The human liver is a truly amazing organ. Cone-shaped and weighing in at about three pounds, it supports hundreds of bodily functions. “[The liver] filters harmful things from your blood, stores fuel, and makes a liquid called bile that helps you digest food,” says WebMD—and those are just its three main functions. In addition, if the liver is damaged by disease or injury, “surgeons can sometimes take out as much as three-quarters of it without destroying it,” their experts write. “It often grows back to its former size within a few weeks.”
As amazing as it is, the liver is not invincible. Like the rest of your body, it’s impacted by your lifestyle choices. And while there is no cure for liver disease such as cirrhosis, practicing a liver-healthy lifestyle can help ensure you don’t develop the life-threatening condition—and boost your liver’s health right now. Read on to find out how you can show your liver some love today.
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Many people think of limiting their alcohol intake when considering their liver health—and they’re absolutely right. “Alcohol is a complete no-no,” says Sameer Jafri, President & COO of Avive Solutions, Inc. “The absolute worst offense to your liver is drinking alcohol,” he warns. “Since booze is toxic and gets processed in the liver, drinking too much of it can cause scarring or even cirrhosis.” And despite the liver’s amazing ability to regrow, it can’t rebound from scarring.
“The scar tissue blocks the flow of blood through the liver and slows the liver’s ability to process nutrients, hormones, drugs and natural toxins (poisons),” notes the Cleveland Clinic. “It also reduces the production of proteins and other substances made by the liver.”
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Protecting your liver is just one of many great reasons to eat a healthy diet. (Slashing heart disease and potentially adding years to your life are two more.)
“Give your liver a rest by eating a liver-friendly diet,” says Jafri. “This includes getting sufficient fiber from sources like whole grains as well as fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein sources such as seafood, and skinless poultry.” Drinking plenty of water is also important, because “it prevents dehydration and it helps your liver to function better,” according to the American Liver Foundation.
Speaking of water, Jafri recommends a simple combination of lemon and water as part of your liver health regimen. “The combination of lukewarm water with lemon works well for detoxifying the liver and eliminating toxins from the body,” he explains. Jafri recommends adding the juice of half a lemon to a glass of warm water, mixing well, and drinking it in the morning, as well as consuming 10 to 12 additional glasses of warm water daily.
Just make sure to take care of your teeth at the same time, since lemon juice can cause tooth erosion. Drinking through a straw and using the juice of fresh lemons are two ways to address potential damage to your enamel.
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“Toxins can injure liver cells,” warns Jafri, who advises people to “limit direct contact with toxins from cleaning and aerosol products, insecticides, chemicals, and additives.” When you do use aerosols, he says, “make sure the room is ventilated, and wear a mask.”
While avoiding toxins might seem like an obvious healthy lifestyle choice, you may not be aware of all the toxins you encounter in a typical day. Not only can our drinking water supply contain toxins, but other seemingly harmless substances, such as essential oils, can be toxic as well.
“Having obesity can increase your risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a condition where excess fat builds up in your liver,” Jafri says. “This can lead to liver damage and inflammation, which can affect your liver’s ability to function.”
Maintaining a healthy weight is important to many aspects of your overall wellness. “In addition to lowering the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and high blood pressure, it can also lower the risk of many different cancers,” says the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.