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Your liver is actually pretty simple and remarkably efficient. It consists of two main lobes—left and right—that are responsible for over 500 different functions. The liver’s most important tasks include helping the body to digest fats, regulating energy, and storing nutrient reserves. It also filters poisons and wastes from the blood and regulates the levels of many chemicals found in the bloodstream. But perhaps the most remarkable thing about the liver is that it’s the only organ that can grow new cells when some have been destroyed by some short-term injury or disease.
The liver’s best-known role is that of garbage collector. In a world filled with toxins, it’s the liver’s job to breakdown the contaminants that come our way and get them ready to be escorted out of the body. Ideally, the liver could process all of the toxins we encounter. But because of the sheer volume of industrial chemicals and pollutants we are exposed to, the liver’s natural ability to detoxify can have trouble keeping up.
Consider this: Today, baby boomers and those who were born after them are constantly bathed in a sea of chemical contaminants—from the air we breathe to the food we eat and the water we drink. We are exposed to toxins at home and at work through our carpeting, furniture, the paint on the walls, and the household products we use. If that weren’t enough, there are all those voluntary toxins from cigarettes, alcohol, junk food, medications, and personal care products. Other toxins, like free radicals and metabolic waste, are created internally just through the act of living. This constant barrage can make our livers vulnerable to a number of conditions that can ultimately undermine our overall health. The three most prevalent liver diseases are non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, hepatitis, and liver cancer.
Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)
occurs when your liver has difficulty breaking down dietary fats, causing fat to build up in your liver tissue. While some people can have a fatty liver without any symptoms, others aren’t so lucky. Some folks can experience fatigue, pain in the upper right abdomen, and unexplained weight loss that can be a sign that the accumulation of fat has triggered inflammation and scarring in the liver. At its most severe, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease can progress to liver failure.
A wide range of diseases and conditions can increase your risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, including high cholesterol and triglyceride levels, metabolic syndrome, stress, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, gastric bypass surgery, rapid weight loss, and exposure to toxins and chemicals like pesticides. Certain drugs like acetaminophen, tetracycline, cortisone, prednisone, and even high doses of vitamin A can also lead to fatty liver disease.
Even if you don’t indulge in alcohol, how you quench your thirst can set you up for this potentially devastating disease. Israeli researchers found that people with NAFLD typically consume five times as many carbohydrates from soft drinks as those without the disease. The more soft drinks the study participants downed, the more likely they were to have NAFLD.
is an inflammation of the liver. While the condition can be self-limiting, it can also progress to more serious conditions like fibrosis, cirrhosis, or even liver cancer. There are three primary types of hepatitis: Hepatitis A is caused by the ingestion of food or water that’s contaminated with the virus. Hepatitis B and C are spread through bodily fluids. Of those, Hepatitis C is the more prevalent, affecting approximately four million Americans.
The problem is, most people don’t know that they have this disease for 10 to 30 years and symptoms, which include jaundice, dark urine, elevated liver enzymes, and an enlarged liver, may not appear until a diagnosis of cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer is made. Unfortunately, conventional drugs like interferon haven’t been very successful in treating this growing epidemic.
is the 10th most prevalent cancer in the U.S. Each year, about 20,000 men and 8,000 women get liver cancer—and about 16,000 men and 7,000 women die from the disease. People whose livers have been damaged by birth defects, alcohol abuse, hepatitis B or C, or cirrhosis are at particular risk of developing liver cancer. The disease can also be linked to obesity and NAFLD.
Fortunately, you can protect and strengthen your liver by pairing a comprehensive supplement regime with the liver-friendly diet and healthy lifestyle changes, including with supplements from Kyolic garlic extracts.
More Inspiration: On the topic of liver health, some of these African Superfoods can be great for liver health (eaten appropriately.)
Author: Daniel Crisafi, PhD, is clinical director of pH Santé Beauté in Montreal, Canada and holds a master’s degree in science, a PhD in biochemistry specializing in nutritional biochemistry, as well as a master herbalist degree. He is the author and co-author of several books, including Candida Albicans, Les Superaliments, and a contributing author in the book Bio-Age. Dr Crisafi has over 20 years of clinical experience and has lectured extensively in North America, Europe, and Asia. He is a recipient of the Canadian Health Food Association’s “Lifetime Achievement” award.