The liver is a part of the digestive system, but it plays a crucial role in many critical body functions. Most people don't realize the importance of liver health until problems force them to go to a doctor. A healthy liver is crucial for your overall health. Poor liver health could be silently degrading your overall health long before symptoms become apparent.
The liver is responsible for many important functions
- It breaks down toxins in the blood. Almost every drug that you consume, including alcohol and antibiotics, is ultimately removed from the blood by the liver. It also helps the body get rid of toxic byproducts like ammonia.
- Liver produces bile, which helps break down the fats that you eat. It also plays an important role in the absorption of nutrients like water-soluble vitamins and minerals.
- The liver is the storage battery of the body. When blood sugar rises after a meal, the pancreas secretes insulin, which stimulates the conversion of glucose into glycogen. This process takes place in the liver. Glycogen is converted back to glucose when blood sugar levels fall. The liver thus maintains correct blood glucose levels. It also plays a role in regulating blood pressure and maintaining the right levels of hormones like testosterone, estrogen and insulin.
- Liver produces different types of lipoprotiens and controls their levels in the body.
If your liver is unhealthy or overworked, it will not be able to function optimally. Poor liver function results in accumulation of toxins within the body and this causes inflammation. Inflammation is associated with obesity and a number of other health issues. Unhealthy liver function can also result in fat build up, especially belly fat.
How to detect liver problems in the early stages
You can request your doctor to include a liver function test in your regular health checkup. Your doctor may also recommend the test if you report any symptoms that point to a liver problem. Liver function tests are also advisable if you regularly consume alcohol or take prescription drugs because they can affect your liver in the long run. Tests like ALT (Alanine Aminotransferase) and AST (Aspartate Aminotransferase) will help the doctor judge your liver function. If initial tests indicate a problem, additional investigation may be required.
Natural methods to keep your liver healthy
If you have liver problems, you must make lifestyle changes to prevent further damage and to speed up recovery.
- If you are a smoker, quit smoking.
- Stop taking unnecessary drugs. Even over the counter drugs like Tylenol can have an adverse impact when taken frequently for long durations.
- Don't drink alcoholic beverages.
- Healthy foods reduce liver workload. Switch to organic foods, which are free from pesticides and hormones.
- Avoid junk foods. Processed foods usually contain artificial colors, flavors and preservatives and it's best to avoid them. Avoid foods that contain hydrogenated oils, artificial additives or high-fructose corn syrup.
- Help your liver by consuming green leafy vegetables. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts contain glucosinolates, which make it easier for the liver to get rid of toxins.
- Reduce your salt intake as it makes your body retain more water. This can increase your blood pressure besides contributing to liver strain. Instead of salt, use natural flavoring agents like rosemary, chicory, dandelion and garlic, which are considered helpful for liver function.
- Don't lead a sedentary lifestyle. Maintain a regular and consistent exercise schedule. Be as punctual with exercise as you would be with medicines prescribed by your doctor. You should aim for at least half an hour of exercise daily. Cardiovascular exercises like brisk walking or aerobics are the best. If you are obese or suffer from any medical problems, you should consult your doctor before starting or changing your exercise regimen.
Liver health is crucial for your overall health. An unhealthy liver can be the cause for many common problems including obesity, glucose imbalance and digestive disorders. Include liver function tests in your regular health checkup to detect problems at an early stage. A healthy lifestyle is the key to a healthy liver.