The liver is a vital organ located under the ribcage on the right side. It is the second largest organ in the body, right after your skin. The liver generally weighs about 3 pounds. Its main job is to filter the blood coming from the digestive tract, before passing it to the rest of the body. The liver also detoxifies chemicals and metabolizes drugs. As it does so, the liver secretes bile that ends up back in the intestines. It also makes proteins important for blood clotting and other functions. One cannot live without a liver.
It turns out that while the liver is very important and fairly easy to damage, it is also quite a resilient organ, and keeping it healthy isn’t that hard. Like most organs (skin included!), eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly are key to good liver health. Since your liver is a star player in your digestive system, everything you ingest eventually travels through it. It filters chemicals like drugs and alcohol from the blood; regulates your hormones and blood sugar levels; stores energy from the nutrients you take in; and makes blood proteins, bile, and several enzymes that the body needs.
Many doctors suggest that taking care of your liver is more about avoiding what’s bad for it rather than taking in substances that are good for it. Here are some proven ways to avoid damaging your liver:
- Don’t drink a lot of alcohol. Alcohol can damage liver cells, leading to the swelling or scarring that becomes cirrhosis, which can be deadly.
- Eat a healthy diet and get regular exercise. A condition called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) also can lead to cirrhosis. It comes from being overweight, having diabetes, or having high levels of fat in your blood.
- Stay away from medicines (or combinations of medicines) that harm the liver. Cholesterol drugs and the painkiller acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be toxic to the liver if too much is taken over time or at once.
- Don’t touch or breathe in toxins. Cleaning products, aerosol products, insecticides, chemicals, and additives in cigarettes contain toxins that can damage liver cells.
Read more about liver health on line at: http://www.liverfoundation.org/abouttheliver/liverhealth/