Prevention is better than cure, and this saying is more apt to liver protection. Serious problems arise if the liver is damaged. Some inherited problems can probably not be avoided, but you can take an active part in keeping your liver healthy
Three things to avoid for liver health are:
Most people know that the liver acts as a filter and can be badly damaged by drinking too much alcohol. Liver specialists suggest that more than two drinks a day for men – and more than one drink a day for women – may even be too much for some people.
One of the most remarkable accomplishments of this miraculous organ is its ability to regenerate. (Three quarters of the liver can be removed and it will grow back in the same shape and form within a few weeks!) However, overworking your liver by heavy alcohol consumption can cause liver cells (the "employees" in the power plant) to become permanently damaged or scarred. This is called cirrhosis.
- Avoid drugs and medicines taken with alcohol
Medicines – especially the seemingly harmless acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol and other over-the-counter medications) – should never be taken with alcoholic beverages. Many prescribed and over-the-counter drugs and medicines (including herbal medications) are made up of chemicals that could be potentially hazardous to your precious liver cells, especially taken with alcohol.
If you are ill with a virus or metabolic disorder, liver damage may result from the medications you take. In such cases, you should ask your physician about possible liver cell damage.
- Avoid environmental pollutants
Fumes from paint thinners bug sprays, and other aerosol sprays are picked up by the tiny blood vessels in your lungs and carried to your liver where they are detoxified and discharged in your bile. The amount and concentration of those chemicals should be controlled to prevent liver damage. Make certain you have good ventilation, use a mask, cover your skin, and wash off any chemicals you get on your skin with soap and water as soon as possible.
Diet and your Liver
Poor nutrition is rarely a cause of liver disease, but good nutrition in the form of a balanced diet, may help liver cells damaged by hepatitis viruses to regenerate, forming new liver cells. Nutrition can be an essential part of treatment. Many chronic liver diseases are associated with malnutrition.
- Watch your protein intake:
To quickly determine your daily protein in grams, divide your weight in pounds by 2. Too much daily protein may cause hepatic encephalopathy (mental confusion). This occurs when the amount of dietary protein is greater than the liver's ability to use the protein. This causes a build up of toxins that can interfere with brain function. Protein is restricted in patients with clinical evidence of encephalopathy. However, controversy exists regarding the type of protein a diet should contain. Vegetable and dairy protein may be tolerated better than meat protein. Medications, such as lactulose and neomycin, may be used to help control hepatitis-related encephalopathy. Due to the body's need for proteins, protein restriction should only be undertaken with a doctor's advice.
Excess calories in the form of carbohydrates can add to liver dysfunction and can cause fat deposits in the liver. No more than 30% of a person's total calories should come from fat because of the danger to the cardiovascular system. To figure out your daily calorie needs, you'll need a minimum of 15 calories a day for each pound you weight. Watch the Salt Good nutrition also helps to maintain the normal fluid and electrolyte balances in the body. Patients with fluid retention and swelling of the abdomen (ascites), or the legs (peripheral edema), may need diets low in salt to avoid sodium retention that contributes to fluid retention. Avoiding foods such as canned soups and vegetables, cold cuts, dairy products, and condiments such as mayonnaise and ketchup can reduce sodium intake. Read food labels carefully as many prepared foods contain large amounts of salt. The best-tasting salt substitute is lemon juice.
Excessive amounts of some vitamins may be an additional source of stress to the liver that must act as a filter for the body. Mega-vitamin supplements, particularly if they contain vitamins A and D, may be harmful. Excess vitamin A is very toxic to the liver.
You'll need to stop drinking completely to give your liver a break - a chance to heal, a chance to rebuild, a chance for new liver cells to grow. This means avoiding beer, wine, cocktails, champagne, and liquor in any other form. If you continue to drink, your liver will pay the price, and if your doctor is checking your liver function tests, it may be hard to determine if a change in a test means there has been damage to your liver due to the disease itself or because of the alcohol.
Smoking may harm your liver’s ability to effectively process and remove toxins from your body. It can also make alcohol-induced liver disease worse.
- Beware of “nutritional therapies”:
Herbal treatments and alternative liver medicines need to undergo rigorous scientific study before they can be recommended. "Natural" or diet treatments and herbal remedies can be quite dangerous. Plants of the Senecio, Crotalaria and Heliotopium families, plus chaparral, germander, comfrey, mistletoe, skullcap, margosa oil, mate tea, Gordolobo yerba tea, pennyroyal, and Jin BluHuan are all toxic to the liver.
Only use prescription and nonprescription drugs when you needed them and take only the recommended doses. Talk to your doctor before mixing herbal supplements or prescription or nonprescription drugs.