5 Common Habits That Damage Your Liver
The liver is one of the most important organs in our body. Everything we eat must be processed by the liver before it can be distributed throughout the body. The liver has wide range of functions and it plays a vital role in numerous physiological processes, including metabolic function and blood detoxification. As a result, the health of our body is directly related to the liver functioning at its peak. Although the liver can replace damaged cells, if enough cells are lost, the liver may not be able to function properly. There are several common bad habits that are a part of our everyday routine which may increase the risk of liver damage without us even realizing it, as the damage can be gradual and initially without obvious symptoms. But over time these bad habits can severely harm your liver. This is very dangerous, as your body cannot function properly without a properly working liver. Getting rid of unhealthy habits and developing healthier habits is your first action to improve your health.
- Excessive Alcohol
Heavy alcohol consumption is the most common cause of liver damage. Excess amount of alcohol decreases the liver’s ability of removing toxins from the body. This is because the liver gets diverted from its other functions and focuses mainly on converting alcohol to a less toxic form, and this causes fatty liver disease and inflammation. When the liver tries to break down the alcohol, the resulting chemical reaction can damage the liver cells, and after a long time of consuming excess amount of alcohol, the damage can become permanent and cause cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) which leads to loss of liver function.
- Overuse of Medications
As the liver’s role is to break down substances taken by mouth, including medications, herbs and supplements, consuming too much of certain medications can gradually harm the liver. The damage can range from mild to a complete liver failure. This is true not just for conventional medicines, but also for supplements and herbs as they, too, can be harmful to the liver in excess amounts. One of the best known medication that can cause liver damage is acetaminophen (also known as Tylenol) which is commonly available without prescription and can be found in many of the cold and flu remedies and prescription pain medications. This substance is considered to be safe, but if taken too much at once or taking a high dose of it continuously over several days can cause liver damage. Certain herbal remedies and natural supplements too can be harmful to the liver in excess amounts. For example, a well known cause of liver toxicity is overdose of vitamin A. This is why it’s so important to check the label of any medicine or supplement to see if there are any warnings of possible liver damage.
Smoking is one of the habits you must stop now if you want to be healthy. Cigarette smoke affect the liver indirectly. The toxic chemicals found in cigarette smoke eventually reach to the liver and cause oxidative stress to the liver that produces free radicals that damage the liver cells. This oxidative stress also causes fibrosis, a process in which the liver develops excess tissue, similar to scar tissue, during its attempt to repair itself, and this can greatly affect the liver. Also these toxic chemicals reduces the liver function over time so it becomes less effective in performing its main role – removing toxins from the body.
- Sleep Deprivation
A study found that sleep deprivation can cause oxidative stress to the liver. Another study reveals why shift workers and people who suffer from sleep deprivation suffer from a large range of health problems, such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and more. It was found that their livers aren’t processing fat efficiently and instead allowing fat to accumulate (which proves that the body cannot function properly without a properly working liver). Also when we sleep, our body goes into a repair process. So, make sure you get a good 8 hours of sleep, as lack of sleep will ruin your elimination process and damage your liver.
- Obesity and Poor Nutrition
Obesity is linked to poor eating habits and can harm your liver over time, just as drinking too much alcohol does. The reason for that is that too much of the wrong foods causes excess fat build-up in the liver, known NAFLD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease). The liver normally helps to process and regulate the amount of sugar and fat in the blood, but in obese people the liver becomes overwhelmed and starts storing excess fat in its own liver cells, either because there is no other place for them elsewhere or the liver fails to break them down. Over time, if too much fat is accumulated in the liver, the liver can become inflamed and the liver cells can be damaged.
Foods to eat or avoid
Consuming high amount of processed foods, which are often loaded with preservatives, additives, artificial sweeteners and flavorings exposes the liver to damage as they are very hard to break down as they are full of chemicals. Processed foods are also high in salt, which is not only known to increase blood pressure, but can also cause fatty liver disease by building up fluid in the liver (water retention) and swelling.
Not eating enough fruits, leafy greens and other vegetables which are all great sources of antioxidants, will not give the body enough beta-carotene, vitamin C and E, zinc and selenium which all help keep the liver healthy.
Vitamin B12, mainly available in meat, is used by the liver to help with the flow of bile, so make sure you don’t have vitamin b12 deficiency. Other B vitamins aid in the liver’s detoxification roles, and they can be found in dried fruits and nuts, egg yolks, poultry, fish, legumes and brown rice.
Other important nutrients that help the liver include lecithin and sulphur. Lecithin helps the liver get rid of excess fat. Good sources of lecithin include egg yolks, legumes and fish. Sulphur, which helps with detoxification in the liver, is found in fish and lean meat, eggs, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, turnips, onions, leeks, garlic and dried legumes.