Have you ever heard of the expression, “Drink until you drop?”
Sure, an alcohol-drinking game may seem fun for the night, but your liver won’t thank you in the morning.
Your liver is a key component of your body’s digestive system. The beverages, meals, and even medications you consume have to pass through the liver—so you want to take proper care of it!
Why Maintaining the Liver Is Important
Sitting under your lower ribcage, the liver helps cleanse your body by removing all the harmful chemicals that your body makes. Your liver also produces bile, which will break down the fat from foods that you digest. Oh, and you know the energy that you desperately need at times?The liver stores glucose, which is the prime source of energy for our bodies. Let’s take a look at a few other interesting facts about the liver:
- It is the largest internal organ in the human body.
- It can perform up to 500 different functions in the body, including fighting off viruses and infections.
- It manufactures proteins and hormones throughout the body and plays a large role in maintaining a healthy blood sugar level.
- The liver is the only organ in the human body that can regenerate itself. This is why people are able to donate parts of their liver for liver transplants.
- The liver consumes about 10% of the blood that flows in the body and pumps out about two liters a minute.
Common Liver Diseases
Did you know that there are over 100 types of liver diseases? Below are the top three types:
One of most common liver diseases, cirrhosis is the direct result of permanent damage and scarring of the liver. When this occurs, the blood that goes through the liver is blocked, thus preventing a person’s normal metabolic process. The most common cause of cirrhosis is alcoholism. People who consume large quantities of alcohol on a daily basis have a higher chance of being diagnosed with cirrhosis.This disease can also be hereditary or developed from other viral infections. Even in the early stages of cirrhosis, there are symptoms to look out for, such as loss of appetite, nausea, rapid weight loss, feeling more fatigued than usual, weakness, and exhaustion even after a good night’s sleep.
2. Liver cancer
This type of liver disease is a direct result of cancer spreading throughout the body. Because the liver’s job is to filter blood from all over the body, if you have cancer in one part of your body, those cancer cells can actually get lodged in the liver and infect it. The early stages of liver cancer have no symptoms, but as it develops, symptoms begin to surface: they include severe weight loss, sudden loss of appetite, abdominal pain, jaundice, and high amounts of fluid in the abdomen.
Gallstones are lumps of cholesterol crystals that form in the gallbladder. The gallbladder is beneath the liver and stores the bile that the liver produces. If gallstones are developed, the gallbladder will not be able to store bile, which means that fat will not be digested properly and the cholesterol levels will skyrocket. Symptoms include high amounts of abdominal pain, jaundice, and inflammation of the gallbladder.
Top 10 Foods to Cleanse the Liver
- Grapefruits: This citrus fruit will flush out the carcinogens and toxins that are harmful to the liver.
- Walnuts: Contain high amounts of Omega 3-fatty acids, which aid the liver in the cleansing process.
- Lemons: Not only can lemons clean out the toxins in your digestive system, but they are also known for soothing indigestion.
- Avocados: Our livers need to filter out the harmful chemicals in our bodies— avocado produces glutathione, which will aid that process.
- Green tea: Produces an antioxidant called catechin, which has been proven to improve liver functions.
- Garlic: Contains the compounds allicin and selenium, which both help with the cleansing process for the liver.
- Beets: Contains flavonoids, which have been proven to help the liver with certain functions.
- Leafy greens: Proven to neutralize metals, chemicals and pesticides that are in a lot of the food we consume. Greens protect our bodies from any harmful chemicals that try to make their way to the liver!
- Vegetables: The glucosinolates found in vegetables are broken down to create enzymes, which aids the digestive process.
- Turmeric: Helps digest fats and can stimulate the production of bile, which is essential for the liver.
Tips for Maintaining Your Liver
Vitamins: In order to properly absorb vitamins, our bodies are dependent on the bile from the liver for absorption. In order for this to occur, you need to consume the proper vitamins so the liver can process those nutrients; if we are not consuming the proper vitamins, the liver cannot do its job.
Exercise:Physical activity is important for maintaining a healthy liver. Obese or overweight people in particular have an increased risk of developing a fatty liver, which in most cases can lead to fatty liver disease.
Alcoholics: The liver conducts over 500 functions—there is only so much alcohol the liver can handle at once. If you drink too much, the excess alcohol will flow into the bloodstream and directly affect your brain and heart. If you overload your liver with alcohol on a daily basis, you can end up with liver inflammation, permanent scarring, or even cancer.
Here are a few tips to follow for the next time you are craving a drink:
- Never mix alcohol with heavy medications, or you could end up with liver failure.
- Some people believe that certain types of alcohol are more harmful to the liver than others, but it’s a myth; it’s the amount of alcohol that is consumed that can be harmful to the liver.
- Refrain from playing drinking games—that is the quickest way to consume large amounts of alcohol at a quicker pace.
- If you do like to consume more than one drink, don’t make it a daily habit; try to spread it out over the week—your liver will appreciate it!
Redfearn, S. “How Not to Wreck Your Liver,” WebMD web site, October 28, 2013; http://www.webmd.com/hepatitis/features/healthy-liver.
“Tips for a Healthy Liver,” Canadian Liver Foundation web site; http://www.liver.ca/liver-health/liver-disease-prevention/tips-for-healthy-liver/, last accessed May 15, 2015.
“Types of Liver Disease,” Canadian Liver Foundation website; http://www.liver.ca/liver-disease/types/, last accessed May 15, 2015.
Patel, A., “Foods For Liver: 10 Foods For A Healthy And Clean Liver,” Huffington Post Canada web site, September 13, 2012; http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/09/13/foods-for-liver_n_1880715.html.