It is common knowledge that excessive alcohol consumption can lead to a whole range of health problems: high blood pressure, heart disease, digestive problems, liver disease, etc.
Besides excessive alcohol consumption, there are other habits that could also harm your liver, many of which might surprise you. We spoke to experts to find out what aspects of your lifestyle might need some tweaking.
Habits that can damage your liver
A poor diet
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is a relatively common finding. In fact, it’s the most common reason people have elevated liver function tests in the lab. It can sometimes lead to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, cirrhosis and liver failure, which is a life-threatening condition. Dr. Allison Edwards, MD, Medical Director at Sesame, explains. It’s been associated with obesity, diabetes, and insulin resistance, but the good news is that by carefully monitoring your diet, you can often forestall this progression if caught early.
Related: New Study Finds One More Reason The Mediterranean And Keto Diets Might Be Worth Trying
Too much refined sugar can lead to liver disease, so limit your intake of sodas, candy, and processed foods.
Not being up to date with their vaccines
Getting vaccinated is important for many reasons, including liver protection.
There are vaccines for hepatitis A and hepatitis B that can significantly reduce the risk of contracting viral hepatitis which can significantly damage the liver. Additionally, chronic hepatitis B can lead to cirrhosis and possibly liver cancer. So this is a vaccine that can actually prevent cancer, says Dr. Edwards.
Ingestion of toxic natural substances
It is crucial to keep in mind that nature does not means non-toxic.
Be careful of herbs, mushrooms and other things that occur naturally in nature — some of these things can be toxic to the liver in varying doses, says Dr. Edwards.
Ignoring Labels and Not Following Package Instructions
Follow the labels of over-the-counter items and be smart about using them. A handful of items sold as over-the-counter drugs or sold as supplements — like vitamin A, some green tea extracts, and others marketed as diet or weightlifting aids — can actually damage the liver when they are not taken according to the instructions on the package. says Edwards.
Always follow package directions when taking over-the-counter medications and keep a high index of suspicion when taking supplements, as many are not closely regulated or monitored for their effects or harmful effects.
Cleanses and “detox” elixirs
Your liver is a powerful organ that does its best when, frankly, we leave it alone.
Most of what you can do to help your liver keep your body healthy is to fuel it with healthy, whole foods and avoid untested cleanses and detox diets. While most don’t overtly damage your liver, they’re just not necessary and can hit your wallet hard, says Dr. Edwards.
Related: Are You Considering A Juice Cleanse For Weight Loss? Here’s everything you need to know before you start
There is data to show that OSA (obstructive sleep apnea) can in fact induce non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. This appears to occur due to increased levels of insulin resistance or an imbalance of lipids (such as cholesterol (LDL AND HDL) and triglycerides, Dr. Michael Breus, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist specializing in sleep research and education, says. If the OSA patient also suffers from metabolic syndrome and obesity, this can make NAFLD worse.
Sleep deprivation can also cause insulin resistance, which leads to liver dysfunction, adds Dr. Breus. There are many studies to show this relationship.
How to keep your liver healthy
Here’s what to do if you want to keep your liver healthy:
Adopt a healthy diet
A healthy diet is important for overall health and can also help protect the liver. Avoid processed foods and eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Alice Williams, MDExplain.
Working out has many benefits, including keeping your liver in top shape.
“Exercise can help prevent obesity and other health conditions that can damage the liver,” says Dr. Williams.
Get enough sleep
Sleeping helps the body repair and regenerate itself, so getting enough rest is important. Poor sleep can lead to increased feelings of stress and weight gain, which can damage the liver, says Dr. Williams.
Limit alcohol consumption
As the most well-known cause of liver damage, it’s important to watch your alcohol intake and not overdo it.
“If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Excessive alcohol consumption is the leading cause of liver disease,” says Dr. Williams.
Do not smoke
Smoking damages the liver in several ways. If you smoke, quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health. Remember that a pack of cigarettes a day can take years off your life, says Dr. Williams.
Next step: Here’s how to keep your liver healthy
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