It is estimated that there are over 100 types of liver disease. The Mayo Clinic states, “Liver disease can be inherited (genetic) or caused by a variety of factors that damage the liver, such as viruses and alcohol use.” Obesity is also linked to increased risk of liver damage.
According to the World Gastroenterology Organization, rates of liver disease are “steadily increasing” over time. In the United Kingdom, liver diseases are the fifth-leading cause of death. In the United States, liver disease rates are also climbing. Death rates from chronic liver disease or cirrhosis increased over 30 percent from 2000 to 2015.
Signs and symptoms of liver disease include:
- Abdominal pain and swelling.
- Bruising easily.
- Chronic fatigue.
- Dark-colored urine.
- Irritated, itchy skin.
- Loss of appetite.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Swelling of legs and ankles.
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice).
Besides long-term alcohol use, there are numerous other causes of liver disease. Disease of the liver can arise from:
- Abnormalities of the immune system.
- Cancer and cancerous growths of the bile duct and liver.
- Fat accumulating in the liver (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease).
- Genetic predisposition.
- Infection from parasites and viruses.
Risk factors for liver cancer include:
- Alcohol abuse.
- Body piercings or tattoos.
- Exposure to other people’s bodily fluids and blood.
- Exposure to certain chemicals or toxins.
- Unprotected sex.
9 Ways to Heal Liver Damage
1. Eat the right foods
Eating right is one of the best factors for liver health. In this respect, eat plenty of antioxidants, fiber, and vegetables. Minimize or rid your diet of saturated fats, sugars, and processed foods. Some of the best food sources that promote liver health include: blueberries and cranberries (antioxidants), cruciferous vegetables (Brussels sprouts, broccoli, mustard greens, cauliflower, etc.), coffee, fatty fish, grapefruit, grapes, nuts, olive oil, and prickly pear.
2. Lose Weight if Needed
If you’re overweight, it is wise to cut back on alcohol. Not only will this safeguard your health, but it will also help you shed pounds. Research shows that obese individuals who drink excessively are up to four times as likely to develop liver disease.
3. Get Regular Exercise
As mentioned, obesity is a significant risk factor. Exercise not only helps you maintain a healthy weight, but also boosts your immune system function. This can reduce the risk of liver cancer and help heal liver damage.
4. Quit Smoking
Cigarette smoke contains additives that must be processed in the liver. For people at risk of liver disease, smoking may cause further liver damage and scarring.
5. Avoid Exposure to Toxins
Toxins are (surprise) poisonous for the liver. As such, avoid exposure to toxins whenever possible. These include aerosol, insecticides and fungicides, and spray paints. If you must use these products, wear gloves and cover your entire body. Use a mask if spraying inside.
6. Quit Alcohol or Cut Down
Alcohol is okay in moderation for most people. However, if you have a history of problematic drinking or other health problems, consider abstaining from alcohol to help heal liver damage.
7. Protect Yourself
Hepatitis is one of the leading causes of liver damage and can be transmitted through blood or sexual fluids. If you get manicures or pedicures, ensure that you are being serviced by a reputable shop. The same applies to getting a tattoo or body piercing.
8. Monitor Your Medications
The liver is responsible for metabolizing everything your body consumes, which includes prescription drugs. Medications that may cause liver damage include anti-psychotics, heart drugs, hormone replacement drugs, birth control pills, and certain OTC drugs.
9. Consider Supplementation
According to WebMD, “… antioxidant vitamins such as C, E, and beta-carotene; minerals such as zinc and selenium; B-vitamins that aid alcohol metabolism; and herbs said to cleanse the liver such as milk thistle, dandelion root, and schizandra might help protect liver cells while ridding our body of poisons.”
There are many things you can do to prevent liver problems or heal liver damage. Here is a list of helpful measures from the Mayo Clinic:
- Avoid risky behaviors, including unprotected sex and use of illicit drugs.
- If you are at an increased risk of contracting hepatitis, get vaccinated.
- Get a professional opinion if you have reason to believe you are infected with hepatitis.
- If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation. High-risk drinking is having more than eight alcoholic drinks per week for women and fifteen drinks per week for men.
- Keep a healthy weight, as obesity is the leading cause of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
- Monitor your medication usage. Take all prescribed medicines in recommended dosages and do not mix with alcohol. Discuss unwanted side effects with your physician.