How to keep your liver healthy‒a key organ

You don’t see or feel it, but‒your liver is ever-faithful, located deep in the abdomen, busy accomplishing its many functions. Even though it’s easy to forget it’s there, it’s interesting to know that liver disease affects 1 out of 10 Canadians.

The liver is the largest organ of the human body, weighing about 1.5 kg on average. It plays its role along with other organs, such as the pancreas, intestine and gallbladder. Its main functions are metabolizing (transforming and producing various substances), storing and eliminating.

The liver contributes to the proper functioning of your body in many ways, for example:

  • It produces a number of hormones.
  • It produces blood glucose, fuel for the body.
  • It stores blood glucose for future use.
  • It helps in the production of important proteins, such as the ones that contribute to blood clotting (coagulation).
  • It helps eliminate bad cholesterol.
  • It stores vitamins.
  • It helps transform alcohol and medications so they can be eliminated from the body.
  • It helps the immune system fight infection.

Be careful when you talk about the liver!

If you believe that liver disease is always linked to excess alcohol and drugs, think again! Anyone can suffer from it at one time or another in their lifetime. However, it is true that there are certain risk factors of hepatopathy (generic term describing all liver diseases, the root of medical terms associated with the liver starting by “hepat[o]”, originate from the Greek word for liver, hêpar.

People often tend to think the liver is the cause of certain symptoms or health problems they may experience. Statements such as “My liver hurts”, “My liver is congested”, or “My liver isn’t functioning properly”, sometimes reflect errors in perception. It’s easy to mistakenly attribute problems to the liver that are in fact caused by another organ, such as the stomach or the intestine. Before concluding that you have hepatic problems, consult your doctor.

This being said, it is true that a number of different liver diseases exist (numbering over 100 kinds). They can occur at any age for various reasons. Among the most common, we see:

  • hepatitis;
  • cirrhosis
  • hepatic steatosis;
  • liver cancer;

Liver diseases have medical consequences with varying degrees of severity, some minor, while others may be more serious, and in some cases, they can be deadly. Therefore, it is important to take them seriously. If you have any doubts about your liver health, talk to your doctor immediately.

How to help your liver on a daily basis

A healthy lifestyle and various preventive measures can positively impact the proper functioning of your liver. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Eat healthy. Avoid fatty and sweet foods. Follow the recommendations of the Canada Food Guide as much as possible.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity contributes to the development of liver diseases such as hepatic steatosis.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation. Consuming too much alcohol over time can lead to diseases such as hepatic steatosis, alcoholic hepatitis or cirrhosis. Moreover, alcohol increases the risk of liver cancer.
  • Respect medication dosage. Some may have toxic effects on the liver when taken in excessive amounts.
  • Refrain from taking illicit drugs, which can also contribute to the development of hepatic diseases.
  • Inquire if you might be exposed to chemical substances that may be toxic to your liver during your daily activities.
  • Consider getting vaccinated against hepatitis A and B. There is currently no vaccine against hepatitis C (the third most common form of hepatitis). 
  • If you are planning a trip, inquire about how to reduce the risk of contracting hepatitis A through water, drinks or contaminated foods.
  • Practice safe sex. This will help protect you from contracting a virus that can cause liver disease, such as hepatitis B or C. Use a condom during sexual intercourse.
  • Never share needles for injections with other people. The hepatitis C virus can be transmitted through contaminated devices.

Another important point: today, the liver is an organ that can be transplanted to an individual affected by a serious life-threatening liver disease. Organ donation is a way to save lives. If you wish to donate your organs upon your death, all you have to do is sign the sticker at the back of your health card. Don’t hesitate to talk to your loved ones or to health professionals if you feel the need to.

The liver is a vitally important organ. Take care of it. For more information on liver disease, visit the Canadian Liver Foundation at www.liver.ca or talk to your pharmacist. He/she is always there to answer your questions on health, medications and vaccines!

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How to keep your liver healthy‒a key organ

You don’t see or feel it, but‒your liver is ever-faithful, located deep in the abdomen, busy accomplishing its many functions. Even though it’s easy to forget it’s there, it’s interesting to know that liver disease affects 1 out of 10 Canadians.
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