Last Updated June 13th, 2021
Understanding the liver
The liver is a large organ that is located on the right side of the abdomen. The liver, which weighs approximately 1.6 kilograms, is divided into two sections, the right lobe, and the left lobe. Its main function is to filter the blood that comes in through the digestive tract. Apart from that, it also has the following functions
- Bile production
- Toxins filtration
- Bilirubin excretion
- Breakdown of nutrients
- Enzymes activation
- Storage of glycogen, minerals, and vitamins A, D, E, And K
- Blood proteins synthesis
- Clotting factors synthesis
Different diseases of the liver
The liver is usually affected by the following conditions
Hepatitis is a term used to describe an inflammatory condition of the liver. Although it is usually caused by a viral infection, it can also happen due to autoimmune diseases, medications, drugs, toxins, and alcohol.
There are five different types of hepatitis
- Hepatitis A: This is the most common type which is caused by a virus called hepatitis A virus.
- Hepatitis B: This type is less common and is caused by the hepatitis B virus. It is transmitted when a person comes in direct and indirect contact with the body fluids (such as blood, vaginal secretions, or semen) of an infected person.
- Hepatitis C: This type is caused by the hepatitis B virus. It is only transmitted through direct contact with an infected person’s body fluids. This can happen during sex, blood transfusion and needle sharing with an infected person
- Hepatitis D: Also known as delta hepatitis is a rare but serious type of hepatitis. It is also transmitted through direct contact with an infected person’s body fluids. Hepatitis D, which is caused by the hepatitis D virus, only occurs in conjunction with hepatitis B infection.
- Hepatitis E: This type, which is caused by the Hepatitis E virus, is transmitted when a person ingests the fecal matter of an infected person. It is usually common in areas with poor sanitation.
Cirrhosis is a term used to refer to the late stage of fibrosis (scarring), which is caused by a number of liver disease and alcoholism. The liver tries to repair itself every time it is injured. During this process, scar tissues are formed. As more and more scar tissues are formed, the liver is unable to function properly.
Although many types of cancer can affect the liver, the most common type is hepatocellular carcinoma. This particular type of cancer affects the hepatocyte, the most important cells in the liver. The other types of cancer that can affect the liver are intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma and hepatoblastoma.
This is a disorder that is characterized by the over buildup of iron in the body. The iron buildup deposits in the liver and damages it.
Primary sclerosing cholangitis
This is a long-term progressive disease of the liver and gallbladder. This condition results in the scarring and inflammation of the bile ducts.
Primary biliary cirrhosis
This is an autoimmune disease of the liver that occurs due to the slow, progressive destruction of the small bile ducts of the liver. This results in the buildup of bile and other toxins in the liver.
Although the liver is a self-cleansing organ, some natural health practitioners claim that the liver accumulates a lot of toxins over time. They claim that these accumulated toxins cause a lot of problems like cancer. So they insist that a liver detox is necessary to ensure the organ stays healthy. Detoxifying the liver usually involves
- Eating a bland diet
- Taking certain supplements that claim to flush out toxins
- Doing on a juice diet
- Cleansing the colon and the gut
Does it work
Although liver diseases and condition can cause serious health consequences, there is little evidence to prove that toxins accumulate in the liver unless exposed to large amounts. Many health experts feel that the liver does not need detoxifying and doing so may harm it.
Some studies have shown that certain supplements like milk thistle may improve the overall health of the liver. However, there is no evidence that these supplements will actually detoxify the liver.
Does Milk Thistle Help Your Liver?
Many people claim that milk thistle helps detoxify the liver. However, there is not much scientific evidence to support that claim. There is only one proof that milk thistle is effective in relieving the symptoms of some types of liver diseases.
Are liver cleanses safe?
There is no scientific evidence to prove that liver cleanses are effective. On the contrary, these cleanse could have adverse effects on your overall health. This is because
- Some ingredients in these detoxifying supplements could be harmful.
- Certain juices that are used in cleansing the liver could make you sick especially if they are unpasteurized.
- If the patient has a kidney-related disorder, consuming large amounts of juice as a part of the liver cleansing program could make your illness worse.
The right way of taking care of the liver
You can follow these steps to care of your liver
- Maintain your weight: You should always maintain the right BMI (body mass index) as being obese or overweight increases your chances of developing a fatty liver (which may lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease).
- Eat a healthy diet: You should eat a well-balanced diet consisting of 45–65% carbohydrates, 20–35% fat and 10–35% protein. You should also include a lot of fiber (which can be obtained from fruits vegetables and whole grains) in your diet. High calorie-meals, saturated fat and refined carbohydrates should be avoided.
