They say you cannot live without love, but the liver might be even more important. It’s one of the vital organs in the human body, and it has the role of maintaining a list of functions to support metabolism, digestion, immunity, detoxification, as well as vitamin storage, among other roles. The liver is also one of the largest organs in our body – it’s about the size of a football and weighs roughly 3 pounds in the case of an average-sized person.
Our livers are even capable of metabolizing the drugs that we get in our organisms. By doing so, the drugs will be converted into less dangerous substances that can be eliminated from the body. This phenomenal vital organ is even capable of detecting and removing bacteria from our blood. The liver contains cells known as Kupffer cells, which are capable of engulfing and destroying bacteria, viruses, as well as other harmful particles from the bloodstream.
In other words, it’s paramount to do our best to keep our liver healthy. There are a lot of ideas out there about how to detox and cleanse your liver after a few days of bingeing on alcohol or food in order to maintain daily liver function and get rid of potential damage to the organ.
Thanks to Johns Hopkins Medicine (hopkinsmedicine.org), we can now check out what Tinsay Woreta, MD and a hepatologist, has to say about the accuracy of such ideas and how she is ready to debunk some of the most widespread myths regarding liver health.
Are liver cleanses a safe and healthy way to lose weight?
It might not be a surprise that a lot of liver detoxification products are sold as weight loss cleanses. The interesting part is that there’s no clinical data available to back up the efficacy of such cleanses. The truth is that some dietary supplements even have the potential to cause harm to our liver by leading to injury induced by drugs.
Can obesity make you more prone to liver disease?
We know that being overweight makes you more susceptible to health problems, such as diabetes, coronary heart disease, strokes, high blood pressure, etc. Here’s what Woreta has to say in the case of obesity leading to liver disease, as hopkinsmedicine.org quotes:
Due to the rising epidemic of obesity in the United States, the prevalence of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is rapidly increasing and is expected to overtake hepatitis C as the leading indication for liver transplant in the next 30 years.
The risk of having nonalcoholic fatty liver disease increases if you are dealing with obesity. The presence of fat in the liver can cause inflammation, which could lead to cirrhosis and fibrosis.
Can liver cleanses correct existing liver damage?
Regardless of how much people like to believe the opposite, there’s no proof that liver cleanses are capable of treating existing liver damage. The claim belongs to Woreta, who also brings good news for those who struggle with such health problems. She adds that “there are many other forms of treatment available for those who are affected.”
Can you protect yourself from liver disease?
Woreta recommends a series of actions that anybody can take in order to protect themselves from liver disease. This is somewhat contrary to popular belief, as a lot of people believe that there’s no way to stay safe from liver disease.
Here are a few simple measures that the hepatologist recommends:
- Don’t consume excessive amounts of alcohol
- Don’t become overweight
- Don’t engage in risky behaviors (unprotected sex, illicit drug use, etc.)
- Take your risk factors into account carefully
For the last part, it’s important to go for screening if you have risk factors for liver disease, such as a family history of the condition or if you consume alcohol in excess.
On the other hand, in case you have specific risk factors for hepatitis C, you must ask your physician for screening. These are the risk factors:
- Patients suffering from HIV
- Patients on hemodialysis
- Illicit drug use in the present or in the past
- A history of tattoos in an unregulated setting
- Healthcare workers who have been dealing with needles with hepatitis C-infected blood
- Receiving a blood transfusion before 1992
Are liver cleanses important for daily health maintenance, and are they especially helpful after overindulgence?
Tinsay Woreta doesn’t recommend liver cleanses as a way to cure all the daily liver health issues and overindulgence. As an argument, the hepatologist says that such products aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This means that they haven’t been adequately tested within clinical trials, and they are not uniform.
Cleanses have also not been proven to get rid of any damage from your body resulting from excess consumption of food or alcohol.
Did you know that the liver is able to affect mental health as well? That’s what recent studies suggest. The liver has the role of filtering out toxins such as ammonia. When the organ is no longer functioning as it should, toxins will accumulate in the body and affect the functionality of the brain.
We are all practically ‘condemned’ to take good care of our liver. To do that, we must avoid alcohol, maintain a healthy diet, and exercise regularly. Also, we also need to ask for screening if we deal with disease risk factors.