March is Liver Health Month, and it's a great time to pay attention to "your body's high-performance engine," as the Canadian Liver Foundation states on their new website.
Most people know the liver is affected by alcohol use - but this isn't the only thing that impacts it. Lifestyle does too! This all-important organ helps regulate your body and keep it running smoothly.
So, let's talk about livers!
The super-powered liver
The engine of the body is a fitting analogy for the liver. As the Canadian Liver Foundation explains, the liver is responsible for more than 500 essential life functions, including:
- Processing all medications and supplements you put in your body.
- Creating and storing glucose energy.
- Regulating hormones, cholesterol level and vitamins supply.
- Manufacturing bile to eliminate toxic substances from your body.
In addition, the liver detoxes your blood - did you know that at any given moment your liver holds 10 percent of the blood in your entire body? Without the superhero liver, your bodily processes just wouldn't function in harmony. Your liver is even able to regenerate itself, making organ donations easier. How cool is that?
There are more than 100 types of liver diseases. Although people often link liver disease to alcohol abuse, alcohol is responsible for one of these 100-plus diseases.
An estimated 1 in 4 people may have a form of liver disease, according to the Canadian Liver Foundation. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is the most common type in Canada and impacts more than 7 million people.
Some people are genetically predisposed to developing liver disease. However, liver disease can also be caused by certain viruses. Obesity can increase a person's risk, as can high cholesterol counts, diabetes and heart disease.
And because medications are processed through the liver, overdosing on acetaminophen and other pharmaceuticals as well as herb-based medicines can harm the liver.
The owner's guide for your liver
How can you keep your engine running smoothly? By making liver care a conscious part of your regular healthy living routine. The idea is to practice clean living and have high standards for what you put into your body. Here are some ways you can support the health of your liver:
- Choose foods that are organic and free of pesticides or hormones. Wash produce thoroughly before eating.
- Follow a well-balanced diet full of nutrients and minerals. Orange, red, yellow and green-coloured foods are good for liver health.
- Exercise regularly to help maintain a healthy weight and decrease the amount of fat deposits in the liver.
- Buy home goods and beauty products with clean, safe ingredients. If painting walls or using cleaning spray, wear a mask.
- Talk to your doctor about all medications and herbal supplements you take. Request regular liver tests to ensure your liver is handling the medications or supplements well. Always follow the dosing directions.
Another part of caring for this important organ is being aware that the liver is often quiet and unassuming - it doesn't usually yell out for help when it needs it! Many people may not know they have a liver problem because the symptoms are very similar to those of many other conditions.
Some symptoms of liver issues include yellowing of the skin and the eyes, called "jaundice," nausea, fatigue, loss of appetite, abdominal pain and dark yellow urine. Be on the lookout for these signs, but also know that liver problems may manifest in other ways. That's where having a better awareness of your bodily processes and the role of the liver comes in.
Get involved with Liver Health Month
Throughout March, you can help spread the word about liver health and the importance of caring for your body's engine. Check out the Canadian Liver Foundation website to learn about Liver Health Month activities going on in your province. You can also make a donation to the foundation to help fund liver research, volunteer at chapter events or join the Living with Liver Disease program.
Twenty five per cent of Canadians are impacted by a form of liver disease, but that can change with your help. Raise awareness about this critical organ during Liver Month this March.