Liver Wellness

Liver-wellnessOur liver is the largest internal organ and the second largest human organ. It is one of the most vital organs that performs a myriad of functions. It is also the only organ that can regenerate or rebuild itself.

Shaped almost like a triangle and divided into 2 main lobes (the right and left lobes), the liver can weigh up to 1.4kg in an adult. It is dark reddish-brown in colour, and is located behind our right ribs and stretches across the abdomen to the left upper abdomen. It is covered entirely by a double layer of thin membrane that keeps it in place and reduces friction against other organs in the abdominal cavity. The liver functions as a regulation, storage and purification unit in our body.

What does it do?

The liver works like a factory in our body. It performs the key roles of production, regulation, storage and purification, among other functions:

Production

  • Produces bile (a greenish liquid) that helps to breakdown the fats
  • Makes certain amino-acids needed for protein absorption
  • Produces almost 80% of cholesterol in our body
  • Produces red blood cells in the first trimester of the unborn baby

Regulation

  • Converts glucose into glycogen and vice versa as and when the body requires energy, thereby maintaining the level of glucose needed in the bloodstream
  • Helps breakdown insulin and other hormones

Storage

  • Stores glycogen (after glucose has been converted), vitamins A, D, K and B12, iron and copper

Filtration

  • Filters substances from the blood, such as alcohol
  • Breaks down most medicinal products (drug metabolism)
  • Converts ammonia to urea, which is then passed out through urine

Take care of your liver

Moderation

  • Avoid taking unnecessary medications and supplements – too many chemicals can harm your liver
  • Don’t mix medicines without the advice of a doctor, as you may create something poisonous that could damage your liver badly
  • Avoid excessive beer, liquor or wine
  • Never mix alcohol with other drugs and medications
  • Practice safe sex
  • If you are a drug-injector, do not share needles
  • Never touch a discarded syringe or needle

Maintain a healthy, balanced diet

Everything that we eat, drink, breathe and absorb through our skin must pass through the liver in one form or another. Thus, special attention to nutrition and diet is vital and can help keep your liver healthy.

Maintain a well-balanced and nutritionally adequate diet.

  • Cut down on deep-fried and fatty foods
  • Avoid foods high in fats and cholesterol – this will help reduce the risk of gallbladder disorders
  • Reduce salt (sodium) intake – try alternative seasonings such as Vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, pepper, mustard, cloves and thyme
  • Canned (processed) foods – check the labels for colouring and artificial preservatives as these are known to be high in chemical content and maybe hazardous to the liver
  • Keep close to your ideal weight and BMI – research has linked obesity to being a cause of gallbladder disorders and fatty liver. In addition, those who are overweight or have diabetes are at an increased risk for a form of potentially serious liver disease called non-alcoholic steatohepatitis.
  • Weight loss – if you are dieting to lose weight, ensure that you are still getting all the vitamins and minerals that your body and liver require in order to function properly (most of the patients with liver diseases are associated with malnutrition)

What to do if you have a liver disease

If you experience the following symptoms, contact your doctor immediately as they may be signs of liver trouble:

  • Abdominal swelling or severe abdominal pain
  • Prolonged itching of the skin
  • Very dark urine or pale stools, or bloody/tar-like stools
  • Chronic fatigue, nausea or loss of appetite
  • Jaundice (yellow discoloration of the skin or eyes)

Seek medical advice from your doctor, do not try home-based or DIY treatments. They are not proven and may even have adverse effects on your health and your liver.

Find out more about the liver disease. You can obtain information on many medical websites which are accredited by doctors and medical institutions. In some countries, there are local support groups that can help you better understand the disease by hearing first-hand accounts of other patients. Changing your diet to lead a healthier lifestyle is a good start. Family support can help you to build greater emotional strength. Having family members with you during visits to the doctor can help to provide an objective view/perspective. It is also educational for your family members during such visits as they can understand better your needs and take the necessary steps, if any, to help you during the process.

Food-wise, a special diet that helps to rebuild the damaged liver cells and also form new healthy liver cells is usually recommended. The diet helps to protect the liver from working too hard and also helps it to function as normally as possible.

  • Proteins help with tissue repair, prevent fatty build-up and damage to the liver cells. If the liver is severely damaged, proteins will not be properly processed.
  • Sodium (salt) is known to cause fluid-retention in the body. Patients with known ascites and swelling in the liver are strictly advised to restrict sodium intake to prevent the worsening of his/her condition. Canned soups and vegetables, cold cut meats, mayonnaise, tomato sauce, dairy products, cheese and ice cream are high in sodium. The best salt substitute is lemon juice (which is salt free).
  • Carbohydrates should be the major source of calories for patients with liver disease. Increasing the intake helps reserve enough glycogen which in turn is converted to glucose for energy that the body needs.

Patients are also strongly advised to stay away from taking supplements to the diet, such as fad foods or packaged “nutritional” aids, as they contain a high dose of sodium, potassium and protein mixtures.

Besides eating right, exercising regularly will help to keep your liver and body healthy. Regular exercise gives the extra boost of energy and patients often respond more positively to treatments. However, one should work out an exercise regime that fits his/her physical ability (e.g. don’t carry weights when you have back problems). Check with your doctor before trying out a new exercise regime and stay well-hydrated by drinking enough water when you exercise.

Preventive Screening & Vaccinations

Regular health screening is an important aspect of disease prevention for everyone, regardless of age or sex.

At AALC, we provide different health screening packages that cover the main health concerns, ranging from liver, pancreas, gallbladder cancer screenings; liver, kidney, heart and lung functions; blood composition profile; hepatitis A, B and C screening; to gastro-intestinal scopes.

Early detection of medical conditions condition not only lessen the financial burden of treatments but also reduces the physical and emotional stress on you and your loved ones. When detected early, the appropriate treatments usually yield favourable outcomes and the quality of life can be improved.

Taking preventive measures should never be an afterthought. Prevention is the best medicine.