October is Liver Awareness Month! It's well-deserved recognition for this often underappreciated organ. In fact, your liver is the superstar of your digestive system. Everything you consume passes through your liver and is sorted for nutrients. It decides what stays in your body for nourishment and what toxins to expel. Healthy habits keep your liver running like a well-oiled machine. Unhealthy habits can damage this vital organ. So, how can you keep your liver, the gatekeeper to good health, in prime shape?
Understanding the Hardworking Liver
Your liver is not only the gatekeeper to good health, it's also the heavyweight champion of all your internal organs weighing in at an impressive three to four pounds! It's also the only organ that can regenerate itself. Amazingly, it's estimated the liver has over 500 functions that keep your body healthy.
The primary functions involve the digestive system – breaking down food, liquids, and medicines into nutrients your body needs, storing some of the nutrients, and turning the rest of the nutrients into essential chemicals. Anything deemed as toxic by your liver is expelled in your urine or feces. To aid with this filtering system, the liver produces an important chemical called bile that helps break down what you ingest, especially fatty foods. Impressively, all of your blood passes through the liver to be cleansed of toxins.
Another critical function of the liver is building proteins. Proteins are one of the building blocks for all living things. Your body must continuously produce proteins to keep you alive. For instance, the liver produces a protein that's essential for blood clotting. Without this protein, a normal injury could turn into a crisis because your blood couldn't clot. When we take into consideration these vital functions of the liver, it's easy to see why it's the gatekeeper to good health.
Threats to Your Liver
Liver disease can occur because of genetics, infections like Hepatitis A, B, or C, immune system disorders, cancer or tumors, or harmful lifestyle choices like chronic alcohol use or obesity. Symptoms of liver disease include:
- Yellow skin or eyes
- Abdominal pain or swelling
- Swollen ankles or legs
- Itchy skin
- Dark urine
- Changes in stool color
- Chronic fatigue
- Nausea or vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Bruising easily
If you're experiencing any of these symptoms, it's imperative that you see a doctor. These symptoms could be an indication of serious complications with your liver.
How to Love Your Liver
Your liver works hard for you. Healthy habits are the best way to keep your liver running smoothly for years to come. You can maintain a healthy liver by:
- Eating a low-fat diet - Fat is hard for your liver to digest. If you consume high amounts of fat, your liver may not be able to keep up, leading to fatty liver disease. A mostly plant-based diet is the best way to love your liver.
- Avoid excessive drinking – The liver can become overtaxed with the consumption of as few as two drinks in a short period of time. Excessive drinking over an extended period of time can lead to cirrhosis of the liver.
- Mixing medicines – Be informed about how your prescription medicines, herbal substances, and over-the-counter medicines interact. Liver failure can occur if drugs are mixed inappropriately.
- Chemicals – Remember, the liver filters ALL toxins. Wear safety gear when handling cleaning supplies, paint, or other chemicals.
- Vaccines – If you're traveling to an area where Hepatitis A or B, malaria, or yellow fever is prevalent, make sure to get vaccinated. There is no vaccine for Hepatitis C, but practicing safe sex and avoiding contaminated needles can help you avoid the disease.
With over 500 functions, your liver is working hard to keep you healthy. This gatekeeper to good health is key for essential processes like filtering toxins, regulating nutrients, and producing life-giving proteins – just to name a few! You can stay on track with your health by making good choices for your liver function. The team at Augusta Health is ready to answer any of your questions about liver health.