Did you know that in the U.S. alone, 4.9 million people have liver disease, and over 40,000 people die from it each year? According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, most of these tragic deaths and cases of liver disease could be avoided by eliminating chronic alcoholism. In this article, we want to provide vital information regarding the liver, as well as practical ways to keep your liver healthy.
WHAT IS LIVER DISEASE?
Otherwise known as cirrhosis, liver disease happens due to scarring of tissue in your liver. This causes permanent damage because of the scar tissue building up, which prevents your liver from functioning normally. The scar tissue replaces healthy tissue and partially blocks the flow of blood through your liver. In severe cases, this can cause liver failure if a patient does not seek treatment in time.
WHO IS AT A HIGHER RISK OF LIVER DISEASE?
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, people are more likely to get liver disease if they:
- have engaged in heavy drinking for a long time
- have type 2 diabetes
- are men
- are over 50
WHAT ARE THE COMPLICATIONS OF CIRRHOSIS?
Some people may not even know that they have liver disease until complications arise. The following may occur due to liver disease:
The most serious complication of cirrhosis, portal hypertension occurs when scar tissue builds up and blocks the blood flow in your liver, leading to high blood pressure in the portal vein. Portal hypertension may also cause the following:
- enlarged veins – called varices – in the esophagus, stomach, or intestines, which could burst, causing internal bleeding
- swelling in the legs, ankles, or feet, called edema
- fluid buildup in the abdomen —called ascites— which can cause a serious infection in the area surrounding the liver and intestines
- confusion or cognitive impairment caused by toxin buildup in the brain, called hepatic encephalopathy
Liver disease can increase your risk of getting bacterial infections such as urinary tract infections and pneumonia.
Cirrhosis can lead to liver cancer. Most people with liver cancer already have liver disease.
In severe cases, liver disease can eventually cause liver failure. This means your liver is so badly damaged that it stops working, which may require a liver transplant.
- bone diseases, such as osteoporosis
- problems with the bile ducts, which are responsible for carrying bile out of the liver
- malabsorption and malnutrition
- tendency toward bruising
- sensitivity to medicines
- insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes
FACTS ABOUT LIVER DISEASE
According to the American Liver Foundation, there are many different types of liver disease. Since we could write many pages about each type, we will discuss a few important all-encompassing facts about liver disease.
- The leading cause of liver disease in the U.S. is obesity. While alcohol and drug use can also lead to liver disease, obesity can exacerbate an already overtaxed liver. Liver disease can be genetic as well.
- Healthy livers have the ability to regenerate after being damaged. Liver disease is caused by scar tissue that builds up and blocks the flow of the blood to the liver, which prevents the tissue from regenerating.
- In the early stages of liver disease, many patients will deal with inflammation of the liver. Inflammation isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it helps to fight off infections and heal injuries. However, when chronic inflammation occurs, it can cause permanent damage.
- Liver failure occurs when the liver can no longer function properly and starts shutting down. It is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical care. Usually, the first symptoms of liver failure are nausea, loss of appetite, fatigue, and diarrhea. These symptoms can present with many different conditions, so patients may have a hard time knowing if their liver is actually failing. That’s why checkups and taking care of your health are of utmost importance.
Before we continue with how to heal the body of liver damage, we’ll go over what the liver actually does in the body.
FUNCTION OF THE LIVER
The main function of the liver is to process nutrients absorbed from the small intestine. Bile from the liver secreted into the small intestine helps the body digest fat. In addition, the liver is where the body produces chemicals that you need to function. It takes the raw materials absorbed by the intestine and turns them into chemicals that the body needs. As well as helping to produce beneficial chemicals, the liver also detoxifies the body of potentially dangerous chemicals.
HOW TO HEAL LIVER DAMAGE
Before we get to how to make the detox drink for your liver, we want to go over some other ways to heal liver damage. Here are a few recommendations:
EAT HEALTHY FOODS
According to the American Liver Foundation, patients with cirrhosis should avoid foods that are high in salt. Patients with fatty liver disease should take care to limit foods that have a lot of calories and eat high-fiber foods instead.
Eating right is one of the best protections against liver disease. However, if you already have liver disease, you can assist in healing your body with the right foods. Make sure you eat plenty of vegetables, whole grains, and antioxidants.
