7 Ways We Are Harming Our Liver

The liver is the largest internal organ in the body, with over 500 different functions, including: digestion, metabolism, removal of toxins, and nutrient storage. If our liver is unhealthy, it inhibits the body to work properly, effectively digest food, and clear toxins from our body.  Illness can more easily set in.

It is important to understand what affects our liver’s health and what we need to do to keep our liver in good shape.  Below are ways in which we harm our liver:

1. Eating Trans Fats

Trans fats are derived from many animals like consuming beef, poultry, eggs, and dairy products. Trans fats are also created by a hydrogenation process which turns healthy oils into solids. On food labels trans fats may be listed as “partially hydrogenated” fats. They are often found in fast foods, processed and pre-packaged ready-made foods (i.e, ready-made baked goods, chips, cereals, granola and protein bars), and margarine.

Your liver cannot safely tolerate any amount of trans fats causing increases in blood sugar and fat deposits on the liver. Over time regular intake of trans fats causes too much fat in the liver cells. The liver cells begin to swell causing liver tissue to harden and scar. This leads to liver cell death (a.k.a., cirrhosis).  Trans fat also attribute to causing diseases like diabetes, heart disease, fatty liver disease, and dementia.

2. Drinking Alcohol

When we consume alcohol, the liver diverts its energy to convert alcohol into a less toxic substance, but leaves the liver vulnerable to not adequately do its other critical functions. Alcohol can be converted to formaldehyde, a toxic byproduct that can cause liver inflammation, liver cell death (aka., cirrhosis), and fatty liver disease.

Drinking alcohol in moderation is the key to protecting the liver. Typically, women can drink a maximum of 1 drink per day or 5 drinks per week, and men can drink up to 2 drinks per day or 8 to 10 drinks per week.  Drinking alcohol with food is safer than drinking alcohol alone.

Avoid binge drinking on holidays and weekends since the liver can never take a vacation and hence, cannot afford further damage.

3. Eating Sugar

Sugar directly damages the liver. Sugar is as toxic as alcohol, and more addictive than cocaine.  Sugar in the form of fructose, white sugar (aka., refined sugar), high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners (i.e, Aspartame, Saccharin, Sucralose, Acesulfame Potassium) is not tolerated by the liver at any dose. These sugars are instead converted to fats and eventually cause liver disease.  

Stick to having natural sugars from fruits, vegetable, coconut, and cane sugar since your liver is naturally designed to digest these sugars and give you the right kind of energy.

4. Eating Too Much Salt

Too much salt consumption increases blood pressure in your liver’s main artery eventually leading to chronic liver disease. Try to not exceed more than 1 teaspoon of salt equivalent to 2,300 milligrams per day.

Instead of using salt, try seasoning your food with herbs and spices.  Also be aware that most fast foods, processed and pre-packaged ready-made food, condiments, baked goods, and bread often contain salt.

5. Taking Painkillers and Other Drugs

Many drugs are metabolized by the liver. The following drugs can easily surpass a safe threshold of liver tolerance and can cause significant liver damage:  

Check the prescribed dosage of each drug and added up the total dosage. Do not exceed the maximum amount allocated per day. Try to limit use of these drugs for as little time as possible since they can be addictive and also easily lead to liver toxicity.

Ask Dr. Payal Bhandari for advice on alternative methods to treat your ailment which do not harm your liver. Dr. Bhandari can also help you kick your nicotine and/or marijuana habit successfully.

6. Taking Certain Supplements and Vitamins

Check with your doctor to better understand which supplements are safe for your liver.  For example, taking too much Vitamin A supplementation is not well tolerated by the liver.  Instead of taking a separate Vitamin A supplement, obtain Vitamin A naturally by eating red, orange, and yellow fruits and vegetables every day.

Certain iron supplements are not well digested by the liver leading to excess iron in the bloodstream. Since the body is not able to process excess iron, the iron will accumulate in organs like the liver and eventually lead to liver damage.

7. Drinking Too Little Water

Water helps flush waste out of the body. This prevents toxins from building up and hurting the liver. Proper hydration makes the blood thinner, and hence, easier for the liver to filter the blood and remove toxins.

Drink plenty of water in between meals but not during meals. Excess water intake while eating while hurt digestion. Try to also drink most of your water during the day so that you are not overworking the liver at night and also needing to urinate when you should instead by sleeping.

Keep Your Liver out of Harm’s Way

Without a proper functioning liver, toxins will build up in the body and be detrimental to our health. Avoid liver diseases like liver cancer, cirrhosis, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease by following our tips. Contact Dr. Payal Bhandari, M.D. since she can help you better understand your liver health and how prevent further liver damage.  She specializes on which drugs and supplements are well-tolerated by the liver and how to detox the liver when it is overworked.

Dr. Bhandari can also help you readjust your diet so you can protect your liver and prevent fatty liver disease.  implementing new habits and kicking bad habits that damaging your body are difficult to do alone. Dr. Payal Bhandari is here to help!

Author
Dr. Payal Bhandari Dr. Payal Bhandari M.D. is a leading practitioner of integrative and functional medicine in San Francisco.

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