7 Ways to Love Your Liver
Your liver is amazing, called into service 24/7 to filter and process blood, detoxify harmful substances from food and other environmental sources, manufacture blood clotting proteins, metabolize nutrients, and more. You’ve gotta love an organ that does all that essential life-supporting work!
Unfortunately, we don’t always do what’s best for the liver, which could ultimately place it—and you--in jeopardy. That’s why I am pointing out 7 ways to love your liver.
1. Limit sugary foods. The liver uses fructose to make fat, but too much added sugar, including high fructose corn syrup and sucrose, is detrimental to your liver. You can love your liver by limiting the amount of added sugar you consume, which is especially prevalent in processed foods.
The American Heart Association recommends women consume no more than 6 teaspoons (24 grams) of added sugar daily, while men should stop at 9 teaspoons. Check Nutrition Panel information for the amount of sugar (in grams) in your food choices—you may be surprised!
A new review from the University of California, Davis, points out that consuming added sugar “is associated with development and/or prevalence of fatty liver,” a condition in which fat makes up more than 5 to 10 percent of your liver’s weight.
There are actually two types of fatty liver: one caused by alcohol (alcoholic fatty liver) and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Both types of fatty liver disease are associated with fatigue, weakness, nausea, confusion, difficulty concentrating, weight loss, and loss of appetite. In more severe cases, scarring of the liver can occur.
2. Beware of certain herbs. The idea that herbs are natural so they are safe doesn’t hold water. Herbal remedies also can be very potent (and effective), and some are associated with possible liver damage. Some of the herbs in this category include kava, comfrey, mistletoe, and chaparral, among others.
3. Go easy on alcohol. It’s well known that excessive alcohol consumption is associated with damage to liver cells, which can then lead to alcoholic fatty liver, alcoholic cirrhosis, or alcoholic hepatitis. Drinking alcohol can also cause further damage to the liver of someone who has hepatitis C.
Complications from alcohol-related liver disease can develop after years of excessive drinking. Such complications can include an enlarged spleen, kidney failure, fluid accumulation in the abdomen, and liver cancer.
Moderate alcohol consumption is considered to be one drink per day for women and two drinks daily for men. One drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, and 1.5 ounces of hard liquor.
4. Don’t OD on A. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means it is absorbed in fat globules and is stored in your body’s tissues, where it can tends to stay. Therefore, if you consume too much vitamin A—say, you take a high-dose supplement—you can experience liver damage over time. An acute toxic dose of vitamin A is 25,000 International Units per kilogram, while you can experience liver damage from taking a chronic dose of 4,000 IU/kg daily for 6 to 15 months. The National Institutes of Health recommends not exceeding 10,000 IU daily.
5. Appreciate acetaminophen. The drug acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) is the most popular over-the-counter (OTC) drug in the world, and it also is an ingredient in many prescription drugs. In addition, acetaminophen is the number one cause of acute liver failure in the United States.
It’s easy to think that just because a drug is OTC it’s not dangerous, but that’s clearly not the case. Once in the body, some of the drug is converted into a substance that is toxic to the liver, so if you take too much acetaminophen, the toxin can accumulate.
The Food and Drug Administration has issued warnings to doctors not to prescribe medications that contain more than 325 mg of acetaminophen. Healthy adults should not consume more than 4,000 mg daily, but even this amount can prove toxic to some people. When taking acetaminophen, use as directed and talk to your doctor.
6. Choose reliable tattoo salons. Since so many people (45 million in the US alone) have at least one tattoo, this warning is important. Before you get your first tattoo or subsequent ones (or a body piercing), be sure you use a licensed salon that sterilizes its equipment after each customer. Shoddy hygiene could result in your getting hepatitis C, an infection that spreads through contact with the blood of an infected individual and causes liver damage.
7. Drop extra weight. Those extra fat pounds you may be carrying around your midsection can also accumulate in your liver and eventually result in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which I mentioned under “Limit sugary foods.” Your risk of developing this disease increases if you also are middle-aged or have diabetes.
Love your liver and it will keep on doing all the life-sustaining tasks it was designed to perform.
American Heart Association. Added sugars.
Drug Watch. Tylenol
Food and Drug Administration. Acetaminophen information
Medscape. Vitamin Toxicity
National Institutes of Health. Vitamin A
Stanhope KL et al. Sugar consumption, metabolic disease and obesity: the state of the controversy. Critical Reviews in Clinical Laboratory Sciences 2015 Sep 17: 1-16
Tattoo connection. Pew Research Center