April 19th is observed as World Liver Day every year with the aim to spread awareness about liver diseases.
A 2019 study published in the Journal of Hepatology revealed that liver disease accounts for around 2 million deaths every year across the world. Of these, around 1 million deaths are due to complications caused by liver cirrhosis (failure of the liver to function) and the rest due to viral hepatitis (infection of the liver) and liver cancer. Liver cirrhosis and cancer form 11th and 16th leading causes of death respectively. The liver is responsible for numerous functions in the body which range from eliminating the toxins from the body and breaking down the medications. Hence, for the proper functioning of the organ, it is important to take care of it. There are few factors which can up the risk of liver disease, so keeping a check on these factors can help prevent liver disease. Here are a few simple tips to get started!
Tips To Prevent Liver Disease
1. Say No To Alcohol
Alcohol intake is undoubtedly one of the most common causes of cirrhosis, which is rightly said as the disease of rich and poor alike due to the role of alcohol. According to a 2019 study published online, around 2 billion people all over the world consume alcohol and more than 75 million are diagnosed with alcohol-related health problems and thus, are at a high risk of alcohol-associated liver disease. Moreover, women are more susceptible to the toxic effects of alcohol on the liver as compared to men, although men abuse alcohol more than women.
Excessive alcohol consumption not only puts a load on the liver but also damages the liver in the long run. It also robs the essential nutrients which are required for the proper functioning of the body. This can lead to malnutrition, which is associated with acute as well as chronic alcohol abuse.
2. Lose Weight
Did you know excess weight is one of the key risk factors of liver disease? It is reported that approximately 2 billion adults are obese or overweight and over 400 million have diabetes. These two risk factors are known to be responsible for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, cirrhosis, and liver cancer. Also, excess body weight along with malnourishment can further increase the risk of infection and liver damage.
Hence, it is advised to lose weight as it is not only effective in promoting fat loss from the liver but also lowers your risk of liver disease. Moreover, it also helps you to prevent other lifestyle disorders such as diabetes, which is also a known risk factor for liver disorders. In order to keep a tab on your weight, monitor your diet and exercise regularly. A diet that is low in carbohydrates and fats and contains high amounts of proteins is recommended to lose weight. You can even get in touch with a qualified nutritionist or dietician to get a customized meal plan to lose weight.
3. Eat A Balanced Diet
The role of a healthy diet in maintaining your overall health cannot be underestimated. Ensure you eat a healthy and balanced diet and include foods from all food groups such as proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Eat foods that are loaded with fiber such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables and cereals such as millet, quinoa, etc. These foods not only aid in digestion but also lessen the pressure on the liver along with providing sufficient amounts of nutrition to the body. Include green leafy vegetables, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, carrot, apple and walnuts in your diet.
Additionally, up your intake of water as it helps to flush toxins from the body and ease the load on the liver. But stay away from drinking tap water when traveling due to the high risk of contamination, which in turn can lead to liver disease. Also, always wash your hands before eating and after visiting a washroom to cut down on the microbial load.
4. Say No To Self Medication
Have a headache? Pop a painkiller. Suffering from a fever? Take paracetamol. Most often then not, we tend to self medicate for common health problems such as fever, cough, and headache. However, this is not right because, in the long run, it can take a toll on your liver and overall health. Popping a painkiller every time you suffer from a toothache, back pain or headache is not recommended as certain medications can damage the liver and increase the risk of liver disease.
Always consult your doctor when it comes to using medications for common health problems. For example, the use of paracetamol in excess is injurious to the liver as it affects the liver’s ability to filter out toxins and makes it prone to infections, especially in children. If you suffer from chronic health problems or pain conditions, consult your doctor before taking pain killers or starting any medication. Also, never use a mix of herbal supplements and prescription or nonprescription drugs without consulting your doctor as it can up the risk of liver damage.
5. Get Vaccinated
Viral hepatitis is a cause for major health care burden in India and is now equated as a threat comparable to the “big three” communicable diseases – HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. Around 400 million people all over the world suffer from chronic hepatitis. However, the best thing about this is that hepatitis can be prevented with vaccination. Get vaccinated for hepatitis A and hepatitis B, which are the common types of hepatitis.
Hepatitis causes inflammation of the liver which could be due to a viral infection, exposure to contaminated blood or water or long term use of alcohol and smoking. It damages the liver gradually which is the reason there are limited or no symptoms of the condition. However, in some cases, it can lead to symptoms such as poor appetite, jaundice (yellowing or the skin) and malaise (feeling sick). Talk to your doctor to know more about the vaccination for hepatitis to prevent liver disease and stay healthy.
(The article is reviewed by Dr. Lalit Kanodia, General Physician)
1. Asrani SK, Devarbhavi H, Eaton J, Kamath PS. Burden of liver diseases in the world. J Hepatol. 2019 Jan;70(1):151-171.
2. Marchesini G, Petta S, Dalle Grave R. Diet, weight loss, and liver health in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: Pathophysiology, evidence, and practice. Hepatology. 2016 Jun;63(6):2032-43.
3. Satsangi S, Chawla YK. Viral hepatitis: Indian scenario. Med J Armed Forces India. 2016 Jul;72(3):204-10.