Roles the liver plays
The liver plays an important role in keeping the body healthy by completing hundreds of complex functions such as fighting infections and illness, removing toxins (poisons), such as alcohol, from the body, controlling cholesterol levels, producing proteins that help blood to clot and releasing bile, a liquid that breaks down fats aiding digestion. The liver is the second largest organ in the body and the largest gland.
So, with the liver performing many significant functions, it’s vital that we try and keep it healthy. This blog is to help you understand a little more about what the liver does and the steps you can take to make sure it does its job properly.
Tips to keep your liver healthy
- Avoid drinking alcohol excessively – The liver breaks down the toxins that alcohol release. These damage liver cells which can then no longer function as they are meant to.
- Eat a healthy and balanced diet – Although this is quite a general tip, there are some foods that could help the liver to function as it should:
- Grapefruit – This fruit contains antioxidants naringenin and naringin and these naturally protect the liver by reducing inflammation and protecting cells.
- Cruciferous vegetables – Veg like broccoli, mustard greens and Brussels sprouts have been found in studies to increase levels of detoxification enzymes that help protect the liver from damage.
- Drink coffee in moderation – A study by the British Liver Trust into coffee consumption and potential health benefits for the liver revealed that regularly drinking moderate levels of coffee could lower the risk of liver conditions such as fibrosis (the build-up of scar tissue) and may prevent liver cancer.
- Get enough sleep – The liver helps regulate hormones which impact the sleep cycle. Sleep is important for the body to repair itself and deficiency can lead to increased risk of heart disease and other conditions.
The results of an unhealthy liver
Unfortunately, the liver doesn’t show signs of disease until it is quite advanced, but there are over 100 types of different liver conditions including:
- Haemochromatosis—A gradual build-up of iron in the body (usually around the liver). It’s an inherited disorder.
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease—A build-up of fat within liver cells, usually seen in overweight or obese people.
- Hepatitis—Inflammation (swelling) of the liver caused by a viral infection or exposure to harmful substances (e.g. alcohol).
- Ascites—A result of cirrhosis, the liver leaks fluid into the stomach, which becomes swollen and heavy.
The main causes of liver disease
In the UK the three main causes of conditions of the liver are obesity, alcohol misuse and undiagnosed hepatitis infections. More tips to help you protect your liver are:
- Maintain a healthy weight – Having high levels of fat in your liver can cause other problems like diabetes, strokes and heart attacks. You can check your BMI (Body Mass Index) with your doctor and
- Take the right steps to prevent infections – Infections put stress upon the liver. Some can be more serious, such as Hepatitis. This is inflammation of the liver resulting from a viral infection or damage to the liver. There are different types of hepatitis caused by various bacteria in food or water, alcohol or drug abuse and poor hygiene.
- Avoid foods you are allergic or sensitive to – The liver filters out any toxic substances that come into the body. If there are too many for it to process quickly the immune system sees them as an allergen and produces antibodies to protect itself. Give the liver less work by avoiding foods that your body is unable to digest.
- Stay hydrated – drinking water throughout the day helps to flush toxins out of your body through the bladder and bowels which in turn helps your liver not have to process as many toxins.
This blog post is a guide to keeping your liver healthy but should never be substituted for the advice of your GP or doctor. Always seek medical advice if you are worried about your health.