Your liver is constantly working. It has hundreds of jobs, including filtering toxins from your bloodstream, balancing macro- and micronutrients, and regulating hormones.
Most of the time, you don’t even know it’s working at all. Even when it stops functioning properly, you might not notice anything out of the ordinary. But liver conditions that go unnoticed can progress to liver failure, a life-threatening condition.
Fortunately, there are a lot of things you can do to prevent liver disease. You might have heard that detoxes are a good way to keep your liver healthy. Continue reading to learn whether detoxes actually help, and what else you can do to maintain a strong, healthy liver.
Liver detoxes are everywhere these days. They typically involve diets, teas, juices, vitamins, supplements, or a combination of products purported to flush toxins from your body and help you lose weight.
These cleanses are based on the idea that chemicals and toxins continuously build up in your system. But that’s a misconception.
In fact, your liver doesn’t allow potentially harmful substances to accumulate. When a toxin enters your body, your liver swiftly converts it into something less harmful. Eventually, it’s excreted.
There’s nothing you can do to help this process along. If your liver wasn’t already doing this work on its own, your body would have a hard time functioning.
Not surprisingly, there’s no scientific evidence that detoxes and cleanses actually work. And since products like teas and supplements aren’t regulated in the same way as medicines, their long-term side effects are often unknown. If you take too much too often, these products could even harm your liver.
Adopting a healthy lifestyle is a far better strategy to keep your liver safe and functioning well.
Your everyday choices and lifestyle habits can affect the health of your liver in the long term. While these strategies may not seem as simple as a one-time cleanse, they’re more likely to protect your liver and keep it healthy.
Let’s look at seven key strategies that can help protect your liver in your daily life.
Your liver processes every alcoholic beverage you consume, including wine, beer, and spirits. The more you drink, the harder your liver has to work.
Over time, excessive drinking can take a toll, destroying liver cells. Alcohol-related liver disease (ARLD) includes several liver different conditions, such as:
To avoid alcohol-related liver disease, follow the recommendations for alcohol outlined in the
- 12 fluid ounces (fl. oz.) of regular beer (about 5 percent alcohol)
- 8 to 9 fl. oz. of malt liquor (about 7 percent alcohol)
- 5 fl. oz. of wine (about 12 percent alcohol)
- 1.5 fl. oz. shot of distilled spirits like gin, rum, tequila, whiskey (about 40 percent alcohol)
In addition, avoid mixing alcohol and medication, which puts excess strain on your liver.
All medications — whether they’re over the counter or prescribed by a doctor — eventually pass through your liver where they’re broken down.
Most medications are safe for your liver when taken as directed. However, taking too much of a drug, taking it too often, taking the wrong type, or taking several drugs at once can harm your liver.
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is an example of a common over-the-counter medication that can have serious consequences for your liver when taken incorrectly.
You should never take more than 1,000 milligrams (mg) of acetaminophen at a time, or exceed the maximum dose of 3,000 mg per day. Don’t mix acetaminophen and alcohol.
If you’re concerned about how a medication may affect your liver, talk to your doctor or pharmacist. You can also ask to have your liver tested before and after starting a new medication.
Like medications, supplements such as vitamins, minerals, herbs, and natural remedies are processed by your liver.
Just because a product is natural doesn’t mean it won’t have long-term consequences for your liver. In fact, many seemingly harmless products are capable of doing damage.
A 2017 article published in the journal
Even vitamins, in particular vitamin A and niacin, can cause liver damage if you take too much of them.
To avoid liver complications, talk to your doctor before taking supplements.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but your diet plays a significant role in the overall health of your liver.
To ensure your diet is benefiting your liver in the long term, try the following:
- Eat a variety of foods. Choose whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean protein, dairy, and healthy fats. Foods such as grapefruit, blueberries, nuts, and fatty fish are known to have potential benefits for the liver.
- Get enough fiber. Fiber is essential to helping your liver function smoothly. Fruits and vegetables and whole grains are great sources of fiber to incorporate into your diet.
- Stay hydrated. Make sure you drink enough water each day to keep your liver in tip-top shape.
- Limit fatty, sugary, and salty foods. Foods that are high in fat, sugar, and salt can affect liver function over time. Fried and fast foods can also affect the health of your liver.
- Drink coffee. Coffee
has been shownto lower the risk of liver diseases such as cirrhosis and liver cancer. It works by preventing the accumulation of fat and collagen, two factors in liver disease.
Physical activity isn’t just good for your musculoskeletal and cardiovascular systems. It’s also good for your liver.
The researchers concluded that both cardio and resistance exercises help to prevent fat buildup in the liver. Fat buildup is associated with NAFLD.
You don’t need to run marathons to reap the benefits. You can start exercising today by taking a brisk walk, doing an online workout class, or going on a bike ride.
You can protect yourself against hepatitis by first understanding how the most common forms spread.
- Hepatitis A is transmitted by consuming food or water contaminated with the feces of someone who has hepatitis A.
- Hepatitis B is transmitted through contact with bodily fluids from someone who has hepatitis B. Bodily fluids include blood, vaginal discharge, and semen.
- Hepatitis C is transmitted through contact with bodily fluids from someone who has hepatitis C.
To protect yourself against hepatitis, you can:
- Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands regularly and use hand sanitizer.
- Take extra precautions when traveling. Learn more about hepatitis risks in the region you’re visiting. Avoid local tap water or ice and unwashed fruit or vegetables.
- Don’t share personal items. Keep your toothbrush and razor to yourself. If you use intravenous (IV) drugs, don’t share needles.
- Make sure needles are sterilized. Before getting a tattoo or piercing, make sure the studio uses disposable needles or an autoclave machine to sterilize needles.
- Practice safer sex. If you have sex with more than one partner, use a condom to lower your risk of hepatitis B and C.
- Get vaccinated. Vaccination can help you avoid contracting hepatitis A and B. There’s currently no vaccine for hepatitis C.
Not only does your liver process chemicals that enter your body through your mouth, but it also processes chemicals that enter through your nose and skin.
Some everyday household products contain toxins that can damage your liver, especially if you come into contact with them regularly.
To prevent long-term damage to your liver, opt for organic cleaning products and techniques to clean your home. Avoid using pesticides and herbicides in your yard, or take precautions to avoid inhaling chemical fumes.
If you must use chemicals or aerosols inside the house — to paint, for instance — make sure your space is well ventilated. If that’s not possible, wear a mask.
Although liver detoxes and cleanses have become popular, there’s no scientific evidence that they actually work. And since many of these products aren’t regulated in the same way as medicines, little is known about their effectiveness and long-term side effects.
Liver cleanses are based on the idea that chemicals and toxins continuously build up in your system, but that’s a misconception. Instead of opting for a liver detox, a safer option is to focus on healthy lifestyle choices and habits.
Some tried-and-true liver-friendly habits include eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and protecting yourself from potentially harmful medications, liver diseases, and environmental toxins.