How well do you know your liver? Dr. Ed Friedlander, a pathologist and one of our most active HealthTap doctors, says that your liver is the most difficult organ to damage, working as well in your senior years as when you’re still toddling through childhood—as long as you aren’t overdoing it with unhealthy habits. “Everything in moderation” will go a long way, according to hepatologist Dr. Kristel Hunt.
Maintaining a healthy liver—as opposed to an unhealthy, fatty liver—is pretty straightforward: all it takes is a balanced, mindful lifestyle. In the spirit ofWorld Hepatitis Day, here are 7 quick tips to keep your liver healthy—and help you live a longer, happier life!
1. Stay healthy with diet and exercise
This is probably the top tip any doctor would give for a longer, happier life, but it’s especially crucial when it comes to liver (and heart!) health. Dr. Friedlander has answered several questions on liver health, and he specifically notes “We’re losing good livers to sedentary lifestyles, so stay lean and do plenty of aerobic fitness activities.” For diet, Dr. Hunt says fatty foods have no inherently damaging properties, but you should still stay as active, healthy, and trim as possible. General practitioner Dr. Robert Killian adds, “As far as the liver goes, it is sugars [and carbohydrates] in high amounts that are the enemy, not fats.”
2. Avoid the “detox” teas and “liver cleansers”
If you’ve ever encountered detox teas that claim to help your liver and kidneys, don’t waste your money, says dermatologist Dr. Bob Ourian. Gastroenterologist Dr. Arthur Heller says they mostly just cause diarrhea and urination. If you really want to “detox” your liver, Dr. Charles Cattano, also a gastroenterologist, says to minimizetylenol and analgesic use and curtail alcohol intake—and stay hydrated with plenty of water!
3. Get tested!
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of a cure. Liver conditions like fatty liver and hepatitis can be found through a simple screening test. Hepatitis C, in particular, affects an estimated 170 million people globally. In the United States, over 2.7 million people have chronic Hepatitis C virus infections, and 75% of those affected have no idea! The CDC and United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommend that Baby Boomers (those born 1945–1965) and high-risk individuals get a simple blood test to screen for Hepatitis C Virus (HCV). Hepatitis C is curable—and fatty liver can be treated—so make sure you get tested.
*Getting tested is easier than ever thanks to HealthTap’s collaboration with Quest Diagnostics. Now, during a virtual consult, our doctors can order lab tests for you—including the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) screening test!
4. If you have a fatty liver, improve your dietary choices
Dr. Lea Danielsen, a specialist in Family Medicine, says, “Fatty liver disease is a term used to describe the accumulation of fat in the liver.” Excessalcohol is one of two main causes, and the more common cause is Insulin resistance or pre-diabetes. Insulin resistance is diagnosed with high blood pressure, high triglycerides (more than 150), and weight gain around the waist. Pediatrician Dr. Robert Kwok add, “A person with fatty liver likely has gotten extra fat in most other places in the body, and probably is eating more sugar and plaincarbs than he should be. Exercise, weight loss, and a low sugar/carb diet will help.”
Hepatologist Dr. Abdullah Mubarak notes that fatty liver is an emerging epidemic of liver disease mirroring the obesity epidemic in the United States. Dr. Randy Baker, a specialist in Holistic Medicine, strongly suggests avoiding excess sugar, alcohol, deep-fried foods, and genetically modified (GMO) foods. “Being overweight leads to a fatty liver,” he says.
5. Watch your alcohol intake and OTC medication use
Because your liver filters toxins from your body, Dr. Cattano strongly recommends curtailing your alcohol intake. This will reduce the stress on your liver and help keep it healthy and functioning. When it comes to medication that can affect your liver, Dr. Michael Sparacino, a specialist in Family Medicine, suggests taking medication as directedand avoiding alcohol. This includes medications like acetaminophen and paracetamol (also known as Tylenol and Panadol), says internist Dr. Laura Anissian.
6. Watch out for grapefruit—and “herbal remedies”
If you’re taking Lipitor or other statins to control high cholesterol, minimize your grapefruit consumption. Cardiologist Dr. Ehsan Ansari says that grapefruit consumption increases the concentration of Lipitor in your bloodstream, and the higher level of this medication can increase side effects like muscle pain. Dr. Friedlander also cautions against using “holistic herbal remedies” that claim to cleanse the liver or help improve liver function, as many of them are laced with poison. Stick to a healthy diet and plenty of water instead!
7. Prevention and early detection are key
Getting screened is one major way to check your liver health, but here are few other things that can help, according to Dr. Cattano and Dr. Friedlander:
With all these easy tips, living a healthier, happier life is completely doable!