can look after your liver and live longer.
Drink less alcohol
It should be no surprise that booze is the biggest culprit when it comes to liver damage. Every time our liver has to process alcohol, a few cells die. In the case of large amounts of alcohol, more cells get killed off. Our liver is one of the few organs that can fully regenerate, but it needs abstinence to do that – or at least a lower intake.
Generally, the odd drink won’t do any lasting damage. Irregular binging is likely to do more damage than regular consumption in small amounts. One drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men is the recommended safe amount.
For those that feel that they may have an alcohol dependency, there are plenty of services out there such as AA groups and therapy sessions that can help you curb the bad habit. For going full cold turkey, you may even be able to book yourself into an addiction treatment centre. Admitting to oneself that there’s a problem is never easy – friends and family are usually the best judges.
Drink more water
Drinking lots of water helps our bodies to flush out toxins more easily. This is because our blood is thicker when we don’t have enough water (toxins are sent to our liver through our blood and so will reach our liver more slowly if the blood is thicker and flowing more slowly). Men are recommended 3 litres of fluid a day, which equates to 13 cups, whilst women are recommended 2.2 litres (9 cups).
Eat less fat
Eating too much fat is thought to be a major cause of liver damage – if not more so than alcohol abuse. In fact, up to a third of the population is thought to suffer from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease – largely associated with being overweight.
Regularly going over your daily calorie limit will cause this fatty build up, although you can counteract this with regular exercise. In fact, staying active not only burns off calories but increases blood pressure, causing blood circulate more quickly to the liver where it can be cleaned out of toxins.
Saturated fats as found in French fries and burgers are among some of the worst offenders for fatty liver disease. More natural fats will be easier for your body to process and have less of a negative impact on your liver.
Eat more nuts
Nuts are a great source of vitamin E, which is an essential nutrient for cell regrowth. This can help to combat liver damage. Almonds are one of the best sources of the vitamin. Peanuts can also be a great way of getting this nutrient, but you should watch out for those sold in bars as the salt can often counteract any positive health qualities.
Other foods that are rich in vitamin E include spinach, pumpkin, asparagus, red peppers, mango and avocado. For those that have a vitamin E deficiency, there are supplements out there that might be able to help you get your daily dose. This vitamin is important not only for liver repair, but healing and your immune system in general, so a deficiency shouldn’t be ignored.
Fizzle out fizzy drinks from your diet
Too much sugar can eventually take its toll on the liver. This risk is increased through fizzy sugary drink consumption with one fizzy drink a day linked to fatty liver disease (as you can imagine, soda and spirits is therefore the worst thing you can do to your liver).
By drinking less fizzy drinks and more water you can stop the occasional lemonade or coke from having any negative effect. Sugar-free soda alternatives may be healthier in some respects, although research has shown that artificial sugars can stay trapped in the liver and gut for longer as your body doesn’t know how to efficiently flush them out. A glass of non-fizzy fresh fruit juice might be a better alternative is you’re craving a sugar kick.
Stub out your smoking habit
There isn’t a single part of your body that smoking isn’t bad for and this remains true for the liver. Nicotine raises fat levels in the blood, which makes the liver have to work much harder to get rid of toxins. Quitting could decrease the fat content in your blood, making your liver function at its full potential and lowering the risk of fatty liver disease.
Other things that can damage your liver
There are other things that should be used in moderation to keep your liver happy. If you often reach for paracetemol whenever you have a headache, this could be taking its toll on your liver. Whilst the exact effects are unknown, it’s thought to be the chemicals that the liver has a hard time processing (overdosing on paracetemol will cause immediate liver failure).
Various herbal foods and medicines can also be worth taking in moderation. Everything from kava kava (used to treat menopause symptoms) to green tea has been found to damage the liver when overindulged in.
Largely you should be careful of ingesting too much vitamin A. This is generally found in brightly coloured vegetables, but it’s more likely you’ll suffer an overdose from taking vitamin A supplements.