The liver is the body's largest internal organ, responsible for processing substances that enter the body and acting as a filtering system that is essential to eliminating toxic substances. What's more, the liver produces proteins, clotting factors, enzymes, and hormones essential to health.
Considering how integral a properly functioning liver can be, one can see just how vital it is to maintain a healthy liver. Unfortunately, many of the foods, beverages and medications people consume on a regular basis can affect both liver health and the overall health of the body. But men and women can take several steps to ensure their liver stays healthy.
* Avoid excessive consumption of alcohol. Overconsumption of alcohol damages the liver. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the liver is the primary site of alcohol metabolism. Over time, excessive drinking can damage the liver. It is best to keep your drinking to a minimum, for the health of your liver and a variety of other reasons.
* Quit smoking. Every time you smoke you are putting more than 60 different chemicals into your body. At some point, cigarette smoke will be handled by the liver. Cigarette smoke can decrease the amount of oxygen that red blood cells carry to the vital organs of the body, including the liver. Over time, this can result in damage to the liver known as cirrhosis. In addition, the American Cancer Society notes that some studies have found a link between smoking and liver cancer. However, this relationship is difficult to discern because smokers also tend to be more likely to drink alcohol.
* Eat healthier. A healthy diet that includes an array of fresh fruits and vegetables is good for the liver. Vegetables are excellent sources of fiber, which helps toxins move quickly through the digestive system without putting stress on the liver. Sulfur-rich foods, such as garlic and onions, can help detoxify environmental toxins that end up in the body. Turmeric, licorice and cinnamon may also support healthy liver function.
* Exercise caution with medications. Certain medications can tax the liver, especially when medications are mixed with other substances. Even seemingly innocuous medications, like acetaminophen, can cause potential liver damage over time. In fact, CNCA Health notes that acetaminophen overdose is the leading cause of acute liver failure in the United States. When taking any medications, men and women should read the information sheets that accompany prescriptions to determine if any side effects that may affect the liver are noted. Doctors may require frequent checkups and blood tests to monitor liver health when their patients are taking certain types of medications.
* Limit exposure to toxins. Men and women can choose organic foods whenever possible to cut down on the amount of chemical residue they consume. Even switching over to natural household cleaning products can reduce the number of chemicals you are exposed to, and reducing that exposure can ultimately protect the liver.
* Drink more water and exercise regularly. Fresh water helps flush toxins out of the body, helping the liver by not making it work so hard. In addition, exercising and sweating detoxifies the body. While exercising and after working out, replace lost fluids with clean, healthy water.
* Steer clear of overly processed foods. Processed foods contain more chemicals, which can put more pressure on the liver. Sweetening agents, preservatives and other substances can be particularly detrimental to liver health.
* Sip green tea. Green tea is full of antioxidants known as catechins, which have been shown to improve the functions of the liver.
Maintaining liver health is an important part of a healthy lifestyle that can benefit the entire body.