Your liver is one of the known organs in your body. “Known” because your body is so complicated that researchers still find new systems which help your body function. Your liver is one of the major organs in your body. This football-sized organ works hard to keep you healthy. But if you’re not careful, some lifestyle choices can harm your liver. You may not even know your liver isn’t working properly. That’s because liver disease has few symptoms. Don’t worry. You can have a healthy liver with a few simple lifestyle changes.
We reveal nine lifestyle changes and the best habits for optimal health.
Liver facts you may not know
Your liver weighs approximately three pounds. It lives near the upper right section of your abdomen, just below your diaphragm. As the largest organ in your body, it has over 500 jobs. Liver disorders include the following:
- Liver disease
- Liver cancer
Liver disease comes from lifestyle choices, genetics, infections, or autoimmune diseases.
What does your liver do?
Your liver is busy keeping you healthy. Some of its jobs include:
- Makes albumin: Albumin is a blood protein that carries drugs, fatty acids, and hormones throughout your body. Your liver also makes blood clotting substances when an injury causes bleeding.
- Produces bile: Bile is a chemical that helps your liver turn fat into energy. Without bile, your body couldn’t digest foods.
- Removes waste: When you absorb an unhealthy, toxic substance, your liver helps remove it from your body.
- Bilirubin remover: Your liver works to remove bilirubin from bile. Too much bilirubin causes jaundice and yellowing of your skin.
- Maintain glucose levels: Your liver maintains the proper glucose level in your body. It moves glucose to your blood or removes glucose if there’s too much in your blood.
- Controls immune system responses: If viruses, bacteria, or other harmful organisms attack your body, specific cells in your liver can destroy them.
How do you know if you have a healthy liver?
The best way to know if your liver is healthy is to get a blood test. This test measures your liver function. There are at-home liver function tests you can order online, or you can ask your naturopath to do a test.
What are the warning signs of liver disease?
Liver disease typically has no symptoms, but there are warning signs that show you have liver problems. These include the following:
- Itchy skin
- Swollen abdomen
- Jaundice-yellowing of your skin or in the whites of your eyes
- Swelling of your legs or ankles
- Dark urine
- Pale stools
- Loss of appetite
- Bruising easily
Nine Lifestyle changes for a healthy liver
Before your liver gets damaged, here are nine lifestyle changes you can make to improve the health of your liver.
1 – Avoid dirty needles
Taking drugs damages your liver. This lifestyle has many dangerous side effects beyond liver damage. Drug addiction leads to many poor choices, and using dirty needles is one of them that puts you in danger of liver disease. Get a test immediately if you or someone else has penetrated your skin with a dirty needle or sharp utensil. It’s rare, but there are even situations where hospitals have accidentally used dirty needles. Of course, this warning includes tattoos and body piercings where needles are used. Don’t share personal hygiene things like razors or nail clippers. You’re the best advocate for your health. If you’re concerned, take action and go to an emergency room. Your life could depend upon it.
2 – Practice safe sex for a healthy liver
Unprotected sex with many partners increases the risk of hepatitis B and C. Both cause liver damage. Left untreated, they can cause death due to liver disease.
3 – Wash your hands
It’s a simple hygienic practice. Wash your hands with warm water and soap after you change a diaper, use the bathroom, or prepare food. Washing your hands prevents the spread of Hepatitis. This type of hepatitis is a dangerous liver disease that spreads from person to person. Anybody can get it, especially if you don’t wash your hands before you prepare or eat food or drinks. It spreads through close contact with someone who has Hepatitis A.
4 – Stay at a healthy weight for a healthy liver
According to studies, approximately 30% to 45% of Americans carry excess fat in their liver. A fatty liver can lead to liver disease. Weight loss reduces liver fat and helps you fight liver disease. Recommended lifestyle changes include weight loss if you’re overweight, exercise, and eating a healthy diet to decrease fat. Even a small amount of weight loss makes a big difference in preventing liver damage.
5 – Eat a balanced diet for a healthy liver
Eating high calorie, saturated fats, and refined carbs lead to unhealthy habits that can lead to liver disease. Your healthy diet should include
- Fresh, whole fruits
- Whole vegetables
- Brown grains like whole wheat flour and brown rice
- Good fats like olive oil, seeds, and nuts
- Drink lots of water
6 – Follow directions on all medication
You may have realized that taking too much medication or taking it wrong can damage your liver. Mixing alcohol and medicines can also harm your liver. Other potentially dangerous “medical” items you take that can damage your liver include the following:
- Herbal medicines or supplements
- Herbal teas, if mixed with over-the-counter or prescription drugs such as heart medication
- Non-FDA-approved supplements from other countries. You don’t know what is in these supplements.
- Over-the-counter medications: Acetaminophen or ibuprofen, if taken in excess, will damage your liver
7 – Avoid toxins
You come in contact with certain toxins daily that can damage your liver. Things like cleaning products, aerosol products, chemicals, additives, and insecticides will damage your liver. If your job requires you to use any of these, wear a mask on the job. At home, choose natural ingredients when cleaning your home. Avoid using aerosol sprays. But if, for instance, you want to paint with spray paint, choose a well-ventilated area such as a garage with an open door or even outside. Be sure to wear a mask while you’re spray painting.
8 – Limit how much alcohol you drink
Alcohol is number one on the list of things that can damage your liver. Use alcohol responsibly. Adults who are at a legal drinking age should drink in moderation. This means no more than two alcoholic drinks a day for men and one alcoholic drink for women. A heavy drinker is considered a man who drinks at least four drinks a day or 14 alcoholic drinks in a week. Or a woman who drinks three alcoholic drinks per day or seven weekly. Overindulging in alcohol leads to liver damage and scarring. By making simple lifestyle changes such as limiting your alcohol intake, you can reduce the damage to your liver and prevent more damage from occurring.
9 – For a healthy liver, stay physically active
A healthy liver contains a small amount of fat. Fatty liver disease is when you have too much fat built up in your liver. A fatty liver is one with 5% to 10% of your liver’s weight in fat. Lifestyle changes like staying physically fit can help you maintain your weight and reduce the fat in your body. Exercise also detoxes your liver and helps reduce fat build-up. Try to engage in some blood pumping exercise at least 150 minutes per week. It can be anything that you enjoy but gets your heart rate up.
- Bike riding
Final thoughts on the importance of a healthy liver
It’s easy to live as if your body will always be healthy. It’s sobering to realize that simple everyday lifestyle choices could cause a lifetime of heartache if you end up with the disease. Things like overindulging in food, alcohol, or recreational drugs can cause liver disease. It’s important to understand these ten lifestyle changes to include in your life for a healthy liver. It’s possible to break your bad habits and start new healthy habits toward a robust and healthy liver. You are the only one that can make healthy choices for your life.