Here’s a fun fact for you about the liver. Back in medieval times it was considered as important as the heart, and seen as the source of love and passion. This is where the term ‘lily-livered’ came from; meaning a coward.
Despite this misconception, the liver is still one of your most important organs, and it carries out more than 500 vital functions within the body.
Here’s just a few of them:
- Clear the blood of poisonous substances, alcohol and drugs
- Fight infection and disease
- Helping blood to clot
- Control high cholesterol levels
- Convert blood glucose (sugar from food) into glycogen (storable energy)
Like all our organs, the liver needs looking after to stay healthy. Failing to care for your liver can cause liver disease, and like other critical illnesses can have wide-ranging life-changing impacts.
For your peace of mind, ESMI provides critical illness insurance to help protect you from these impacts. However, a healthy lifestyle, especially one that includes a well-balanced diet helps to ensure your liver receives the nutrition it needs.
There are many preventable factors that you can get a hold of to help prevent liver disease. One such area is through liver nutrition and ensuring you consume foods that keep your liver hearty and healthy.
Preventing liver disease through liver nutrition
The factors that cause liver disease can be divided into three categories;
- Lifestyle related.
For example, haemochromatosis, an inherited condition where the liver can’t break down iron in the body, is caused by genetic factors.
Genetic and infectious causes (eg Hepatitis) of liver disease unfortunately can’t be altered through lifestyle changes such as eating a more liver-healthy diet.
But, disease which is linked to lifestyle factors can be planned for and prevented, by improving your nutritional approach to your liver.
Causes of Lifestyle-Related Liver Disease
1. Alcohol and Drug Abuse
The liver processes and eliminates toxins from the body, and so tends to be first in line for damage when alcohol or drug misuse are involved.
Alcoholic liver disease is caused by damage to the liver from alcohol abuse. The first step you can take towards preventing liver damage is to cut down on any excessive alcohol consumption.
It’s never too late to do this – even if you’ve been a heavy drinker for years. The liver can heal itself very quickly and cutting down on or cutting out alcohol altogether has many health benefits.
2. Poor Nutrition and Low Exercise
Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, where patients have a build up of fat in their liver cells, is caused by a poor diet combined with lack of exercise. It progresses through several stages: steatosis, non-alcoholic steatohepatatis, fibrosis and finally cirrhosis.
This final stage involves permanent liver scarring and results in a high risk of liver cancers and liver failure.
The risk factors for NAFLD include obesity, particularly when you carry a lot of fat around your central torso and stomach area, high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol and triglycerides.
What Can I Do To Keep My Liver Healthy?
According to the NHS, patients who already have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) can help to improve their condition by changing their diet and lifestyle towards healthier practices.
Earlier stages of fatty liver can even be reversed through making these changes. Losing weight, cutting down on alcohol and improving your exercise levels will all help. Eating a healthy diet is also vitally important.
Liver Nutrition – What to Eat
To maintain good health overall, it’s important to keep an eye on what you’re eating. The current recommendation for a balanced diet is one with low levels of fat, sugar and salt, as well as being high in fibre to aid digestion. The NHS guide on what you should be eating is as follows:
1. Starchy carbohydrates with most meals
The base of meals should be starchy-carbohydrate containing food, such as potatoes, rice or pasta. The wholegrain options of these have more fibre, vitamins and minerals than the more processed white variety.
2. Some dairy foods or dairy alternatives, such as soy milk
Dairy is an amazing source of calcium and protein, but as a food group it often causes difficulties, as many people are dairy or lactose intolerant. Alternative milks such as soy and almond do still contain calcium.
3. 5 servings of fruit and vegetables daily
Fruit and vegetables are where a majority of our vitamins and minerals come from. They should be taking up about a third of what you eat during the course of the day.
4. Some protein, whether animal (meat, dairy) or vegetable (beans and pulses)
Protein is essential for daily growth and repair functions. Meat is a great source of vitamin B12, which vegetarians may have to take supplements to replace.
5. As little unsaturated oil and butter as possible.
Fat should be in small amounts, as too much saturated fat in the diet can lead to an increased risk for heart disease. Unsaturated fats are healthier, but still need to be used in moderation.
Should I try a “detox” for my liver?
Many dietitians will recommend specific foods, or practices in order to “cleanse” your liver. However, it’s important to be aware that there isn’t any evidence to support this kind of approach.
There’s no proof that toxins do build up in the liver or that they can be removed by the use of a special diet.
Instead it’s better to eat a generally balanced diet, cut down on alcohol and drugs, and stay hydrated so your liver can do its job as it should.
A healthy lifestyle and a balanced diet is the first step towards better liver health. ESMI’s critical illness insurance can give you the peace of mind you need, if you do find you’re diagnosed with liver disease or any other type of critical illness.
Minimise the impact liver disease could have on you and your loved ones by investing in critical illness insurance so you can continue living life as normally as possible. You’ll be glad you made the investment. Get a free quote now, or contact us for more information.