After a night of heavy drinking, you may feel sorry for your liver, but you probably don’t give this major organ much thought after that.
After your skin, your liver is the second largest organ in your body. The liver filters out harmful substances from your blood and it helps turn food into energy. That is a pretty important function, so ensuring a healthy liver is mandatory for good health.
There are many different types of liver disease. Cirrhosis, hepatitis, cysts, cancer and alcohol-related diseases are just a few of the possible liver problems.
Even if you avoid alcohol, which is toxic to the liver, you can be susceptible to Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD). NAFLD is one of the most common causes of toxic liver disease in America.
According to the American Liver Foundation, there are between 79,000 and 90,000 Americans living with NAFLD currently. NAFLD can lead to cirrhosis of the liver and can progress to a point where a transplant is needed.
Obesity, Type 2 Diabetes and high cholesterol are all risk factors for NAFLD. However, a toxic liver from NAFLD is preventable and reversible.
According to the American Liver Foundation, we should do the following to prevent NAFLD:
* Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, grains and healthy proteins
* Limit consumption of food that is high in sugars, saturated fats and salt
* Incorporate exercise into our daily routines
* Keep weight at healthy levels
* Manage diabetes
* Lower cholesterol
* Avoid alcohol
Unfortunately, NAFLD does not have any symptoms or cause pain for people who have it, but the disease can progress to Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH), which causes symptoms. If you are experiencing the following signs of a toxic liver, it is important to consult with your physician right away.
Untreated NASH can lead to cirrhosis and scarring of the liver and puts you at risk for liver failure, liver cancer and the need for a liver transplant.
If you suspect that your liver is toxic, your doctor can perform a test of your liver function. A blood test will check for certain proteins and enzymes in your blood and will reveal what the liver is producing as well as filtering out.
Here Are 6 Signs You Have an Unhealthy Liver
Yellowing of the skin, nails and/or the whites of the eyes is a cause for concern with toxic liver disease. Jaundice is a sign that liver disease has progressed to cirrhosis and you should seek medical help immediately.
2. Lack of energy and mental confusion
Fatigue, weakness and lack of energy have all been associated with the progression of toxic liver disease. Fatigue in combination with nausea, diarrhea and loss of appetite are the first signs of liver failure. Liver failure requires immediate medical attention.
The American Liver Foundation says that toxins can also build up in your brain. This can cause problems with memory, concentration and sleep. Mental confusion is a symptom of progressing liver disease.
3. Lack of appetite
Nausea, vomiting, and/or lack of appetite have all been linked to toxic liver disease. As a result of the nausea, patients with toxic liver may also experience weight loss.
Leptin is a hormone that is secreted by the body to make you feel full after eating. Patients with toxic livers had increased levels of leptin, which could also account for their lack of appetite.
One study suggested that these symptoms, in addition to a blood test for elevated AST (aspartate aminotransferase, a specific blood enzyme), should be used as a diagnostic tool for NASH and NAFLD.
4. High cholesterol and blood clotting
Hypertension and high cholesterol can both be caused by obesity, and they are both also symptoms of underlying liver disease. You are more likely to have your doctor check your cholesterol levels regularly, so if these are elevated, have them also check your blood enzymes for signs of liver disease.
Blood clotting more quickly than normal can also be related to liver disease. Some patients with cirrhosis of the liver or liver fibrosis have been observed with blood that clotted easily.
5. Skin sensitivity and skin problems
Itchy skin or spider veins on the surface of the skin can be a result of edema or swelling happening under the skin. Skin may also appear red or flushed. In patients who are also diabetic, skin may look bronzed when liver failure is imminent.
6. Swelling in the abdomen or legs
Noticing swelling in your lower legs or bloating in the abdomen could be a sign of advanced toxic liver and is a cause for immediate concern. The inflamed liver causes a build up of fluid that your liver is not able to process like it would in its healthy state. The swelling can be painful due to the pressure it puts on the skin and surrounding tissues.
For overweight or obese patients, the swelling can be disguised by fat in the abdomen and the toxic liver may be missed by doctors. One study found that obese children were not being appropriately screened for liver disease by pediatricians, even though they had the risk factor of being overweight.
Consult with a medical professional if you have any concern about the health your liver. Catching a problem before it becomes advanced enough to result in symptoms is better than treating it after the diagnosis has been made.