We all love a good drink here and there, whether it’s wine, beer, or something a bit stronger. After a tough day of work getting some of that stress off of your shoulders sometimes demands some strong drink. I’m sure we all can understand such a reality. However, unfortunately, most of us are generally given to a great deal of excess, which can negatively impact our health in the long term and even short term.
Research has found that excessive drinking is one of the main causes of liver ailments. Finding ways to offset what are already harmful habits may prove problematic for some, however, there are available means to improve one’s overall health and that of one’s liver specifically. Before investigating some of the best means for improving liver health, one should consider what the primary purpose of the is liver in the first place.
The functions of the liver
According to Healthline1, the functions of the liver include but are not limited to:
- bile production, which is essential to digestion
- filtering of toxins from your body
- excretion of bilirubin (a product of broken-down red blood cells), cholesterol, hormones, and drugs
- breakdown of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins
- activation of enzymes, which are specialized proteins essential to body functions
- storage of glycogen (a form of sugar), minerals, and vitamins (A, D, E, and K)
- synthesis of blood proteins, such as albumin
- synthesis of clotting factors
What causes liver disease?
Liver disease can be inherited or brought on by an array of bad habits. These habits are not only limited to excessive drinking. Poor lifestyle habits can lead to the progressive scarring of the liver and eventual incapacitation if it is not dealt with in a timely fashion.
Liver disease is can be placed into three main individual categories. However, it may, in the end, come down to a combination of factors. The three main categories of causes for liver disease are listed below:
The Main causes of liver disease according to the NHS 2 are:
- An undiagnosed hepatitis infection
- Alcohol misuse
In general terms, if there are major risk factors associated with liver disease, the aforementioned three stand out the most. All three of the above-mentioned factors constitute the main determinants, which can individually, and a through a collective combination of the factors mentioned, cause liver disease.
Obesity is one of the main culprits which cause a host of health maladies that lead to long-term stints in the hospital, and even more short-term discomfort in everyday life. Whether its high cholesterol, heart disease or the mere everyday difficulty of moving around and being physically active, obesity is an impediment to anyone attempting to go about his or her daily activities.
Undiagnosed hepatitis infection
Undiagnosed hepatitis infection can mainly result in inflammation in the liver or scarring or fibrosis. Hepatitis C in particular results in the death of liver cells in addition to a negative reaction by the body’s immune system, which, effectively results in potentially the most damage to the body and the liver.
Alcohol misuse usually goes hand-in-hand with obesity. An inability to control one’s eating habits usually transfers to the realm of strong drink,- although this is not necessarily the case, excess alcohol consumption has been proven to be a contributing factor to obesity and eventual liver disease.
- Immune System Abnormality
Signs and symptoms of Liver damage
Liver damage may show signs and symptoms gradually but eventual liver failure may appear abrupt and sudden. Actual liver failure only occurs when actual large parts of the liver become damaged beyond repair and the liver can no longer function in the ordinary fashion.
Signs and symptoms of liver disease include:
- Skin and eyes that appear yellowish (jaundice)
- Abdominal pain and swelling
- Swelling in the legs and ankles
- Itchy skin
- Dark urine color
- Pale stool color, or bloody or tar-colored stool
- Chronic fatigue
- Nausea or vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Tendency to bruise easily
If you find yourself experiencing two or three of these symptoms consult your doctor immediately. Acute liver failure occurs in less than 48 hours and can result in complete liver shut-down and possible death. Be aware that liver failure may be difficult to detect initially so one should ensure to take advance precaution.
Is there such a thing as a liver-healthy diet?
Finding the right foods that could ensure you maintain a healthy liver would also help ensure optimum overall health. There are numerous different types of fruits and vegetables which can help in counteracting the negative effects of excessive drinking in addition to improving the quality of one’s health in the long run.
Below we’ve put together a collection of natural products which have proven, through research and use, to provide benefits as it concerns the liver.
The top (10) foods to improve liver-health:
- Grapefruit – Grapefruit contains two main antioxidants naringin and naringenin. These antioxidants can help prevent the liver from injury by reducing inflammation and protecting liver cells.
- Grapes – Foods high in antioxidants provide the most benefit in ensuring a healthy liver. Grapes are a primary source of antioxidants. Research has confirmed that grapes, grape juice, and grape seeds are extremely rich in antioxidants.
- Blueberries & Cranberries – Berries, in general, contain component-antioxidants known as polyphenols which help protect against liver damage.
- Beetroot – Several studies have confirmed that beetroot and beetroot juice in particular does increase natural detoxifying enzymes which ensure for a protected liver.
- Nuts – Primarily rich in the antioxidant vitamin E, nuts are generally high in fats but also in other nutrients. Although it’s a proven fact that nuts unquestionably contribute to heart health, one particular research 3 has highlighted nuts, and walnuts in particular, as proven to be associated with high levels of liver enzymes – causing an increase.
- Fatty fish – Fatty fish and fish oil supplements are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and are known to help reduce inflammation all-round, including in and around the liver.
- Olive Oil – Research has found that olive oil can not only improve heart health and overall wellness but can also improve one’s liver health. A teaspoon of olive oil every day has been proven to show marked effects on the health of the liver.
