The liver stands out as one of the largest internal body organs. With that size comes some vast responsibilities as well. Every day, the liver works hard to achieve the following:
- Filtering the blood circulating the body
- Processing body nutrient
- Help ward off infections
- Manufacture body protein, which helps clot blood.
- Breaks down fat
- Stores iron in the body
- Regulate the sugar and hormone level in the body
With so great a responsibility, it is vulnerable to attack. Sadly, there are many ways your liver can be attacked. With this attack comes severe damage, which could trigger scarring (cirrhosis) and eventual liver failure.
Many things can cause liver damage, not only alcohol abuse. Everyday choices we make in terms of food, habits, and lifestyle choices affect the liver.
As a result, this article focuses on exploring how everyday choices affect the liver.
Lifestyle Factors that can put you at risk of Liver Disease
Harmful Drugs and Supplements
The nature of drugs you take affects your liver. Excessive use of anabolic steroids and other dangerous supplements, for instance, can hurt the liver. Many athletes, for instance, are fond of relying on steroids to boost performance.
Excessive reliance on acetaminophen (Panadol, Tylenol) can damage the liver. As a result, you need to reduce the use of over-the-counter medications that have acetaminophen.
Also, do not be fooled by a supplement labeled natural. There are many herbs and supplements linked to liver damage. In the U.S., 20% of liver injury can be traced to herbs and supplements.
Excessive alcohol consumption remains one of the leading causes of liver issues, like cirrhosis. Reports from the American Liver Foundation estimated that about 10 to 15% of heavy alcoholics would develop liver scarring. As a result, you need to minimize your alcohol consumption to protect your liver. People with liver issues will be better off staying away from alcohol.
It is not about total abstinence from alcohol as the liver can tolerate it in a controlled amount. If you drink too fast or too much, it overloads the liver. When alcohol gets to the liver, it produces a dangerous enzyme called acetaldehyde. The enzyme not only damages the liver cells but could also trigger scarring.
The good news is that the damage is sometimes reversible. You can control this by reducing alcohol intake or totally abstaining.
Humans suffer extremely from excess body weight. In addition to a high risk of developing blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart issues, the liver also suffers. A healthy liver should have fat in trace amounts. Should the fat content of the liver be over 5%, it is said to be fatty. This condition paves the way for a host of other health issues.
With excess fat tissue in the abdomen, there is a possibility of developing insulin resistance. The muscles, fat, and liver cells of someone with the condition will process the hormone wrongly. The result will be an accumulation of insulin in the blood, which increases fatty cells in the blood.
With excess fat in the liver, liver failure and scarring could be imminent.
Excessive cholesterol in the body can lead to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. In severe cases, the victim might experience liver cancer or cirrhosis. The good news is that one can reverse this at an early stage by cutting excess carbs like sugar, bread, rice, etc.
On the other hand, increased consumption of protein, fruits, and veggies will help.
There is also a direct link between type 2 diabetes and liver diseases. According to the Mayo Clinic, diabetes increases your risk of developing nonalcoholic liver issues. This is a condition in which too much fat is stored in the liver, even with little or no alcohol consumption.
People with type 2 diabetes experience various liver disorders like elevated liver enzymes, cirrhosis, fatty liver disease, acute liver failure, etc.
Your Family History and Liver Issues
Besides lifestyle choices, there are other things that put you at risk of liver problems. If any of your family members has a liver disease, you have a higher chance of developing the disease as well. A few of these issues are described below:
- Hemochromatosis: here is a condition in which the body stores excess iron. The iron is stored in the liver and other body organs. In time if it is not managed, it can damage the liver.
- Wilson’s Disease: this is a condition when the liver stores copper rather releasing it to the bile ducts. In time, the liver gets overwhelmed with copper resulting in damage. If left unattended, copper could leak into other body parts and damage it as well.
- Alpha-1 antitrypsin: occurs when the liver cannot make adequate alpha-1 antitrypsin. Sadly, the condition not only causes liver disease but lung issues as well.
Diagnosing Liver Disease
Your doctor needs the exact cause of your liver disease. They also need the level of damage to your liver. This will go a long way to determine the treatment plan you will get. The following tests can help your doctor detect liver disease.
Blood tests: liver function tests are blood tests that help determine issues with the liver. Blood tests also help detect specific liver issues or genetic conditions that make one susceptible to liver disease.
Imaging tests: An ultrasound, MRI, and a CT scan can reveal abnormalities with the liver.
As long as you lead a healthy lifestyle, your chances of developing liver issues are pretty low. In addition, you have even less to worry about if the disease does not run in the family.
A healthy living – reduced body weight, low alcohol consumption, optimal bodyweight, etc., will go a long way in reducing your risk of developing liver disease.
Hopkins Medicine. (n/d) 5 Reasons You May Be at Risk for Liver Disease. Retrieved from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/5-reasons-you-may-be-at-risk-for-liver-disease
Geelong Medical and Health Group. (, 2018). 9 Factors That Can Hurt Your Liver. Retrieved from https://www.geelongmedicalgroup.com.au/2018/01/9-factors-that-can-hurt-your-liver
Keri (n/d) 6 Lifestyle Factors That Could Be Affecting Your Liver Health. Retrieved from https://www.naturesbest.co.uk/our-blog/6-lifestyle-factors-that-could-be-affecting-your-liver-health/
Webmd (2018). Liver Diseases: What You Should Know. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/hepatitis/liver-and-hepatic-diseases
Saurabh Sethi (2019) Liver disease, 101. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/liver-diseases
Mayo Clinic Staff (n/d) Liver Disease Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/liver-problems/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20374507.