How to Support Your Liver Health – and Why You Should
At a time of rapid healthcare advances, liver health has worsened. As processed foods become more prevalent, as obesity rates rise, and as alcohol consumption increases, so, too, have rates of liver cancer and disease. Rates of liver cancer have tripled since 1980, and deaths due to liver cancer doubled during that period, according to the American Cancer Society. In addition, more than 100 million Americans have a form of liver disease—many of whom live with the condition unknowingly—which can lead to liver failure and cancer, according to the American Liver Foundation.
But there’s good news about liver health, too. A few lifestyle adjustments can promote good liver health and even repair liver damage. Here are three ways that you can help your liver function at an optimal level.
Limit Alcohol Use
The liver keeps our bodies healthy and our blood clean by filtering and flushing toxins from the body. When we consume alcohol, however, the liver must work even harder to filter – and sometimes, it can’t keep up. Filtering toxins from alcohol kills liver cells, and whether these cells can regenerate depends on how much we drink. Low to moderate alcohol consumption allows cells to come back to life, but heavy drinking can result in permanent liver damage.
Liver Health Tip: If you drink alcohol, keep your intake within a moderate level. That generally equates to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.
Be Careful About Taking Medicine
Certain medications can cause liver damage or failure in some patients. Some of these medications are prescription drugs, including statins for high cholesterol, methyldopa for high blood pressure, some antibiotics, and certain anticonvulsants used to treat epilepsy. Over-the-counter medications can also lead to liver damage, and acetaminophen is among the drugs that’s hardest on the liver. When taken within the range of recommended amounts most vitamins are not implicated in any liver injury, but some supplements, like vitamin A and niacin, may be harmful when taken in high doses.
Liver Health Tip: Most people can take medications and supplements without liver damage. But if you take medication and experience symptoms such as nausea, jaundice, dark urine, or lack of appetite, talk with your healthcare provider. If you already have liver disease, notify your hepatologist before starting a medication or supplement.
Eat a Healthy, Balanced Diet
The foods that you eat—as well as the foods that you don’t eat—make a big difference in the health of your liver. A healthy diet empowers your liver to work at its best, and even to repair damage in people who already have liver disease. Eating a healthy, balanced diet also helps maintain a healthy weight, which supports liver health, too.
Liver Health Tip: Cruciferous vegetables—including broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts—not only support liver function but may help prevent liver cancer. Nuts can help prevent the onset of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and grapes may slow its progression. Other foods that support your liver are fatty fish, beans, berries, and green tea.
Why Liver Health Matters
When your liver is healthy, your entire body benefits. Your liver allows your body to absorb nutrients, maintain blood sugar levels, remove toxins, and boost your immune system. With these three changes, you can make a powerful improvement in the functioning of your liver and the state of your overall health.