- Oatmeal – Oatmeal is a great source of fibre. Some research has indicated that the fibre found in oatmeal can be beneficial to the liver. According to the International Journal of Molecular Sciences4 oatmeal contain a compound known as beta-glucans. These compounds help modulate the immune system and fight against inflammation. They are particularly important in helping to fight against obesity and diabetes.
- Plant-foods in general – Plant-based diets have now become the craze of so many people the world over, and science is beginning to support this trend. A 2015 study5, pointed out a host of plant foods to be extremely healthy for the liver.
Plant-foods considered to be healthy for the liver include:
- Brown rice
Essentially, ensuring that you get in as much fruit and vegetable into your diet as possible would prove extremely important to not only your overall health but also improving and regenerating your liver,- especially in the case that it has already been damaged.
- Green Tea – Research has found that green tea may not only help reduce overall fat content in the body but it also ensures the reduction of symptoms related to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
How is Liver failure treated?
Liver disease takes some time to develop symptoms and may prove be a difficult disease to treat depending on the severity of the damage. Depending on the particular kind of liver damage and eventual failure, the condition may be treatable. If caused particularly by a virus or by an overdose of acetaminophen, in hospital treatment may be sufficient to ensure that the issue is dealt with in a timely fashion – if detected early.
Concerning liver failure that’s as a result of gradual damage and poor health habits, the initial focus of a health-care practitioner most likely would be to save as much as could be saved of the functioning liver. However, if this is impossible, a liver transplant may be the most viable option. According to research6 liver transplants prove to be the most successful of all other translants e.g. heart transplant, kidney transplant etc.. For adults, 73 percent were still alive after five years and 50 percent were still alive after 20 years.
Prevention better than cure
There is an old adage which goes: “prevention is better than cure”. As is the case with almost most diseases, a healthy diet combined with consistent levels of exercise are the best ways of preventing poor health overall. Outside of hereditary and genetic illnesses, which are carried through, a healthy diet and exercise usually starves off most illnesses.
Many of us are prone to habits that generally waste away the organs which prove so important to our overall well-being. Alcoholism is one of the major causes of liver disease. When it comes to habits like alcoholism we rarely ever take into consideration the impact that these habits may have on our health.
In cases when we’re attempting to let loose and just let our hair down for a bit, it ought to be taken into consideration the type of choices we may make as it concerns our health. Your liver is a critical organ, and making sure that you don’t contribute to making it less functional ought to be a top consideration,-even when you’re having fun.
Age and liver disease
As one gets older your body responds differently to different stimuli. With age comes responsibility but also with age comes a bit more health concerns. Less energy than before, more responsibilities, maybe kids, more tasks at work and so forth. Making the right health choices, therefore, becomes imperative.
The main purpose of the liver is to filter the blood coming from the digestive tract before passing it to the rest of the body. The liver is essential primarily for digesting food and removing toxins from the body and ensuring that it remains healthy as you get older, in-turn ensuring a high quality of life later on.
The ageing process is a gradual and continuous natural process which is characterized by the reduction in functionality of the human organs. It’s a process that’s unavoidable, and all human beings at some point in time would be faced with the fact that their capabilities as it concerns natural organ function would be reduced at some point in time.
Take Care of your liver
So what can we get from all of the information noted above? Firstly, it’s important to care for your liver! Health and wellbeing can’t simply be placed on autopilot. It’s an active and engaged process that takes a great deal of effort and self-awareness. Being aware of what you put into your body is critical to to ensuring overall health and a quality standard of healthy living in the long-run.
Consider the following tips as steps in the right direction to begin taking care of your liver:
Don’t drink too much alcohol
When it comes to the health of your liver, alcohol has proven to be the number #1 killer. Managing one’s alcohol intake proves to be one of the major steps you can take to ensure that you keep your liver in a healthy condition. The NHS7 recommends no more than 14 units per week. This fourteen (14) units of alcohol is best spread over a three (3) day period. According to the NHS, a unit of alcohol is 10ml of pure alcohol, which is about: half a pint of lower to normal-strength lager/beer/cider (ABV 3.6%); a single small shot measures (25ml) of spirits (25ml, ABV 40%); a small glass (125ml) of wine contains about 1.5 units of alcohol.
Eat a healthy diet
A healthy diet is step no. #1 to ensuring that you not only maintain a healthy liver but also an overall healthy diet. A healthy diet can protect the human body against certain types of diseases and guard against lifestyle illnesses like obesity. Whether ranging from heart disease, stroke, diabetes or cancer, a healthy diet has been proven to starve off a host of illnesses in the short and long-term.
Don’t get lazy, stay active and exercise regularly
Lack of exercise and physical activity is not only likely to contribute to anxiety and depression but it can also increase one’s blood pressure. Coupled with the high risk for obesity, there are also a host of diseases which can potentially afflict the human body if one doesn’t ensure to be physically active i.e. cancer, diabetes, heart disease etc. Couch-potatoes and white collar office workers are most at risk of not getting enough daily exercise.
Be careful of certain types of drugs and medicines
Certain painkiller drugs have proven to have high levels of components which prove to negatively impact the liver. For example, cholesterol drugs may be found to have side effects which negatively affect the liver. In addition, the painkiller acetaminophen (Tylenol) has proven that it can hurt your liver if you take too much.