Our liver plays an important role in many things, from our energy levels to our ability to process alcohol. However, factors like weight and consuming too much alcohol can put it at risk. In this post, we’ll explore how you can look after your liver.
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Our livers play a huge role in keeping us healthy. They process toxins, store vitamins and minerals, produce protein, and make and clear cholesterol. Yet just how important the liver is for our health is often underestimated.
According to the British Liver Trust, liver disease is the fifth biggest killer in England and Wales after heart, cancer, stroke, and respiratory diseases.
Being overweight can cause non-alcohol related fatty liver disease. Hepatitis can also impact the liver’s ability to function.
Alcohol poses the biggest risk to liver health, though. That’s why drinking in moderation is the most important lifestyle change you can make for your liver.
Your liver is the only organ in the body that can get rid of alcohol, and it works hard to do so. You get a hangover when your liver is struggling to process how much alcohol you’ve had.
The problem is, liver disease can creep up on us. That’s because the signs of liver damage aren’t usually noticeable until they’re more advanced.
It’s easier to determine if you have a problem with drinking.
If you answer “yes” to any of the following questions, consider speaking to your GP:
Regularly drinking too much can lead to liver disease, but there are other factors that can also increase your risk, including:
There’s some evidence that you could have a higher risk of developing alcohol-related liver disease if someone in your family has also been affected by it.
Some studies suggest that people of African origin are more susceptible to liver disease than Caucasians.
Women have a higher risk of developing alcohol-related liver damage than men.
One study found the risk is almost 50 percent higher. That's because a woman's liver can't detoxify alcohol as efficiently as a man’s.
If you're overweight or obese and a heavy drinker, you could have an increased risk of liver disease.
Staying within the recommended limits for safe drinking is essential for your liver. This means not regularly exceeding three to four units of alcohol a day if you’re a man, and two to three units if you’re a woman.
You can find out more about how many units are in alcoholic drinks by visiting www.drinkaware.co.uk.
Here are some tips on how to drink less alcohol and other ways to love your liver:
The NHS recommends taking a break from alcohol for 48 hours after a heavy drinking session to allow your body to recover.
Try to have regular alcohol-free days. You could chill at home with a TV show you enjoy, visit the cinema and take your own snacks, or walk in nature instead.
It's easy to lose track of units, so keep a drink diary to help you work out how much you're drinking.
Alternatively, you could download the Drinkaware Track and Calculate Units App to keep an eye on your alcohol consumption.
If you consume each drink more slowly, and having a soft or low-alcohol drink in between each glass of alcohol, you could considerably reduce your alcohol intake.
Try to figure out what makes you drink more. Just being aware of why you drink might help you drink more sensibly and even avoid the situations that make you want to overindulge.
There’s lots of evidence to suggest that smoking harms your liver's ability to process alcohol, so if you smoke, think about giving it up.
If you need help, there’s lots of support available, such as the NHS Smokefree programme.
Some experts believe a diet high in fruit and veg - which contain disease-fighting antioxidants - may help protect against liver disease.
It’s important to understand the impact alcohol can have on your health. Cutting out alcohol for a whole month during Dry January isn’t enough if you drink lots throughout the rest of the year - you should look after your liver all year round.
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