Looking after your Liver
By Dr Harold Gunatillake - Health Writer
When you think of planning a health agenda you focus mainly on your heart, without realising the necessity to focus on your liver health, as taken for granted.
The macronutrients like Carbs, Proteins, micronutrients including vitamins, minerals, others and chemicals, are conveyed through the portal vein from the gastrointestinal tract and spleen, to the liver
The main function of the liver is to process food nutrients and remove toxins. Liver seems to be a good filter to prevent toxic chemicals and other detrimental molecules entering the general body. This process is referred to by some as detoxification.
The portal vein is about three to four inches in length and is usually formed by the merging of the mesenteric and splenic veins. This vein supplies approximately 75 per cent of blood to the liver.
In cirrhosis the portal vein and its branches become distended with high pressure within. This condition is referred to as 'portal hypertension'.
Clinical feature in advance alcoholic hardening of the liver (cirrhosis), includes distension of the abdomen due to fluid accumulation referred to as 'ascites '; swelling of legs and the visibility of varicosed veins in the abdominal wall subcutaneously (under the skin).
The veins surrounding and within the wall of the oesophagus (gullet) are also branches of the portal vein, and in advanced portal hypertension these vessels can rupture and cause vomiting of blood (haemoptysis). Dietary fats
What happens to the dietary fats and cholesterol you eat? Fats are broken down into fatty acids, mixes with bile acids including cholesterol, are taken into a different stream (lymphatics) and not enter the portal vein directing blood to the liver.
To look after your heart health, exercise and a balanced lowfat diet is among other things recommended. On the contrary, for your liver health, the focus is on your diet and lifestyles.
Virtually every cell in the body can break down glucose for energy, but fructose is broken down only in the liver cells. Eating too much and too frequently, breakfast cereals, pastries, sodas, fruit drinks, other sweet foods (Bombay sweets) and other beverages containing added corn syrup as sweeteners, has potentially dangerous consequences on the liver, by storing the sugars as fat.
The liver seems to go through a series of complex transformations to convert fructose from above mentioned foods, to create fats, this mechanism is called lipogenesis. Lipogenesis is very common among the adults in most developed countries, especially among the obese and having diabetes.
If the condition is detected early non-alcoholic fatty liver is reversible. If no remedial action is taken will cause further damage to the liver cells, a condition called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis and cirrhosis.
Consuming excess alcohol daily seems to affect the liver and produce a fatty liver (AFLD). The liver seems to directly process the toxins in alcohol. In binge drinking drinking four to five servings of alcohol in about two hours, leads to rapid intoxication, since the liver can only process one serving of alcohol in an hour. Drinking heavily daily can lead to liver damage, including fatty liver disease and cirrhosis.
Eating excess sugar is as damaging to the liver as alcohol Fatty liver in the early stages have no symptoms and is diagnosed on routine blood tests, abdominal ultrasounds and scans. With advanced liver damage, you could experience fatigue, weight loss and abdominal discomfort, and on palpation of your abdomen by your doctor may feel an enlarged liver.
These are all avoidable factors to prevent having a fatty liver
You should always consult your doctor before venturing on any supplements, including herbal.
Are you obese?
Trans fats are a man-made fat listed as 'partially hydrogenated' on the label. Trans fats can damage your liver and cause obesity. Avoid margarine and the foods in the deep freezer at the supermarket. Trans-fats are added to all those foods to preserve shelf life.
Dieting, avoiding foods with trans-fat and exercise can reverse the process.
An analysis published in the 2005 issue of "Annals of Internal Medicine" linked high doses of vitamin E to increased death rates.
You get enough vitamin E from food sources like spinach, sunflower seeds, almonds, peanut butter and fortified foods.
It is advisable not to take vitamin E supplements unless requested by your doctor for specific reasons.
Vitamin A also can be obtained from food sources like fresh fruits and vegetables that are red, orange and yellow.
Vitamin C being water soluble does not accumulate in the liver. Again, you could get enough vitamin C from food sources like bell peppers, oranges, tomatoes and strawberries, among others.
The liver uses all vitamins for its metabolic functions, and the natural ones from your diet should be enough. If you have been diagnosed with liver disease, you need to talk with your doctor whether you should take vitamin supplements.
Always check with your doctor before you start on paracetamol commonly used as a pain-killer.
Non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
These drugs given for joint pains, arthritis and backache can cause liver damage (hepatotoxicity) on long term usage.
Are chillies you enjoy in your curries damaging your liver?
The answer is 'No'. New research shows that the daily consumption of capsaicin, the active compound of chilli peppers, was found to have beneficial effects on liver damage.
Foods that protect your liver
Relax with two cups of coffee retiring to bed after a heavy binge
Whatever dietary regimes, drugs including herbal supplements, other chemical molecules you take- always think whether they could damage your liver. If in doubt, check with your doctor.
Look after your liver as much as you look after your heart.
Hope this article will help you to be more conscious of your health. Good luck - Dr. Harold
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