Minimize or eliminate saturated fats and salty, sugary, or highly processed foods. Some of the best foods for your liver include: blueberries, cranberries, cruciferous vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, mustard greens, collard greens, coffee, fatty fish such as salmon, grapefruit, grapes, nuts, and olive oil.
Animal studies have shown that both Brussels sprouts and broccoli sprout extract increase levels of beneficial enzymes that aid in detoxification of cells and safeguard the liver from damage. One study in human liver cells discovered that cooked Brussels sprouts provided the same benefits for the liver as raw ones.
Another study in men with fatty liver disease found that broccoli sprout extract, which is high in antioxidants and nutrients, decreased oxidative stress and boosted liver enzyme levels. So, if you don’t already eat cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts and broccoli, make sure to include them in your diet.
Being overweight or obese can lead to a condition called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Just like the name sounds, it’s caused by having too many fat cells in the liver, but not due to alcohol. Those who are overweight or obese, insulin resistant, or have high blood sugar or high blood triglycerides are at risk of developing NAFLD.
Exercise can reduce the risk of almost any disease and help heal your body from inflammation. It will help you lose weight, boost your immune system, and decrease body fat, all of which will help heal your liver.
Cigarettes contain over 4,000 harmful chemicals that the liver must process to rid the body of them. Thus, smoking cigarettes requires the liver to work much harder to detox the body, which can lead to liver failure. Smoking can also lead to other problems, such as inflammation of the liver.
MINIMIZE EXPOSURE TO TOXINS
Besides cigarette smoke, many other substances in the world contain toxins that we should try to avoid, if possible. If you’re around things like paint, insecticides, and other harmful toxins, make sure to wear a mask.
Alcohol, as we have discussed, can both cause and exacerbate liver disease. Since alcohol can lead to both liver disease and weight gain, those with liver conditions should eliminate alcohol. This will help you detoxify the liver and shed unwanted weight.
Hepatitis can cause liver damage. Because you can get hepatitis from unclean needles and water, it’s important to protect yourself. For example, if you go to a salon for a manicure or pedicure, make sure the shop is reputable. The same applies if you go somewhere that uses needles, such as a tattoo or piercing shop.
MONITOR YOUR MEDICATIONS
Everything that goes into your body must be metabolized in the liver. Certain medications can cause liver damage, including anti-psychotics, hormone replacement drugs, heart medications, birth control pills, and certain OTC drugs. If you’re concerned about how your medication is affecting your liver, talk to your doctor as soon as possible. You might need to take alternative medicines or try a different form of treatment.
To look after your liver naturally, make sure you get enough Vitamin C, E, and beta-carotene; minerals like selenium and zinc; B-vitamins which will help metabolize alcohol; and herbs that can help detox the liver such as milk thistle, schizandra, and dandelion root.
Try starting with a normal multivitamin first before introducing any other supplements into your body. Certain herbal supplements can interfere with medications.
PREVENTING LIVER DISEASE
In order to prevent the risk of liver disease, there are certain precautions you can take. Here are a few helpful tips, according to the Mayo Clinic:
- Drink alcohol moderately. This means one drink a day for women and two a day for men. Heavy drinking is classified as more than eight drinks a week for women and more than 15 a week for men.
- Protect yourself. Don’t share needles with other people for any reason. Use a condom or other protection during intimacy. If you get tattoos or piercings done, fully research the shop and look for accreditations before getting work done.
- Stay up to date on vaccines. If you’re at a higher risk of contracting hepatitis or if you already have it, make sure you talk to your doctor about getting the hepatitis A and B vaccines.
- Monitor your medications. As we said before, some medications can increase the risk of liver disease. Take medication only if you need it and in recommended doses. Never take medications with alcohol or with herbal supplements that you haven’t discussed with your doctor.
- Don’t touch other people’s blood or bodily fluids. This can lead to hepatitis or other diseases.
- Wear a mask and make sure the room is properly ventilated when using things with toxic chemicals such as insecticides and fungicides. Also, wear long sleeves, gloves, and a hat to protect your skin.
- Be mindful of your weight. This is one of the best ways to prevent liver disease, as exercise and a healthy diet will lower your fat percentage and keep you at a healthy weight for your body.
In addition to healing your liver with the methods we mentioned above, we will finally get to the meat of this article: the ultimate detox drink to cleanse and heal your liver!