You can maintain optimal liver health and function by consuming a diet low in sugar and high in anti-inflammatory foods, as well as avoiding toxic chemicals and medications.
Your liver is a major organ that is responsible for metabolizing nutrients, fats and regulating sugar (carbohydrates) in your blood, eliminating toxins and old red blood cells. Your liver is also where your body stores certain vitamins and minerals. Over 30 million people have some type of liver disease, with about 25% of Americans suffering from nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
3 Ways You Can Maintain Good Liver Health
Maintaining liver health and function is critical to your overall health and well-being.
#1 Limit Sugar
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), sugar (carbohydrates) should be limited to less than 10% of food intake and no more than 6 teaspoons (25 grams) per day for women and 9 teaspoons (38 grams) per day for men. A single teaspoon of sugar is about 4 grams, and the average American consumes about 19.5 teaspoons of sugar – or 85 grams per day! Your liver, which is the organ responsible for storing your excess blood sugar (glycogen) as fat, simply cannot keep up with this amount of excess.
After eating a meal, high levels of insulin trigger your liver to begin absorbing the excess glucose and storing it as body fat for future use as energy. Your liver stores the sugar in its cells until it is full, then converts it to fatty acids (body fat) for long-term storage. This fat production can lead to accumulation within your liver cells, a condition known as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and is common in those who are overweight, obese or diabetic.
Carbohydrates come in several forms, including sucrose (table sugar from sugar cane), fructose (fruit sugars), and lactose (milk sugars). Sucrose is the carbohydrate most often found in sweets such as candy and pastries, and is added to many processed foods, beverages and condiments. A can of Coca Cola contains 8.25 teaspoons (33 grams) of sugar. A Snickers bar has 6.75 teaspoons (52.7 grams). When a single item of ‘junk food’ is enough to push sugar intake over the recommended limit, it’s easy to see how avoiding these foods altogether is the wisest choice.
#2 Reduce Inflammation
Inflammation in your liver cells can lead to fibrosis which, if left untreated, over time can lead to cirrhosis, or permanent scarring of your liver cells. Some liver conditions can be reversed through corrective action: eating a healthy, low-fat, low-sugar diet, managing your weight, exercising, and avoiding toxic chemicals that may overload your liver.
Certain foods and herbs can reduce inflammation in your body and help reduce inflammation in your liver:
- Berries are fat-free, high in fiber, and contain flavonoids, vitamins A and C, as well as powerful anti-inflammatory agents and antioxidants.
- Research has proven that the curcuminoids in turmeric prevent the actions of enzyme COX-2 in your body that is responsible for inflammatory reaction and the pain associated with inflammation.
- Milk thistle fights free radicals and reduces inflammation and oxidative stress.
One of your liver’s primary responsibilities is to filter out toxins from your body. Exposure to environmental toxins, such as household cleaning chemicals, beauty products, manufacturing chemicals, medications, over-the-counter drugs, and chemicals added to your processed foods, all must be filtered out of your body and your liver. With help from your kidneys and colon, your liver is the primary organ responsible for this function.
There are many things you can do to avoid toxic chemicals:
- Use glass containers to store food to avoid Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical that mimics estrogen in your body and can tax your liver.
- Wash fruits and vegetables before eating them to remove pesticides.
- Switch to safe cleaning products like vinegar and baking soda instead of chemicals.
In addition to avoiding environmental toxins, certain foods help in detoxifying your liver. Dandelion root and green tea act as a diuretic, aiding in the removal of unwanted toxins from your body through the kidneys. The phytonutrients, called isothiocyanates, in cruciferous vegetables have been shown to increase your liver’s ability to detoxify itself.
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