Proven Ways to Have the Healthiest Liver, Say Experts
Your liver is essential to your life—so it's important to take good care of it. "Recent research shows a dramatic uptick in the number of people suffering or dying from conditions like liver cancer or liver disease," says Robin Kim, MD, surgical director of liver transplantation at University of Utah Health's Transplant Services. "There is evidence this increase could be due to people not paying attention to keeping their liver healthy." Here are five proven ways to have the healthiest liver, according to experts. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Be Mindful Of Alcohol Intake
If you want to keep your liver in tip-top shape, limit alcohol or eliminate it completely. "Even if you think your liver is healthy, those who drink at least moderately and regularly for years are advised to take a break from alcohol in order to allow [for] healing whatever damage that may have occurred in the liver," says Cleveland Clinic hepatologist Jamile Wakim-Fleming, MD. "We tell our patients who are presenting for liver transplant from alcoholic liver disease that they should be sober for two years at least."
Protect Against Hepatitis
Hepatitis literally means inflammation of the liver. "Prevention is key," says Moises Ilan Nevah, MD, a transplant hepatologist/gastroenterologist and medical director of the Liver Transplant Program at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix. "In addition to getting vaccinated, practicing good hygiene (such as handwashing after using the restroom) is very important to preventing hepatitis A. In addition, hepatitis B and C can be transmitted by sex or sharing needles, razors, or toothbrushes with someone who has the disease."
Eat a Liver-Friendly Diet
Eating a healthy diet can be beneficial to liver health, experts say. "We recommend patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease drink three cups of coffee per day, eat four tablespoons of olive oil a day and follow a Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes eating primarily plant-based foods and healthy fats," says Annie Guinane, RD, LDN.
Aerobic exercise may help protect the liver from alcohol-related inflammation, researchers claim. "Excessive alcohol consumption is one of the most common causes of chronic liver failure," said Jamal Ibdah, MD, PhD, professor of medicine, Raymond E. and Vaona H. Peck Chair in Cancer Research at the MU School of Medicine. "We know from previous research that chronic and binge drinking causes modifications to protein structures within the liver, resulting in irreversible damage. In our current study we wanted to see whether increased levels of aerobic fitness could prevent alcohol-related liver damage… Higher physical activity levels seemed to protect against the metabolic dysfunction that eventually leads to irreversible liver damage."
Be Careful With Supplements
Over-the-counter supplements can be incredibly harmful to liver health, doctors warn. One study found that bodybuilding supplements containing androgenic anabolic steroids (AAS) are particularly dangerous. "Bodybuilding supplements that contain AAS can lead to liver damage, including severe cholestatic hepatitis, which can take months to resolve," says Robert Fontana, MD, University of Michigan's medical director of liver transplantation. "Additionally, various multi-ingredient nutritional supplements taken to enhance energy, increase performance and facilitate weight loss can lead to potentially severe, or even fatal, liver damage."
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