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April 20, 2016
By L. Carr, Contributing Columnist
Your liver is a truly amazing organ. It’s your largest - around the size
of a football - and weighs about 1.5 kilograms, and it works hard to
deal with a variety of important bodily processes. Did you know your
liver is the only organ that can regenerate itself with new tissue? But
your liver cannot work miracles under all circumstances. It’s crying out
to warn you about these dangerous habits that could seriously harm
your health. Here’s how to love your liver – pay attention to what it’s
Why Is Your Liver So Important?
The liver is responsible for effectively performing many activities that
are essential for your health and wellbeing. Every day the liver clears
waste products from the blood, breaks down old blood cells and
hormones, helps store and release sugars and fats, makes essential
proteins, aids digestion and supplies vitamins and iron to various parts
of the body.
Your liver is a chemical processing marvel. When you eat, the liver takes
nutrients from the blood and sends them to where they are needed in
the body. It governs the process whereby glucose and glycogen levels
are fine-tuned. And if toxins and harmful substances enter the blood,
the liver works hard to destroy them. But it can’t cope with everything.
ealth Dangers to Your Liver
Poor diet, alcohol, hepatitis viruses, pain relief drugs, and toxic
substances like tobacco and marijuana can all damage your liver and
prevent it from processing chemicals properly. A poor diet and excess
body weight contribute to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which
causes inflammation and abnormal liver function. Viruses and toxic
substances damage the liver through inflammation – hepatitis. As the
liver is damaged, fibrosis occurs which hardens the liver resulting in
cirrhosis, which can lead to liver cancer, liver failure, and death.
The Sad, Serious State of Our Livers
Millions of people should be listening more closely to their livers.
Over 20 million Americans have some form of liver disease, according to
the American Liver Foundation – and there are more than 100 different
kinds of liver disease in existence.
Twenty percent of Americans have fatty livers, which can turn into non-
alcoholic fatty liver disease. Over one million people have hepatitis B
and four million have hepatitis C. Over 20,000 Americans are diagnosed
with primary liver cancer every year.
You can do plenty of things to prevent liver damage, like eating a low
fat, healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight and exercising. But there
are certain things you should not do – stopping these unhealthy habits
can significantly improve your liver’s health.
1. Stop Misusing Alcohol
Alcohol and oxycontin overuse are called "insults to the liver." If you
drink more alcohol than your liver can process, it destroys liver cells
and injures the liver.
Alcohol and oxycontin overuse are potentially deadly health dangers –
if you do anything for your liver, get help for problematic alcohol
Three main types of liver disease are caused by alcohol misuse –
alcoholic fatty liver disease, alcoholic hepatitis, and alcoholic cirrhosis.
Many heavy drinkers move from one condition to another over time.
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, moderate alcohol
consumption is one drink per day for women and two for men. But as
everyone is different, and some people are more susceptible to the
effects of alcohol on the liver, it is wise to discuss safe limits with a
While it wouldn’t be wise to continue drinking heavily while increasing
your coffee intake and expect to avoid health problems, a 2006 study
from the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program shows that one cup
of coffee a day lowers the incidence of cirrhosis of the liver by 22
percent in alcohol drinkers.
The study looked at over 125,000 people’s lifestyle habits from 1978 to
1985. The incidence of cirrhosis went down by 22 percent for each cup
of coffee consumed each day – tea did not have the same effect.
2. Stop Smoking
Smoking not only damages your lungs --- it destroys your liver. When
you smoke you may also be injuring your liver, increasing your chances
of developing liver cancer.
A 2006 study from the Ain Shams University and Cairo Liver Center,
Egypt, demonstrates that smoking causes a variety of ill effects for
organs like the liver that have no direct contact with the smoke.
The research shows how smoking has an indirect toxic effect that
increases inflammation and fibrosis in the liver. It damages liver cells.
Listen to your liver and stop smoking.
3. Stop Using Cannabis
Frequent cannabis use is linked to liver damage, according to experts.
And if you have hepatitis C and you use cannabis every day you are
more likely to suffer from severe fibrosis and cirrhosis of the liver. The
American Gastroenterological Association published a study in 2008
warning against this daily cannabis use for people with chronic
hepatitis C. if hepatitis C sufferers also drank large amounts of alcohol
the risk of liver fibrosis was even greater, according to the study that
looked at 328 patients.
4. Give Up Some Herbal Remedies
You may not realize it, but many herbal remedies are proven toxic to
Be careful what you take when it comes to avoiding liver damage.
Known liver-offenders include black cohosh, Chinese ginseng,
barberry, comfrey, gordoloba yerba tea, false pennyroyal, Sho-saiko-
to, pennyroyal oil, creosote bush, greater celandine, germander,
greasewood, Kombucha tea, sassafras, senna, Jamaican bush tea,
mistletoe, and chaparral, says Hepatitis Australia.
In the case of chaparral, studies such as a 1997 report from the Food
and Drug Administration show that “the use of chaparral may be
associated with acute to chronic irreversible liver damage.”
5. Avoid Too Much Vitamin A
High doses of vitamin A – more than 50,000 IU per day taken for
several years – can cause liver injury.
Most of your body’s vitamin A is stored in the liver so excessive
consumption is dangerous. If you have a high alcohol intake the safe
level of vitamin A is lower – a 1999 study from the Bronx VA Medical
Center and Mount Sinai School of Medicine shows that excessive
vitamin A intake increases the risk of liver injury in people with
6. Be Careful with Tylenol
Taking Tylenol, or paracetamol, at the directed levels is safe even if you
have liver disease.
But taking slightly over the recommended doses, over a long period of
time, can cause significant liver damage. A 2011 study from the
university of Edinburgh and the Scottish Liver Transplantation Unit in
the UK says that repeatedly taking more than you should can even be
Staggered overdosing on paracetamol can result in liver failure. The
researchers looked at data from 663 patients who had been
hospitalized with injuries caused by paracetamol, mostly caused as
people repeatedly overdosed to try to cope with common pains like
toothache and headache.
7. Avoid Excessive Iron Supplementation
Taking more than the recommended levels of iron? Iron is good for the
body but excessive supplementation can cause liver damage as your
body cannot get rid of excess iron, and it builds up in the liver and
Hemochromatosis, a genetic condition, is linked to an excessive buildup
of iron in the body so anyone suffering from this condition, which
affects one in 10 Caucasians according to a 2006 study from Center for
Health Research, Kaiser Permanente, should be especially cautious.
The American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases recommends
that hemochromatosis should be treated by avoiding iron and vitamin C
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