29 Mar Help your liver keep you healthy
We tend to ignore our livers. You might think about the health of your heart, your brain and even make sure you drink enough water to ensure the health of your kidneys, but the poor old liver often gets forgotten.
In fact, the liver is essential to our overall health as it works with the gall bladder, pancreas and intestines to ensure that the goodness from the food we eat is delivered safely and effectively to where it is needed in the body through the blood supply.
How does the liver work?
The liver filters blood from the digestive system, removing toxins from the blood and processing any medication or drugs – including everyday drugs such as alcohol and caffeine. It gets rid of these toxins by secreting bile which goes back into the intestine to be removed from the body with natural waste. It also produces proteins which help with blood clotting.
Increased levels of sugar in the modern diet mean the incidence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is on the rise.
According to the NHS Choices website, up to one in three people in the UK may have the early stages of Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) with small amounts of fat in the liver. For most people, a little fat around the liver is not serious: possible indicators are that you may feel a little tired, have unexplained weight loss, occasionally feel nauseous or notice some puffiness around the ankles and lower legs.
However, if the liver becomes inflamed, a condition called Non-alcoholic Steatohepatitis, matters can become more serious. The condition can lead to scarring of the liver (fibrosis) or in the most severe cases to cirrhosis which, over an extended time, can ultimately lead to liver failure.
People who are overweight, particularly those who are ‘apple’ shaped, carrying weight around the tummy and midriff, are most at risk of developing fat in the liver, as are those who eat a high-sugar or high-carbohydrate diet. Interestingly, consuming saturated fats is not linked to liver disease.
How can you support your liver?
Here are some simple steps you can take that could help support your liver’s health:
- Improve your metabolism – increase how much you exercise by aiming to build up to at least 150 minutes of moderate to intense exercise such as brisk walking, cycling or swimming a week.
- Lose weight – Aim for a healthy weight with a Body Mass Index of between 18.5 and 24.9. Losing just 10% of your body weight could noticeably reduce the amount of fat in your liver.
- Eat a healthy diet – consume plenty of fruit and vegetables, protein and unprocessed carbohydrates. Surprisingly, saturated fats from unprocessed foods such as avocados, nuts and oily fish, eaten in moderation, can actually help to support the liver.
- Avoid sugar and salt – they put additional strain on the liver.
- Eat more greens – add green leafy vegetables such as kale, cabbage and watercress, plus vitamin-rich broccoli to your meals.
- Reduce alcohol – whilst alcohol is not directly linked to NAFLD, alcohol means the liver has to work harder and may put it under greater strain.
- Take a traditional herbal medicine – HRI Milk Thistle is a traditional herbal medicine used to relieve the symptoms associated with occasional over-indulgence of food and drink such as indigestion and upset stomach, based on traditional use only.
It is well worth taking a little time and care to keep your liver in tip top condition: as a US doctor, Dr. Mark Hyman said, “The right supplements can help bring your body back into balance while it heals. Herbs like Milk Thistle are great for supporting the liver.”