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Take care of your liver: 5 easy ways to dodge the damage

Lots of things damage the liver, including alcohol, hepatitis viruses, bad diets, medicine and drug toxicity. Once damaged, repair takes hard work. Here’s how to keep your liver in the pink of health.

health and fitness Updated: Mar 06, 2016 10:01 IST
Sanchita Sharma
Once damaged, it takes hard work and clean living to nurse your liver back to health.
Once damaged, it takes hard work and clean living to nurse your liver back to health.(Shutterstock)

Drinking two or more cups of coffee each day almost halves your odds of developing irreversible liver damage, concluded an analysis of nine studies released earlier this week. Data from more than 430,000 people found drinking two cups of coffee a day lowered risk of liver damage by 44%, and four cups lowered risk by 65%.

Lots of things damage the liver, including alcohol, hepatitis viruses, bad diet, medicine and drugs toxicity, genetic defects and autoimmune disorders. Once damaged, it takes hard work and clean living to nurse the liver back to health. Dodging damage is easier. Here are five things to do to save your liver from certain death.

Get vaccinated

Adults need three doses of Hepatitis A vaccine, the second dose at four weeks after the first, and the third five months after the second.

All five hepatitis viruses -- types A, B, C, D and E – cause liver damage, which may cause no symptoms or symptoms of jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), dark urine, extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting and stomach pain. Hepatitis A and E spread through contaminated food or water, while hepatitis B, C and D spread through infected body fluids, including contaminated blood and its products, surgeries and other invasive medical procedures done using contaminated equipment, at birth from an infected from mother to her baby , among friends and family through close contact, and by sexual contact.

The Hepatitis A vaccine is given in two doses, the initial one given after age one followed by a booster shot six to twelve months later. Protection begins two to four weeks after the initial vaccination and lasts for at least 15 years, if not the lifetime. Newborns are given three doses of hepatitis B vaccine, the first at birth, the second at one to two months, and the third at six-18 months. Adults need three doses, the second dose at four weeks after the first, and the third five months after the second. Hepatitis B vaccination also protects against the hepatitis D virus, which needs type B virus to replicate.

Lose weight

How excess fat is distributed in the body plays a role in raising risk. Belly fat is more likely to cause liver damage than obesity. (Shutterstock)

Obesity – body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more, calculated by dividing your weight (in kg) by height squared (in cm) – and abdominal fat can cause non-alcoholic fatty live disease (NAFLD), which can strike at any age. Also known as hepatic steatosis, NAFLD is the most common liver disease, affecting up to 70- 90% persons who are obese or have type 2 diabetes. It’s caused when fat builds up in the liver cells, which the liver fails to break down, transfer and store effectively. This warps liver function and causes inflammation, which leads to scarring and cirrhosis.

How excess fat is distributed in the body plays a role in raising risk. Belly fat is more likely to cause liver damage than obesity, with 25% of NAFLD are not obese. This is particularly true in Asians, who store fat in the abdomen and are more likely to develop heart disease and diabetes even when they are not obese.

While diets low in fat, carbs and sugars lower the workload of the liver, there is no scientific evidence to show that detox diets prevent or reverse fatty liver disease.

Avoid alcohol

Binge drinking – heavy episodic drinking, defined as more than six standard drinks on a single occasion once a month – can cause alcohol poisoning, alcoholic liver disease and cirrhosis.

Half of all liver cirrhosis cases are linked to alcohol abuse, says the World Health Organisation,which has linked alcohol to more than 200 diseases, injuries and other health conditions. Binge drinking – heavy episodic drinking, defined as more than six standard drinks on a single occasion once a month – can cause alcohol poisoning, alcoholic liver disease and cirrhosis. Though liver trouble is influenced by heredity, gender, diet, and co-occurring liver illness, most alcoholic liver damage is caused by injury from direct toxicity of metabolic by-products of alcohol and the inflammation induced by them. Recurrent damage can lead to fibrosis and cirrhosis.

It’s best to shun alcohol , but if you must, safe limits are one to two drinks a day for men and one for women, not exceeding 14 drinks a week. One drink is 350 ml of beer, 150 ml of wine, or 30 ml of distilled spirits.

Don’t OD on medicines

Health experts say that overdosing on the painkiller paracetamol is the most common cause of acute liver failure. (Shutterstock)

Unintended overdose of the painkiller paracetamol is the most common cause of acute liver failure in the UK and the US. The recommended safe limit for paracetamol is 4 gm (eight 500 mg tablets) a day. People who have depression, chronic pain, drug or alcohol abuse problems, or are having more than one medicine with paracetamol are more at risk of overdosing. Liver damage can also occur from anabolic steroids used for body building and unregulated herbal and dietary supplements.

Get moving

If you don't have the time or money to join a gym, find the nearest park or garden and get started.

Exercise, with or without weight loss, can help prevent and reverse fatty liver disease. Walking on a treadmill for one hour a day slows the progression of fatty liver disease in obese people with pre-diabetes by jump-starting their metabolism and slowing the oxidative damage caused by the condition. Daily walks help by increasing insulin sensitivity and improving the liver’s polyunsaturated lipid index, which is a marker of liver health.