The liver is a truly vital organ – it helps the body process fats and carbohydrates from everything we eat and detoxify itself from the drugs, chemicals and toxins we encounter every day. The liver doesn’t need much help from us, but it does need constant support. This includes avoiding certain unhealthy habits that cause inflammation, which can lead to liver problems and liver failure. These are the most common ways to destroy your liver, according to experts. Read on to learn more and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure signs you’ve already had COVID.
“The biggest threat to the liver these days is fatty liver disease, or NAFLD, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease,” says an Ohio-based gastroenterologist. Dr. Jesse P. Houghton. “This is an extremely common condition present in 30% of Americans.” Over time, fatty liver can lead to a condition called NASH (non-alcoholic steatohepatitis), an inflammation that can lead to cirrhosis.
The main risk factors for fatty liver disease are obesity, diabetes, and high consumption of sugary drinks and products containing high-fructose corn syrup, Houghton says. The most effective treatment is weight loss. “Losing weight will drive fat out of the liver. Even a 10% weight loss will help dramatically,” he says. Controlling your blood sugar is also essential. Drinking coffee (which contains a liver-friendly antioxidant) may also be helpful.
“Drinking too much alcohol too regularly — more than one standard drink a day — can wreak havoc on our livers by causing scarring,” says Dana Ellis Hunnes, PhD, MPH, RD, senior dietitian at UCLA Medical Center and author of the book Recipe for Survival. “If this is prolonged, it can cause alcoholic liver disease and potentially cirrhosis, which may require a liver transplant.”
“Trans fats are terrible for your liver,” says Dr. Anthony Puopolo, chief medical officer at Rex®. “Trans fats cannot be processed effectively by your liver and cause liver cell inflammation. Eating large amounts of trans fats can cause permanent liver damage and scarring.” Trans fats are found in some fried foods and baked goods, as well as foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. Be sure to check the nutrition facts labels, where the trans fat content is listed.
“Ultra-processed foods harm the liver by causing inflammation and fat deposition,” says Hunnes. This can lead to fatty liver disease. “Consuming too many refined or ultra-processed foods and beverages, such as sweetened corn syrup or high-fructose drinks, for too long can lead to cirrhosis and the need for a liver transplant,” says -she. Having too much visceral fat (the type of fat that resides in and around organs) can also increase this risk.
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“It is well known that excess alcohol is harmful to the liver and can ultimately lead to cirrhosis. However, smoking is also harmful to the liver, especially if someone already has underlying liver damage, for example from alcohol or fatty liver disease,” says Houghton.
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“Alcohol consumption and extreme diets, such as high-fat/low-carb diets, and unnecessary herbal and dietary supplements (which may include protein powders) are the two most common types of liver injury. common things I see in my clinic,” says Dr Vanessa Mendez, Florida-certified gastroenterologist, internist, and lifestyle medicine physician. “The liver does a great job of cleaning our blood of chemicals and excess fats that we put into our bodies daily. However, when we overload our detox pathways with unnecessary supplements, fats or toxins like alcohol , we disrupt our liver’s ability to cleanse the body, leading to a buildup of liver-damaging chemicals.”
“We should become savvy, informed consumers of supplements, just as we are of prescription drugs,” says Méndez. Make sure that any supplements you take are from a reputable manufacturer. And it’s always a good idea to let your doctor know about any supplements you’re taking, and before starting a new one.
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“There are plenty of easy ways to support optimal liver function every day that don’t involve drastically restructuring your diet or buying a fad cleansing product,” says Dr. Jaclyn Tolentino, chief medical officer at Parsley Health. “One of the best ways is to increase your water intake. Water keeps the things we put into our bodies moving, so we eliminate them as we take in new things.”
A healthy diet rich in certain whole foods can also help. “Research suggests that certain foods may be particularly beneficial for boosting liver function, including cruciferous and leafy greens, ginger, and blueberries,” Tolentino says. “These foods offer a host of other health benefits, so adding them to your diet is a great way to improve the nutrient profile of your meals.”
And to protect your life and the lives of others, do not visit any of these 35 places where you are most likely to catch COVID.