Your liver does more for your body than you realize. The liver is a hard-working organ, filtering toxins from your bloodstream, metabolizing drugs and repackaging 99 percent of the nutrients in your diet into blood sugar, triglycerides and cholesterol.
Until about 10 years ago, the biggest threats to your liver were hepatitis infections and alcohol abuse. Now, your liver is facing new dangers from your dinner plate and medicine cabinet.
In the U.S., overdosing on acetaminophen is the number one cause of sudden liver failure. Unsafe herbal medications and supplements are also a threat. Recently, a fat-burning pill caused 24 cases of liver disease, two liver transplants and one death. America's growing epidemic of obesity may also impact the increase of liver problems. Some health experts estimate that within the next five years, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) could become the primary reason for liver failure and the need for liver transplants in the U.S. Currently, 33 percent of adults have NAFLD.
You can't feel the slow build-up of fat in the liver, making it more difficult to identify liver problems early on. However, there are steps you can take today to keep your liver healthy and functioning:
- Eliminate red meat from your diet
- Adopt a diet rich in green vegetables and eat more fish
- Avoid sugary drinks and sodas
- Cut back on your alcohol intake
- Beware of herbs and supplements that might harm your liver
Eating a lot of red meat causes more inflammation in the body and raises a person's risk for a fat-packed liver by 45 percent. In fact, eating four ounces of meat a day triples your risk, compared to those who only eat red meat every once in a while.
Seafood, like salmon and ocean trout, is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which discourage the buildup of fat in the liver, as do purified omega-7s. Some vegetables, like asparagus, contain minerals and amino acids that help liver cells detox themselves. Also try to eat more broccoli and cabbage, which contain sulfur compounds that help your liver clear toxins from the body.
Beverages loaded with sugar raise fatty liver odds by 45 percent. This is because fructose in soft drinks and other sweet beverages ramp up the liver's production of fats. On the flip side, caffeine can stimulate the breakdown of lipid stores in liver cells. Try swapping out soda for water or tea and be aware of added sugars in anything you drink.
Binge drinking can seriously harm your liver. Studies show that 30 percent of women and 40 percent of men binge drink at least once a year. Cut down on the number of drinks you have at dinner or parties, or limit drinking to one or two glasses during social functions.
Herbs and supplements often contain drugs not listed on the label or listed incorrectly. If you're taking acetaminophen (like Tylenol) to relieve pain, follow the dose instructions on the label and never mix with alcohol.