If you want to keep liver healthy, you’ll want to avoid these detrimental eating habits. Here are 4 worst eating habits for your liver health.
The liver is an essential organ that regulates chemicals in the blood, produces bile, metabolizes food, stores glycogen, vitamins, and minerals, and processes and excretes drugs. These are just some of the major functions of the liver, and without a healthy liver, any number of these tasks could be compromised. Compared to other organs, the liver has a great capacity to regenerate itself after damage. While that is a fortunate fact, you don’t want to rely on the liver’s unique regenerative capabilities rather than making sure to take care of it from the get-go.
Your eating and drinking habits can drastically impact your liver function—both positively and negatively—so it is important to make choices in the best interest of your liver and body as a whole. To help keep your body in prime condition, here are the four worst eating habits for your liver.
The liver is an organ about the size of a football. It sits just under your rib cage on the right side of your abdomen. The liver is essential for digesting food and ridding your body of toxic substances.
Liver disease can be inherited (genetic). Liver problems can also be caused by a variety of factors that damage the liver, such as viruses, alcohol use and obesity.
Over time, conditions that damage the liver can lead to scarring (cirrhosis), which can lead to liver failure, a life-threatening condition. But early treatment may give the liver time to heal.
Liver disease doesn’t always cause noticeable signs and symptoms. If signs and symptoms of liver disease do occur, they may include:
Skin and eyes that appear yellowish (jaundice)
Abdominal pain and swelling
Swelling in the legs and ankles
Dark urine color
Pale stool color
Nausea or vomiting
Loss of appetite
Tendency to bruise easily
When to see a doctor
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any persistent signs or symptoms that worry you. Seek immediate medical attention if you have abdominal pain that is so severe that you can’t stay still.
The liver performs many functions essential for good health and long life. Among its most important jobs are:
Producing important substances. Your liver continually produces bile. This is a chemical that helps turn fats into energy that your body uses. Bile is necessary for the digestive process. Your liver also creates albumin. This is a blood protein that helps carry hormones, drugs and fatty acids throughout your body. Your liver also creates most of the substances that help your blood clot after injury.
Processing bilirubin. The liver helps your body get rid of bilirubin, a substance found in bile. This happens from the breakdown of your red blood cells. Too much bilirubin in your body can cause jaundice. This is a yellowing of the skin and eyes.
Removing waste products. When you take in a potentially toxic substance, like alcohol or medicine, your liver helps alter it and remove it from your body.
Controlling immune responses. When bacteria, viruses and other harmful organisms enter your body, specialized cells in your liver can find and destroy these organisms.
Maintaining glucose. The liver helps your body maintain a healthy level of blood sugar. Your liver supplies glucose to your blood when it’s needed. It also removes glucose from your blood when there’s too much.
There are many steps you can take to keep your liver functioning well and reduce your risk for liver disease:
Stay up to date on your shots.
Wash your hands often, especially after using the bathroom, touching pets and before eating.
Limit your exposure to toxins, such as cleaning supplies, chemicals and tobacco products.
Keep your cholesterol within a normal range.
If you have diabetes, keep your sugars in a normal range.
Do not share needles, razors, toothbrushes or other personal items.
Do not smoke or use other tobacco products.
Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet and maintain a healthy weight.
Limit how much alcohol you drink.
Be careful about using medicine. Always talk with your health care provider about the medicines you’re taking, including over-the-counter products, such as pain relievers.
Practice safe sex to reduce the risk of contracting hepatitis or other health problems.
Many health problems can keep your liver from functioning properly and cause disease. There are several common symptoms of liver disease, including jaundice, liver failure and liver enlargement.
The types of liver disease include:
Alcoholic Liver Disease. Alcoholic liver disease is a result of alcohol abuse. A large percentage of Americans drink alcohol, and most do not develop liver disease as a result. However, those who continue to consume alcohol excessively may cause injury to their liver.
Cholestasis. This happens when the flow of bile from your liver is limited or blocked. Cholestasis can be caused by certain drugs, genetic factors or even pregnancy. It can also happen from a blockage caused by a tumor or a gallstone stuck in the body’s digestive system.
Cirrhosis. This is a hardening of your liver due to scar tissue. Heavy alcohol use and viruses like hepatitis are common causes of cirrhosis. Diabetes, immune problems and genetic diseases can also cause the disease.
Hepatitis. This is the name for any condition involving inflammation of your liver. There are many different types. Sometimes, excessive alcohol use, drugs or toxins cause hepatitis. Hepatitis can lead to liver failure, liver cancer and other life-threatening conditions.
Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. This happens when there are fat deposits in the liver. The deposits prevent your liver from functioning properly and removing toxins from your body.
2. Four worst eating habits for your liver
Eating too much sugar
It is likely no surprise to you that processed sugar added to food and drinks can lead to negative health outcomes. Added sugar can raise blood pressure, increase chronic inflammation, and lead to weight gain, diabetes, and fatty liver disease, all of which are linked to increased risk for heart attack and stroke. You may be surprised to learn the added sugar you consume can actually increase the production of fat in your liver, which can lead to fatty liver disease and type 2 diabetes.
Not all sugars are created equally, and it is important to differentiate the sugar naturally found in fruits and vegetables, which is not indicated to impair liver health from added sugar used in many processed food and drinks. In fact, one study found participants who drank fructose-sweetened beverages had fat production twice as high as those who drank glucose-sweetened beverages. Another finding in the study concluded that sucrose, the form of sugar most commonly consumed by humans, raised fat synthesis slightly more than the same amount of fructose.
Eating too many processed foods
This is a broad category of food and drink and includes many packaged, shelf-stable, frozen, and refrigerated items. Many of these beverages and food items contain added sugar, which we know can negatively impact your liver health. Processed meats like hot dogs, pepperoni, cured meats, and other common foods like bread, pastries, cereal, and desserts contain ingredients that can do harm, too.
One recent study found higher intake of ultra-processed foods is associated with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and additional research notes high sodium intake, a nutrient commonly found in processed foods, is also associated with an increased risk of NAFLD and advanced liver fibrosis.
Eating fried foods too often
French fries, chips, and pastries, oh my! While many of your favorite foods may fall into this category, the fat content of these foods may be forcing your liver to work overtime. Fried foods are often prepared with low-quality fat sources like corn oil, which goes through extensive processing and contains high amounts of omega-6 fat, which is thought to increase inflammation in the body when consumed in too high amounts and imbalanced with omega-3 intake.
Fried foods are often high in sodium as well, another risk factor for liver dysfunction, and are often enjoyed with sauces, toppings, and dips that contain added sugar.
Skipping fruits and veggies
Produce contains so many valuable nutrients that are often not found as concentrated in other food sources, such as antioxidants and fiber. Plus, certain fruits and veggies may actually contain compounds that protect the liver and may even enhance its detoxification function. For example, cruciferous veggies like Brussels sprouts were found to increase the functioning of detoxifying enzymes in the liver. Additionally, antioxidants found in berries, grapes, grapefruit, and cactus pear fruit demonstrate liver-protective abilities.