Caring for your liver health involves more than just limiting alcohol intake. Apart from the impact of alcohol, several other modifiable factors can influence the health of this vital organ. On this National Liver Awareness Month, experts share diet and lifestyle tips for a healthy liver.
This year’s theme, “Think Liver Think Life,” encourages people to evaluate the risk for fatty liver disease, a common liver condition that affects around 25% of the world population.
Why is liver health important?
The liver, which is the largest internal organ in the human body, performs hundreds of vital bodily functions, including detoxification, metabolism, immunity, digestion and vitamin storage. However, it often gets neglected, as most often, the signs of chronic liver diseases are silent unless they develop severe complications.
“Liver health is vital as it helps detoxify the body, metabolize nutrients, and regulate various functions,” Maya Oueichek, a registered dietitian nutritionist from Chicago, told Medical Daily. “Healthy liver supports overall well-being.”
How can diet and lifestyle affect liver health?
Many liver conditions, including fatty liver, can be reversed if they are diagnosed and treated at an early stage. Along with medical therapies, a healthy diet and lifestyle modifications are equally essential.
According to a study published in 2011, lifestyle interventions, including healthy eating, exercise, and controlled weight loss, can help improve liver damage related to chronic conditions such as fatty liver, Hepatitis C and also after transplants.
Sarah Moore, a certified holistic nutritionist based in Nashville, points out that the liver’s remarkable ability to regenerate helps to keep it healthy through lifestyle adjustments.
“Our liver is our filter. It helps process out toxicity and holds much of our energy stores. It helps process the nutrients that are absorbed by the intestines. It’s so amazing it can regenerate itself!,” Moore told Medical Daily.
“Cutting down on excessive alcohol, sugar, processed food and carbohydrates while increasing intake of fruits and vegetables and staying well-hydrated is the first step. Beets and celery can help to cleanse the stored estrogens in the liver. Eating raw veggies and even eating raw liver (from a clean source) may improve liver function. Herbs like milk thistle and Dandelion root are great for detoxing and supporting the liver,” she explained.
“Apart from the diet, taking help from a natural practitioner for an effective liver cleanse and managing stress through exercise, yoga and being in nature helps,” Moore noted.
Oueichek advocates limiting processed foods, sugary drinks, excessive alcohol and high-fat, fried meals as they strain the liver and hinder its optimal function. She wants people to ensure a balanced diet with whole foods and “incorporate liver-friendly foods like leafy greens, berries, fatty fish, nuts, and olive oil to nourish and support liver function.”
Other factors that affect liver health
According to the American Liver Foundation, staying clear of illicit drugs and avoiding direct contact with toxins from cleaning and aerosol products, insecticides and chemicals can prevent injury to liver cells. It is also important to stay cautious about the medications you take as the wrong medications, dosages or mixing of medicines can harm the liver. Staying up-to-date with vaccinations for hepatitis A and hepatitis B, avoiding contaminated needles and practicing safe sex can prevent liver infections.