Your liver is an ultra-efficient powerhouse that metabolizes virtually every substance you come in contact with, including the foods you eat, the beverages you drink, the airborne particles you inhale, and the substances you absorb through your skin.
Most people don’t think twice about their liver unless they develop a chronic liver disease that requires them to change their daily habits, take extra precautions, or manage their health with medication. Unfortunately, the best way to fight liver disease is to avoid it altogether.
As a board-certified gastroenterologist who specializes in liver disease, Hardeep M. Singh, M.D. wants you to know that there’s a lot you can do to protect your liver — here are five of the most important steps you can take to keep your liver healthy for life.
Your resilient liver
Your liver performs over 500 essential functions that help you stay alive — it provides quick energy when you need it, keeps your glucose and cholesterol levels under control, clears toxins from your body, fights off infections, produces critical blood clotting factors, and much more.
Your liver is so resilient that it will function normally even if two-thirds of it has been damaged by disease. For this reason, most people with liver disease aren’t even aware they have a problem until it’s relatively advanced.
Proactive steps for a healthy liver
There’s a common misconception that liver disease mostly affects people who drink too much alcohol. Nothing could be further from the truth — you can be born with liver disease, develop it because of your diet, contract it from a virus, or get it through prolonged exposure to toxins.
In fact, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which is closely associated with obesity and diabetes, is the most widespread form of chronic liver disease in the United States. NAFLD affects an estimated 100 million Americans, or about one in three adults and one in 10 children.
Every day, you make decisions, maintain habits, or engage in activities that affect your liver, for better or worse. These strategies can help you keep your liver in peak condition:
1. Maintain a healthy weight
Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the best things you can do for your entire body, and that includes your liver. That’s because being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing NAFLD, a silent condition that can progress quickly into advanced liver disease (cirrhosis).
Losing just 5% to 10% of your body weight can go a long way in reducing liver fat and helping you reverse NAFLD. As a weight loss specialist, Dr. Singh can give you the guidance you need to reach your goals safely and sustainably.
2. Control chronic conditions
Being overweight isn’t the only risk factor for NAFLD — chronic health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), and high cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia) are also major risk factors.
You can control, improve, or even potentially reverse these conditions by staying active, eating a healthy diet, taking any medication as prescribed, and seeing your primary care physician for routine preventive care exams.
3. Get regular exercise
When you exercise at moderate intensity most days of the week, your body becomes more efficient at burning excess body fat — particularly triglycerides — for fuel. Besides helping you lose weight and keep it off, engaging in regular exercise can help reduce liver fat.
And just as regular exercise can help you get a leaner, fitter body, it can also help you attain a leaner, stronger liver that’s better positioned to defend itself and keep you healthy.
4. Limit or avoid alcohol
While drinking too much alcohol can harm your health in many ways, it’s particularly damaging to your liver, which processes every ounce you consume.
Drinking more alcohol than your liver can handle destroys liver cells and causes the buildup of unhealthy fat deposits; over time, it can lead to liver inflammation (alcoholic hepatitis), scarring (cirrhosis), and even liver cancer.
5. Be careful with medication
It’s important to be cautious about any medications you take, including over-the-counter pain relivers like acetaminophen. Pain relievers and most other drugs are processed by your liver; taking more medication than you should or taking it for a prolonged period of time can cause serious liver damage.
A strong, robust liver for life
There’s a lot more that you can do to protect your liver and keep it healthy, including getting vaccinated against hepatitis A and hepatitis B, taking steps to reduce your risk of contracting hepatitis C, and avoiding toxins (including cigarette smoke).
Remember, if your liver stops working, you stop living — it’s that simple. Call your nearest Hardeep M. Singh, M.D. office in Orange, Irvine, or Newport Beach, California, to learn more, or click online to schedule a visit with Dr. Singh today.