- Exercise regularly: Working out regularly helps reduce liver fat as the body starts burning triglycerides for fuel.
- Stay away from toxins: Many different toxins can injure the liver. You can avoid them by limiting direct contact with and aerosol products, insecticides, chemicals, and additives. You should also stay away from tobacco products.
- Limit alcohol intake: Overconsumption of alcohol leads to may health problems. It especially affects the liver by destroying liver cells.
- Don’t use illicit drugs: You should avoid all illicit drugs including marijuana, cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens, and inhalants. All these drugs harm the liver.
- Don’t indulge in unprotected sex: Indulging in unprotected sex or being promiscuous (having multiple sexual partners) increases your chances of contracting hepatitis.
- Take the right amount of prescribed medications: You should take medications exactly as directed by the physician. As taking medicines incorrectly or too much of it can damage your liver. You should also never mix medications with alcohol.
Foods that boost liver health
Although there is no evidence that the liver can be cleansed, you can eat these foods to boost your overall liver health
The antioxidants found in grapefruit may help protect the liver from injury, and they can also help reduce inflammation and save the cells from harm. Additionally, other studies have shown the antioxidants found in the fruit can help protect against too much connective tissue building in the liver, which can cause permanent damage.
A study from the Netherlands found coffee may protect against the development of liver fibrosis. As for how much you should drink, the study found three cups per day was associated with less liver scarring.
Cranberries contain anthocyanins, which are antioxidants that provide the fruit with its beautiful red hue. Not only that, but anthocyanins are known for helping the body (and that includes the liver). Eating the fruit itself as well as consuming juice can greatly benefit your liver function.
Leafy green vegetables play an important role in maintaining a healthy dietary intake. One of the most important functions of leafy vegetables comes from the chlorophyll that is abundant in them. This is highly effective in absorbing the toxins and removing the heavy metals from the system. Some of the important leafy vegetables include dandelion greens, spinach, arugula, etc.
Walnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 plays an important role in reducing triglyceride levels and increasing the levels of HDL which is considered as good cholesterol. Similarly, other foods rich in omega-3 such as soybean and fatty fish can help reduce cholesterol levels and help in cleansing the liver.
Garlic has numerous health benefits. It is known for its powerful antibacterial properties and ability to fight off even the common cold. Garlic also helps in reducing blood pressure levels. It is known to reduce bad cholesterol (LDL) and improve the levels of good cholesterol (HDL). All these properties of garlic make it suitable choices for liver cleanse. Studies have also claimed that garlic has the ability to promote the process of liver cleanse by secreting necessary enzymes.
The benefits of this root vegetable have been widely studied in recent times. Studies have claimed that beets are helpful in reducing the fat deposits around the liver. This is an important finding since people suffering from fatty liver disease can gain benefits by consuming beets.
Cabbage is rich in heavy fiber. Studies claim that this property of cabbage helps in promoting the detoxification process of the liver by stimulating the necessary enzymes required for the flushing process. A fermented form of cabbage called kimchi can be tried which also provides other health benefits.
Oatmeal is rich in proteins and soluble fiber. Both of these components are highly beneficial in maintaining a healthy diet. Soluble fiber help in reducing the LDL levels in the bloodstream which prevents fat from being accumulated in the liver. On the other hand, protein provides energy and keeps you full for a longer period of time.
Apples not only keep the doctors away but also the bad cholesterol away. This is due to the presence of fiber in apples. Apple skin, in particular, provides a high amount of fiber so make sure to consume apples with their skin. Make sure to consume organic apples since it is quite common to find pesticides on the apple which is highly dangerous for your liver.
Broccoli sprouts are known for their powerful antioxidant effect and the ability to boost glutathione levels. These properties of broccoli sprout help in the detoxification process of the liver by removing harmful toxins and unwanted hormones.
Avocados are rich in vitamins and minerals. They are rich in monounsaturated fat which is considered a good fat since it has a low glycemic index. Consuming avocados can help reduce the accumulation of fatty acids in the liver for people who are suffering from fatty liver disease.
Green tea has been quite popular due to the various health benefits associated with it. Some of the important benefits of green tea include fat burn, boost brain function, and prevent inflammation. Green tea is known for its powerful antioxidants that have the potential to prevent inflammation and cancer formation.
Almonds are a rich source of vitamins and proteins. Vitamin E, in particular, is known to protect the liver from liver disease. The fiber content in almonds helps in the process of liver detoxification.
The liver is an organ that needs some special care. Since the liver itself is a detoxifying organ, it is quite natural for toxins, fats, and heavy metals to get accumulated in the liver. It is important to cleanse the liver from all these harmful components. The foods discussed help in the cleansing process and hence should be added to your diet in order to protect your liver.
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