10 Ways to Support Liver Health

10 Ways to Support Liver Health

The liver is a 3-lb organ that’s responsible for performing over 500 functions in the body. While it handles a variety of tasks, the most important functions include removing waste byproducts, producing important proteins and chemicals, controlling the immune response, and keeping glucose levels balanced.

When the liver is functioning properly, the body benefits with good overall health. Poor liver health, on the other hand, can cause a chain reaction of disruptions to critical body functions. Thankfully, there are simple lifestyle habits that anyone can adopt to keep the liver working optimally–much of which includes being aware of what is put into the body. (1)

#1: Maintain A Healthy Weight To Support Liver

Being obese or overweight can cause a buildup of fat in the liver, which can lead to a condition called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Common culprits are living a sedentary lifestyle and eating a poor diet, both of which can be adjusted to support liver health. Limiting intake of high-fat, high-sugar, and salty foods can help maintain a healthy weight, while weekly exercise should also be added. Putting less stress on the liver can help it function properly and contribute to overall health and wellness. (2)

#2: Eat Vegetables To Support Liver

While eating a diet rich in a variety of vegetables can aid in weight maintenance (and thus help the liver), there are even more reasons to include plants in every meal. Studies have shown that eating cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts increases levels of enzymes important in detoxification and liver health. Even when cooked in the oven, Brussels sprouts retained their ability to positively affect liver cells. (3)

Another beneficial effect of cruciferous vegetables on the liver has to do with detoxification. Because the liver is responsible for removing contaminants, an overload of toxins can create a strain on liver function. One study examined how broccoli consumption impacted the toxic load on Chinese adults living in an area of high air pollution. Participants that consumed the equivalent of a cup of broccoli for 10 days had 63% less benzene (a pollutant) in their body than those who didn’t. By enhancing liver function, the organ was better able to detoxify this harmful substance from the body. (3, 4)

#3: Avoid Toxins To Support the Liver

While it’s not always possible to avoid toxin exposure, precautions should be taken when using cleaning products, insecticides, and other household chemicals. Indoor air pollution from household cleaners and chemicals can be especially hazardous, considering that most people spend 90% of their time indoors. Organic chemicals can release VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, that can further burden the liver. To limit exposure to toxins, care should be used to ensure a well-ventilated space when using chemicals. Natural alternatives should also be used when available. (5)

#4: Don’t Abuse Drugs 

#5: Consume Alcohol Responsibly To Support the Liver

Every time the liver filters alcohol, some liver cells die. While this organ is resilient and can produce new liver cells, chronic alcohol consumption, and abuse over many years can cause permanent liver damage. It’s recommended to either abstain from alcohol or reduce and space out consumption throughout the week. This can support liver health and also reduce the likelihood of developing serious conditions. (7)

#6: Keep Good Hygiene To Support the Liver

While maintaining good hygiene is essential for all aspects of health, it is especially important when it comes to hepatitis. Hepatitis is a condition where the liver becomes inflamed and, while there can be multiple ways it’s contracted, it’s usually caused by a viral infection. There are 5 types of hepatitis: A, B, C, D, and E. The most common ways a person becomes infected with one of these viruses is through contamination of food, water, feces, blood, vaginal secretions, semen, or other bodily fluids containing the virus. 

As such, It’s important to always practice good hygiene, especially when coming into contact with the bodily fluids of others. Spilled blood should never be touched. Care should also be taken to wash hands thoroughly and often, as this can minimize the risk of transmission. Fruits and vegetables should also be washed, as these can sometimes be a source of hepatitis A and E. (8)

#7: Avoid Risky Behaviors To Support Liver

Sharing needles or razors can be extremely dangerous for a variety of reasons, especially in contracting hepatitis. These risky behaviors should always be avoided to prevent harm to the body as well as the liver. Additionally, always practicing safe sex is essential to prevent transmission of the hepatitis virus, and the use of prophylactic birth control methods is recommended. (8)

#8: Get Vaccinated To Support Liver

Vaccinations can prevent both hepatitis A and B, both of which can cause significant damage to the liver. Making sure all vaccinations are up to date–especially for hepatitis–will prevent infection and reduce the risk of liver damage. (8)

#9: Drink Coffee To Support the Liver

Coffee drinkers can rest easy knowing that their beverage of choice has hepatoprotective effects. Studies have shown that consumption of 4 cups of coffee per day was linked to a 71% reduction in the risk of death from chronic liver disease. These positive liver-protecting effects appear to have more to do with the coffee itself and not the caffeine, so decaf may have similar benefits. 

Of course, it’s not needed to begin coffee consumption if not already enjoying a daily cup. Similar benefits can be received from a healthy diet. These findings, however, give coffee drinkers a good reason to keep up their habit as long as it doesn’t interfere with their health in any other way. (9)

#10: Exercise Regularly To Support the Liver

Aside from keeping weight at a healthy level, exercise can have a positive effect on the liver. By improving insulin resistance, increasing fatty acid oxidation, and preventing damage to liver cells, liver health is supported with regular exercise. A variety of aerobic and resistance training–that fits with the fitness level and preferences of the person–can have a positive supportive effect on the liver. (10) 

Sources:

  1. Liver Health. (n.d.). Retrieved November 04, 2020, from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/liver-health 
  2. Tanaka N, Kimura T, Fujimori N, Nagaya T, Komatsu M, Tanaka E. Current status, problems, and perspectives of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease research. World J Gastroenterol. 2019;25(2):163-177. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6337019/ 
  3. Robbins MG, Andersen G, Somoza V, Eshelman BD, Barnes DM, Hanlon PR. Heat treatment of Brussels sprouts retains their ability to induce detoxification enzyme expression in vitro and in vivo. J Food Sci. 2011;76(3):C454-61. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21535814/ 
  4. Chen J-G, Johnson J, Egner P, et al. Dose-dependent detoxication of the airborne pollutant benzene in a randomized trial of broccoli sprout beverage in Qidong, China. Am J Clin Nutr. 2019;110(3):675-684. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31268126/ 
  5. Chapter 5: Indoor Air Pollutants and Toxic Materials. (2009, October 01). Retrieved November 04, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/publications/books/housing/cha05.htm 
  6. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020, June 15). Liver Damage. Retrieved November 04, 2020, from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/health-consequences-drug-misuse/liver-damage 
  7. Alcohol Related Liver Disease. (2018, August 10). Retrieved November 04, 2020, from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/alcohol-related-liver-disease-arld/ 
  8. Kahn, A. (2017, May 09). Hepatitis: Types, Symptoms, and Treatment. Retrieved November 04, 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/health/hepatitis
  9. Heath RD, Brahmbhatt M, Tahan AC, Ibdah JA, Tahan V. Coffee: The magical bean for liver diseases. World J Hepatol. 2017;9(15):689-696. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5440772/ 
  10. van der Windt DJ, Sud V, Zhang H, Tsung A, Huang H. The effects of physical exercise on fatty liver disease. Gene Expr. 2018;18(2):89-101. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5954622/