The liver is one of the most complex organs in our bodies regarding its function. It is the largest abdominal organ and is found in the upper right abdomen. Our liver has the ability to produce proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, as well as many other functions including getting rid of toxins, storing glucose, dealing with medications that we take, and many more.
In this article, we will focus on foods that you should eat to keep your liver healthy
How can our liver be damaged?
Being the detoxifying organ it is, you must be wondering what is strong enough to damage our liver. The answer is not only the agent itself, but also the time of exposure to it. The most common culprits are:
- Viruses: Viral infections can affect the whole body including the liver such as Epstein Barr virus and Cytomegalovirus, while other viruses only affect the liver, collectively known as hepatitis viruses and include A, B, C, D, and E. These viruses can be transmitted by food as in hepatitis A and E, while others may be transmitted through blood products and sexually such as hepatitis B, C, and D. Hepatitis viruses usually take many years before any noticeable damage can be seen, but they can end up causing chronic liver damage called cirrhosis or even liver failure.
- Alcohol: Alcohol is the most common cause of liver damage in Western countries. This is owing to the damage that alcohol does to the liver on the cellular level. This can cause liver failure in the short term, or another long-term disease called alcohol steatohepatitis, which results in liver cirrhosis and failure after many years.
- Medications: Some medications need to be processed by the liver and can cause damage to its cells if they are taken in excess or in combination with others. They include some antibiotics and other medications to treat heart, kidney, and bone conditions. Even paracetamol can damage the liver if taken in a toxic dose.
- Tumors: Some tumors can affect liver function. They may originate in the liver itself, destroying its cells while growing, while others can start somewhere else, commonly in the digestive system, and then spread to the liver.
What food can cause liver damage?
To understand what food is healthy for your liver, you should also know what food is damaging to your liver. The most common damaging foods include:
- Alcohol: As mentioned above, excessive alcohol intake can cause liver damage.
- Food rich in carbohydrates: Food with high caloric intake such as sugar-rich food and food with unhealthy fats can damage the liver. This occurs when those foods cause an elevation in the liver of blood sugar, which is rapidly converted to fat in the liver. Fat accumulation in the liver causes inflammation and, after many years, causes liver cirrhosis. This disease is generally called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease of NAFLD.
- Badly stored grain and bread: Wheat is the main component of most bakeries. If wheat is stored poorly, a toxin is produced from a fungus that grows in it. It is called aflatoxin and it can cause severe liver damage. The good news is that it is extremely rare nowadays and food authorities monitor all grain products for it.
- Too much salt: Salt is added nowadays to most foods. Salt has been proven to increase the risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease through different studies. Many health organizations have put the limit on salt intake to less than 2 grams per day. Salt also causes hypertension, heart diseases, and kidney damage.
- Red meat: Although red meat is very rich in protein and iron, most red meat is also rich in harmful cholesterol, which increases the risk of heart diseases and fatty liver disease.