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Top Things To Avoid For A Healthy Liver
December 2, 2019
Even if you’re a “tee-totaller” there are certain aspects of your lifestyle which can negatively affect the health of your liver.
Your diet plays a huge role in your overall health and wellbeing. Food provides your body with the energy it needs to carry out its daily tasks. Without energy, you simply can’t function. However, certain foods can have a profound impact on your health.
A poor diet is related to the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, a condition caused by a build-up of fat in the liver. For some people, the condition may be symptomless but in other cases, it can cause inflammation.
Eating foods which are high in saturated fat or sugar are not good for your liver or any organ for that matter. These foods can add to the build-up of fat in the organ. Plus, they can also increase the level of fat and bad cholesterol in your blood, a risk factor for restricting blood flow in your arteries. In this case, the condition is called atherosclerosis and is associated with an increased risk of heart attacks or strokes.
Foods That Are Good For Your Liver
- Reduce your consumption of foods high in saturated fat like fatty cuts of meat, processed meat, high-fat dairy food, lard, coconut oil.
- Avoid refined sugars like those found in sweets, cakes, biscuits and chocolate
- Increase your intake of natural plant foods like fruit, vegetables, whole grains and nuts.
- Swap high-fat dairy foods for low-fat versions or plant milk
- Switch high sugar fizzy drinks for water. Water is free of calories, sugar and fat, it is the best drink to keep your body hydrated. If you don’t like water on its own, experiment with different flavours like adding a slice of lemon or cucumber and mint.
When we think of the liver, we often think of alcohol. That’s because the liver is responsible for breaking down the alcohol you drink. If you drink more alcohol than your liver can process, you will feel the effects of intoxication.
It’s true, not everyone who drinks alcohol will develop liver disease. But drinking to excess only increases the risk. Instead, there are some recommended limits:
- Both men and women should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol per week.
- Drinking should be spread out over at least 3 days, particularly if you drink up to 14 units.
- You should aim to have 2-3 alcohol-free days each week. They should be consecutive, if possible.
What do 14 units of alcohol look like?
- 6 glasses of 13% wine
- 6 pints of 4% beer
- 14 25ml shots of 40% whisky
You should avoid saving up your units to drink in one go. Instead, you should spread them out over the week.
Although robust, the liver can be a sensitive organ, particularly if we subject it to a toxic lifestyle. Consuming the wrong foods and drinking lots of alcohol can put lots of pressure on an already busy organ.
People who are overweight or who have a lot of excess fat around their abdomen are thought to be more at risk of developing a fatty liver. Unfortunately, weight gain is synonymous with lifestyle factors like poor diet, excess alcohol consumption and being sedentary.
Therefore, weight loss is often an effective treatment for a fatty liver. But it’s also great for the prevention of many adverse health events and can protect you from diseases such as:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Cardiovascular disease
- Mental health conditions
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
The benefits of exercise are vast. The NHS recommends participating in at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise each week. That includes exercises like walking, swimming, cycling and dancing. You should try to be active daily if possible, even if it’s just walking to work rather than driving or catching the bus.
Exercise can prevent weight gain and even aid weight loss, but it can have a great impact on your overall health and wellbeing.
Although cigarette smoke does not come into direct contact with the liver, it can have negative health effects. Cigarettes are full of toxins including chemicals which increase the levels of inflammation and scarring.
Therefore, smoking can harm the health of the liver and is often overlooked in liver disease progression. Plus, smoking can increase the risk of other health problems such as heart attacks and strokes.
Your liver is responsible for completing lots of important jobs in the body and there are certain things you can avoid to keep it healthy.
Diet and exercise are vital when it comes to your health, including that of your liver. Making just small lifestyle changes can have a big impact on the way you feel.
- British Liver Trust. (2019). Diet and Liver Disease. Available at: https://britishlivertrust.org.uk/information-and-support/living-with-a-liver-condition/diet-and-liver-disease/
- Drink Aware. (2019). CMO’s Low-Risk Drinking Guidelines. Available at: https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/alcohol-facts/alcoholic-drinks-units/alcohol-limits-unit-guidelines/
- El-Zayadi, A, R. (2006). Heavy Smoking and Liver. World J Gastroenterol.
- NHS. (2018). Physical Activity Guidelines for Adults. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/
- NHS Inform. (2019). Alcohol-Related Liver Disease. Available at: https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/stomach-liver-and-gastrointestinal-tract/alcohol-related-liver-disease
This information has been medically reviewed by Dr Thom Phillips
Thom works in NHS general practice and has a decade of experience working in both male and female elite sport. He has a background in exercise physiology and has published research into fatigue biomarkers.
Dr Thom Phillips
Head of clinical services
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