“Is life worth living? It all depends on the liver.” – William James
After the brain, the most complex and the most vital organ of the body is liver. It is the largest internal organ in the body and performs over five hundred functions. Life without a healthy liver is un-sustainable. Liver ailments are the tenth most common cause of death in India.
Functions of liver
Liver controls digestion, metabolism, immunity, excretion, toxins removal, nutrient storage, blood sugar level, cholesterol levels, blood clotting, bile (a liquid that breaks down fats and aids in digestion) release, and fight with infections and illness. It also affects the functioning of brain, heart, lungs, and kidney.
Main liver diseases are:
- Hepatitis, an inflammation of the liver. I t is usually caused by viruses like hepatitis A, B, and C. But also, by high consumption of alcohol, drugs, or allergic reactions, or obesity.
- Cirrhosis, permanent scarring of the liver by long-term damage to the liver from any cause.
- Liver cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common liver cancer, almost always occurs after cirrhosis.
- Liver failure, from many causes lie infection, genetic diseases, and excessive alcohol.
- Ascites, leaking of fluid from the liver into the belly which becomes distended and heavy.
- Gallstones, sticking in the bile duct draining the liver may cause hepatitis and bile duct infection (cholangitis).
- Hemochromatosis, allows iron to deposit in the liver, damaging it. Iron also deposits throughout the body, causing multiple other health problems.
- Primary sclerosing cholangitis, a rare disease with unknown causes which causes inflammation and scarring in the bile ducts in the liver.
- Primary biliary cirrhosis, a rare disorder which slowly destroys the bile ducts in the liver causing permanent liver scarring (cirrhosis).
Symptoms of liver disease
- Loss of appetite
- Swelling in the legs and ankles
- Abdominal pain and swelling
- Chronic fatigue
- Skin and eyes that appear yellowish (jaundice)
- Tendency to bruise easily
- Itchy skin
- Pale stool color
- Dark urine color
- Nausea or vomiting
For a healthy liver
For a healthy liver, have a healthy lifestyle, eat healthy and exercise.
Eat a balanced diet:
- Rich in fresh fruits like berries, apples, avocado, pomegranate, and grapefruit
- Rich in vegetables like carrot, green leafy vegetables and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage.
- Prefer alternative grains like millet, jowar, bajra.
- Eat nuts like walnuts, macadamia, peanuts, and Brazil nuts
- Use olive oil.
- Add garlic and turmeric in food.
- Take lemon, lime juice, and green tea.
- Reduce sodium and caffeine intake.
- Drink eight glasses of liquids including water every day. The liquids help the liver to filter and remove toxins from the body.
- Oily and greasy food
- Processed food rich in trans fats and sugar
- Colas, sodas, carbonated drinks, sweets, fruit juices, candies, and energy drinks rich with sugar.
- Drugs such as painkillers, sleeping pills, Cocaine, Marijuana, and Ecstasy, stimulants/ADHD drugs like Ritalin, Amphetamine, and intravenous drugs that can transmit infections like Hepatitis B and C, and lead to Chronic liver disease and even liver cancer.
- Stress which can cause high cortisol levels that can cause liver damage.
- Exercise for six hours every week.
- Include cardio exercises, that is swim, cycle, run, jog, brisk walk (10,000 steps a day) for four hours and do weight exercises for two hours every week.
- Include Yoga
Wash hands regularly. Let the soap froth and bubble and wash for twenty seconds.
Do not share personal hygiene items such as razors, toothbrushes, and nail clippers, because these can be contaminated with microscopic levels of blood or other bodily fluids.
Take Hepatitis B vaccine. Hepatitis B is a Liver disease that can cause mild illness but may also cause serious, lifelong illness.
If a family history of liver disease, or if above 50 years age, get tested for liver damage.
Take care of your liver. Love it. Because as Maya Angelou says, “Life loves the liver of it.”