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Love your Liver

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As the name suggests, a healthy liver is essential for healthy living! During the holiday season, with plenty of parties to look forward to, it’s important to show your liver some love – so here’s some simple tips for taking care of this vital organ.

Your liver lives under your ribs on the right-hand side of your body, and weighs about 1.3kg. It’s your largest gland and biggest solid organ – a versatile multitasker with over 500 functions.

Right now, your liver is busy making stuff: bile, proteins, immune factors and cholesterol. At the same time, your liver is storing glucose and releasing it when it’s required, regulating blood clotting and processing haemoglobin. It’s also cleaning up: filtering your blood and clearing harmful substances from your body such as bilirubin, ammonia and bacteria. It’s a busy organ!

Detox diets might be all the rage – but they’re not all that useful.

Despite what you might read, your liver isn’t accumulating dangerous toxins, according to Edzard Ernst, emeritus Professor of Complementary Medicine at Exeter University. He told The Guardian that the liver – along with your skin, kidneys, intestines and lungs – is constantly removing toxins from your body, and if toxins were accumulating in any organ you would either be dead or extremely unwell. Rest assured, once your liver has broken down any harmful substances, it sends them to be expelled with your waste.

 

A break from the bottle has numerous benefits

The main culprit for the average New Zealander is alcohol consumption. If you want to give your liver a holiday, maybe take a break from drinking alcohol – New Scientist found that one ‘dry’ month caused significant improvements to liver function for moderate drinkers. The results included weight loss; better sleep quality, reduced blood glucose levels and a 15% reduction in liver fat (a precursor to liver damage).

If you’re not keen on the idea of a dry month, at least try to stick to the recommended alcohol intake – that’s one drink per day for women, and two for men. That extra drink or two each night adds up over the years, and unfortunately liver damage can start to occur as time passes. This increases your risk of cirrhosis, liver cancer and alcoholic hepatitis. (Viral hepatitis is contracted through bodily fluids; information and free testing are available at hepatitisfoundation.org.nz.)

 

Other ways to keep your liver working well

If you can tick off most of these, then you’re doing a great job of looking after your liver:

 

  • Eat a nutritious diet
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Exercise regularly
  • Avoid taking unnecessary medications or mixing medications
  • Don’t smoke
  • Drink responsibly

 

For more information and advice on liver function, talk to your Unichem Pharmacist. They can give advice about supplements to balance your diet, discuss the long-term effects of medications on the liver, and tell you what you can do to keep your liver functioning at its best.