Keeping your liver healthy is non-negotiable for overall wellness.
The liver is one of the crucial organs of the human body. It is responsible for clearing out toxins and waste products from metabolism and various other regular bodily processes.
It is located in the upper right of the abdomen and is dark reddish-brown, weighing around 3 pounds (1.4 kg) – the weight of a football.
At any point in time, the liver holds around 13% of the blood supply in the body.
In this post, we’ll go over the science-backed ways to keep and maintain a healthy liver.
What are the functions of the liver?
To date, it has been discovered that the liver has over 500 specific functions.
Some of these include:
- The liver is one of the organs that balances the amounts of different substances in the blood. All the blood from the stomach and intestines is passed on to the liver, and the liver balances break down and create nutrients and other substances.
- It metabolizes any drugs present in the blood.
- The liver produces bile, which aids the small intestine in the digestion of fat.
- It converts excess glucose into glycogen, which the body stores for later use.
- It stores iron for later use.
Is a liver detox important?
The subject of “detox” is a hot topic in the health (or pseudo-health) space, but what is a detox exactly?
Detox is short for detoxification, which is the removal of waste products from an organ – in this case, the liver.
It is a normal process that your body performs every day.
The liver itself is the organ responsible for converting waste products or toxins in your body, including your blood, to less harmful substances that can be excreted by the body through urine, stool, or sweat.
Many of these waste products are processed by the liver regularly. Examples include ammonia, creatinine, and bilirubin.
Ammonia and creatinine are both generated from the metabolism of protein, although creatinine could also be generated by muscle breakdown.
On the other hand, Bilirubin is produced when red blood cells are broken down at the end of their life cycle.
To be clear, the liver, when healthy, is naturally capable of detoxifying itself, and the body as a whole.
However, when it is not in a healthy state, it is less capable of doing so.
How to maintain and keep a healthy liver?
As you’ve probably already guessed, the liver is one of the most important organs in the body, and taking good care of it pays off for good lifelong health.
Here are some things you can do to care for your liver:
1. Limit your consumption of alcohol
Excessive alcohol intake can lead to liver cirrhosis, a condition wherein liver tissue is permanently and irreversibly damaged.
It can also lead to another condition called fatty liver, wherein too much fat accumulates in the liver, which hinders the liver from functioning properly.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), excessive drinking is defined as four or more drinks on one occasion for women, and five or more drinks on one occasion for men. This is called binge drinking.
On the other hand, heavy drinking is defined as eight or more drinks per week for women and 15 for men. This is called heavy drinking.
So what is the amount of alcohol that’s okay to drink?
American dietary guidelines recommend limiting drinking to two drinks a day for men and one for women – a far cry from how much many of us drink when we go out and meet friends.
This study reviews how alcohol may contain pesticides that may have harmful effects on the liver.
2. Watch out for Hepatitis A, B, and C
Hepatitis A, B, and C are highly contagious diseases of the liver.
They can easily spread through contact with an infected person and can cause serious long-term damage to the liver.
However, there are vaccines available for these diseases, and while many children have received the vaccine, many adults have not.
If you think you haven’t gotten them yet, ask your doctor about them as soon as you can.
3. Wash produce well and watch out for certain chemicals
Whenever we buy vegetables and seem clean enough, many of us no longer wash them before using them in our food.
This may be harmful to the liver, as certain pesticides like organochlorine pesticides, including DDT, may still be present in the vegetables we buy.
4. Use medication and supplements carefully
The number one reason why clinical trials of medicines and supplements are stopped is because of liver injury.
Additionally, did you know that paracetamol, an over-the-counter drug, may cause liver damage when taken above its recommended dose?
In fact, according to this study, half of all acute liver injury cases are caused by the misuse of paracetamol.
The recommended dose by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is 4,000 mg over 24 hours, with four hours between 500 mg doses.
For those who already have existing liver damage or impaired liver function, it is 2,000 mg over 24 hours.
The National Institutes of Health also has a database of substances known to be harmful to the liver.
5. Maintain a healthy weight, exercise, and eat right.
Obesity is one of the leading causes of fatty liver disease, a condition that impairs liver function and can lead to further liver damage down the road.
Thus, it is important to maintain a healthy weight, exercise, and eat right – these lifestyle modifications have long-lasting benefits on our liver and overall health.
The liver is one of the most important organs in the body.
Once damaged, it is difficult, even impossible, to reverse it, and many day-to-day body processes may be affected. Even liver transplants do not have promising outcomes.
Misuse of alcohol, drugs, bad lifestyle choices, and obesity can lead to serious liver conditions.
These habits and lifestyle choices or conditions are best left behind, for the good of our liver and our overall, lifelong health.
It’s never too late to start living better and healthier.