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The liver is our 2nd largest organ (next to the skin) and definitely the most complex. Its duties are plentiful and involve converting food into energy and nutrients, manufacturing enzymes, cholesterol, and bile, regulating blood sugar, filtering harmful substances from the blood, and breaking down hormones and toxins – just to name a few.

Liver Disease on the Rise

Most people never give their liver a second thought until something goes wrong. Yet, liver disease affects 1 in 10 Americans.

There are actually over 100 different types of liver disease which include viral hepatitis, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, alcohol-related liver disease, auto-immune liver disease, and genetic liver disease. Many of these diseases can eventually cause the liver to become inflamed, which can lead to cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver. People with cirrhosis are at an increased risk for liver cancer and liver failure.

Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

One form of liver disease that is thought to affect up to 25% of people in the western world is non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). NAFLD occurs when there’s a build-up of excess fat in the liver, or more than 5-10% of its total weight, not caused by heavy alcohol consumption.

NAFLD generally doesn’t bring about any pointed symptoms, however, when symptoms do occur they’re often non-specific and may include fatigue, weakness, loss of appetite, or abdominal pain.

The more severe form of NAFLD is called non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). NASH causes the liver to swell and become damaged and can eventually lead to cirrhosis of the liver if left unchecked.

Although there’s no one exact cause of NAFLD it is associated with obesity, diabetes, insulin resistance, high cholesterol and high triglycerides.

NAFLD is initially suspected if blood tests show high levels of liver enzymes, and other liver diseases are first ruled out. It can be confirmed with an ultrasound, CT scan, or biopsy.

Support and Protect Your Liver

There are many things we can do to protect our liver and prevent liver diseases, particularly the ones associated with lifestyle, such as NAFLD.

1) If you’re overweight strive for gradual and sustainable weight loss. Losing weight too rapidly can actually contribute to a fatty liver.

2) Introduce regular exercise into your routine. If you’re currently inactive build up slowly with more gentle activities such as walking, swimming, or stretching, and then start to eventually introduce more rigorous exercise into your routine.

3) Quit smoking and limit alcohol consumption (don’t drink if you have any type of liver disease).

Doctor with a stop smoking sign

4) Minimize consumption of sugar, refined fats/oil, and fried foods. Stick to a wholefoods diet that’s vegetable-rich and naturally high in fibre.

5) Eat the rainbow by including plenty of colourful fruits and vegetables into your daily diet which are rich in antioxidants and help to combat oxidative stress. Be sure to include plenty of raw veggies too. Some mentionable liver loving foods include beets, apples, greens, berries, and lemons. Green tea is a great antioxidant-rich beverage to sip on!

6) Support blood sugar levels by eating well-balanced meals and limit needless snacking.

7) Choose organic produce whenever possible to reduce your exposure to pesticides and other potentially toxic residues that your liver is forced to process. Be mindful of choosing quality body care, cosmetic, and cleaning products too.

8) Consider supplementing with extra antioxidant nutrients like Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium, NAC (N-Acetyl-Cysteine), and Alpha-Lipoic Acid for additional liver protection and support.

9) Introduce liver loving herbs such as Milk Thistle (or Silymarin), Dandelion Root, Globe Artichoke, and Burdock Root into your regimen, which all have shown to protect and support liver function. You can take these herbs in tea form, or supplement with capsules or tincture.

10) Introduce more anti-inflammatory turmeric into your diet, and/or consider taking a turmeric/curcumin supplement for a more potent anti-inflammatory effect that has far-reaching benefits throughout the body, including liver protection.

Elaine Brisebois
About the Author

Elaine is a Certified Nutritionist and Women’s Health Coach. She works with clients across the globe to help them improve their health and relationship with food. Elaine believes in a real food approach to health that is rooted in optimizing digestion and includes ongoing and intelligent cleansing. You can download her FREE Hip, Healthy & Holistic Makeover Guide to learn 5 simple things you can do every day to lose weight, increase energy, kick cravings, and feel beautiful inside & out.