The human liver is vital for metabolic function and plays a crucial role in blood detoxification, synthesis of blood clotting factors, immunity, and storage of essential nutrients such as vitamins and glycogen to name a few.
The following common habits can pose a risk to a healthy liver:
- Over consuming alcohol
It is no surprise that alcoholics have a much greater risk of developing jaundice, cirrhosis, liver failure, and several other disorders. Heavy drinking can be defined as consuming more than eight drinks per week for women, and more than fifteen drinks per week for men. Chronic Alcoholism is the leading cause of liver cirrhosis, which is characterized by scarring (fibrosis) of the liver tissue.
This happens when liver cells or hepatocytes are damage and ultimately fail to function. Moreover, alcohol liver disease leads to complications such as fat buildup (steatosis), inflammation of the liver (hepatitis), and can be fatal in multiple organ failure cases.
2. Poor Diet
Consuming a diet full of unhealthy saturated fats found in red meat, butter, sugar, fast food, and processed meals results in hypercholesteremia or increased cholesterol levels in the blood. The excessive fat buildup in the liver ultimately leads to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which is the most common form of chronic liver disorder in the United States, affecting one-fourth of the population.
Fatty liver disease is characterized by high triglyceride levels and symptoms such as abdominal swelling, jaundice, hepatosplenomegaly (enlargement of the liver and spleen.) Over-consuming sodium in the diet has also been linked to fluid buildup and swelling in the liver.
3. Excessive Drug Intake
Unnecessarily ingesting oral medication like painkillers, supplements or medicinal herbs can lead to long-term liver damage known as drug-induced liver injury. Normally, the liver metabolizes drugs by the action of hepatic enzymes which convert the fat-soluble drugs into a water-soluble form to be excreted out in the urine.
Accumulation of drugs in the liver tissue due to overdose or overconsumption of medication can lead to cumulative liver damage and alteration in hepatic enzyme levels. Taking unnecessary doses of painkillers, anabolic steroids, and NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) has been linked to the development of drug-induced hepatitis. Therefore, it is vital to take the medication exactly as prescribed.
Hazardous chemicals present in cigarette smoke promote the synthesis of cytokines, which are poisonous substances that lead to liver inflammation and even permanent dysfunction of hepatocytes. Smoking also yields carcinogens that have oncogenic potential, leading to hepatocellular carcinoma or liver cancer.
Serum and hepatic iron levels are abnormally raised by smoking which induces oxidative stress, causing fibrosis in the liver tissue. Cigarette smoking is also a major factor for the onset of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and is known to worsen the condition of patients already suffering from a fatty liver.