In this age of Instagram and selfies, we are all very particular about our face and our appearance. We rarely give a thought to organs like the liver which play a key role in keeping us healthy. The liver essentially acts as our body’s chemical processing plant, performing reactions that remove harmful toxins from our blood, serving as a repository of useful nutrients and distributing them into the blood as and when needed. Liver function is directly linked to the efficiency of our metabolism and as most of us know, the speed and efficiency of metabolism determines our body shape. There is no point in spending hours in the gym if you fail to do what is needed to maintain proper liver health.
Once the carbohydrates we ingest are broken down into glucose as an outcome of digestion, it is your liver that on the burden of managing this glucose. The excess glucose that is not needed immediately is stored in the liver as glycogen and is converted back into glucose when you exercise, fast or when your energy levels drop between meals. The liver also converts and stores excess fat and transports it into regions where fat is stored like the love handles you might be sporting or your spare tire. When your energy levels drop, as in the case of glycogen, the stored fat is converted back into energy. The liver also removes nitrogen from the amino acids obtained from the proteins we ingest and converts the resultant ammonia into urea which is quickly eliminated form the system as it is toxic. In addition to glycogen, the liver also serves as a storehouse for many vitamins and minerals to be released into the blood when they are needed, like vitamins A, B12, D, E and K, and minerals like iron and copper. In the event that any harmful substances enter our bloodstream, the liver works hard to detoxify and destroy these harmful substances and to transfer them to our intestines or kidneys for disposal.
Here are a few proactive steps you can take to maintain good liver health
1. Eat foods rich in antioxidants and vitamin K which will support your liver and detoxify your blood like grapes, beets, celery, broccoli and plenty of dark, leafy greens like spinach. Your mum was right, you do need to eat your veggies.
2. Increase your intake of probiotics and fermented foods like kefir, yoghurt and kimchi as they could help to slow down the overload of fats during digestion, thus reducing the burden on your liver.
3. In a similar manner, reduce intake of foods that could tax the liver like processed foods, excess fats, sugars and carbohydrates. Too much strain can make the liver weak or damaged.
4. Reduce intake of alcohol, smoking and even a few over-the counter medications which can have an impact on the liver.
5. The more you weigh, the harder your liver will have to work. Studies have found that being obese or overweight, causes more inflammation in the liver, and greater risk of liver diseases and even cancers. If you are overweight or obese, make a sincere effort to reduce your weight with proper diet and exercise. When you exercise, it helps to burn triglycerides for fuel and reduces liver fat.
6. Do not share personal items like razors, toothbrushes and nail cutters as they can carry small amounts of blood and body fluids which might be contaminated.
7. Ensure you always wash your hands before and after using the bathroom and handling food.
8. Follow instructions when it comes to over the counter and prescription medecines as taking medicines in incorrect dosage or mixing different medications can cause damage to your liver. Be open with your doctor about any over-the-counter medicines, supplements, and natural or herbal remedies that you use.
9. Get vaccinated. There are vaccines for hepatitis A and hepatitis B. Unfortunately, there’s no vaccine against the hepatitis C virus.
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