As the principal de-toxifier of our body, our liver is a strong and vital organ. But we need to take care of it. Some have compared the liver to a rubber band—it can take a lot of abuse, but at a certain point, it breaks.
There are over 100 types of liver diseases, and most of these can be prevented. Here are ways to help keep your liver healthy.
Most people are unaware that one of the biggest causes of liver failure, requiring transplant, is taking too much acetaminophen (Tylenol and others). Acetaminophen is a good medication, but you need to be careful of the total dose you take in a day and over time. Taken in too high of a dose, this medicine is liver toxic. Read here about safe dosing of acetaminophen, and not mixing it with alcohol.
Men who take anabolic steroids to build their bodies may, besides building muscles, be killing their liver cells. Be careful of any herbal supplements as well. Some supplements, especially from questionable sources, can be liver toxic. For any questions about supplements or medications, ask your doctor or trusted pharmacist.
The basic guidelines are that your liver is ok, if you are a man, with up to 2 standard drinks per day; and, for women, up to 1 drink per day. Like paracetamol, alcohol is fine for most people, but only in the right “doses”. Too much will cause liver cells to die and be replaced by scar tissue—cirrhosis.
Take care with chemicals you inhale or which touch your skin. When you use these substances (strong cleaning products, certain glues, pesticides, insecticides not meant for the skin), make sure you are in a well-ventilated area. Use gloves if needed. Cigarettes contain additives that are liver toxic, so avoiding smoking is smart for this reason as well.
Coffee and tea are good for your liver
Here is one of the few things that actually protect the liver from damage. The good things include coffee, herbal, and regular teas. It is not known if it is the caffeine or the antioxidants that help, but if you want to do something positive for your liver, drink a few cups of coffee and/or tea throughout the day.
There are three main types of hepatitis—A, B, and C—caused by viruses. You can be vaccinated for types A and B, but not for type C, the most serious. Type A virus is spread by contaminated water or food (especially undercooked shellfish). Types B and C are spread by infected blood or bodily fluids. This is another reason to practice safe sex and get tattoos with sterilized equipment. People think about condoms preventing HIV, but they also help protect from the serious forms of the hepatitis virus—actually more easy to transmit sexually than the HIV virus.
After alcohol, hepatitis, and paracetamol poisoning, the most common way the liver is damaged is by “non-alcoholic fatty liver disease”, which is becoming more common as people are becoming fatter. In this disease, the liver cells are replaced by fat, leading to cirrhosis, similar to that caused by too much alcohol.
Fruits, vegetables, and keep moving
Eating a healthy diet with lots of fiber, fruits and vegetables is good for the liver. Not being sedentary is important as well. Don’t sit too long—keep moving.
Testing your liver
Your doctor can order blood tests that check your liver function. But if you keep these hints in mind, it is very likely that your liver will keep working well your entire life.
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