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Nutrition for a Healthy Liver

by Jamila Daniel
  • Overview

    A number of diseases and conditions are associated with the liver. These are inherited or the result of viral or chemical triggers. Some are readily treatable, others may lead to serious complications. Roughly the size of a football and located below the rib cage on the right side of the abdomen, the liver functions as one of the body's most vital organs, enabling the digestion of food and absorption of nutrients. It also rids the body of toxins.
  • Symptoms, Causes and Risk Factors

    Some signs and symptoms of liver problems include abdominal pain and swelling, chronic fatigue, loss of appetite, dark colored urine and bloody, tar or pale colored stool. One of the main triggers in liver problems is excessive alcohol use, which can lead to cirrhosis, a condition that causes the organ to fail. Obesity and diabetes are also often identified as causes of liver disease.
  • Prevention and Diet

    Maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly and follow a nutritious diet heavy on fresh fruits and vegetables. Antioxidant rich foods like broccoli, carrots, tomato juice, bell peppers, strawberries, nuts, seeds, eggs, and oranges strengthen the immune system and aid in the removal of toxins. Antioxidants are derived from vitamins A, C, E, beta-carotene, lycopene, and selenium. Maintaining a healthy liver also requires avoiding certain foods, such as those excessive in fat, protein or carbohydrates, all of which can damage the liver. Sufficient protein intake is vital for building and maintaining muscle mass and helping the body repair itself . Too much may cause hepatic encephalopathy (mental confusion) in those who already have serious liver damage. Liver dysfunction can also be exacerbated by excess carbohydrates, which can cause fat deposits in the liver. Too much fat, particularly processed fats and deep-fried foods, can also add strain on the liver. In addition to a healthy diet, it's important to limit alcohol consumption. Although individuals vary, women should typically have no more than one drink a day and men should place their cap at two. People suffering from poor liver health should always consult a doctor or qualified nutritionist to determine the proper diet and exercise regimen.
  • Other Factors to Consider

    Some medicines like acetaminophen (Tylenol) and even herbal supplements such as black cohosh, Chinese herbs like ma-huang, and chaparral, comfrey, Germander, Greater Celandine, Kava, mistletoe, pennyroyal, skullcap, and valerian can have adverse effects on the liver. Body piercings and tattoos can cause forms of hepatitis, another cause of liver failure.

    References & Resources