Friday, September 27, 2013

Good eating habits can reduce the risk of liver disease

Few people ever consider the condition of their liver until they are diagnosed with a chronic condition. Yet, the liver is one of the most complicated and important organs in the body. Our liver is involved with filtering the blood of toxins, producing various chemicals necessary for survival, regulating the circulation of various chemicals, and contributing to immune function.

Medical research has documented more than 500 functions related to the liver. Some of the most important include producing bile, chemicals needed to clotting blood and cholesterol, as well as converting excess glucose to glycogen for storage. The liver also converts ammonia in the blood, which is toxic, into urea so that it can be eliminated via urine. It also fights infections by removing bacteria and other toxins from the blood, including drugs and alcohol.

The liver is a large organ, weighing about 3 pounds on average. At any moment, the liver will be holding about 1 pint of your blood. This is about 13 percent of the total circulating blood supply.

Amazingly, the liver can reportedly lose up to two-thirds of its cells and still function.  For this reason, liver disease can often go unnoticed for years before it is discovered. This is also the reason that many liver diseases have few symptoms until the condition is far advanced. The liver can also regenerate itself.

This is good news for anyone with a liver condition that was caused by certain lifestyle choices. Often times, there is hope for reversing the disease if the lifestyle problems are corrected.

One of the most common conditions affecting the liver is the accumulation of excess fat within the liver. A fatty liver may be caused by alcoholism or other factors. Alcoholic fatty liver may be diagnosed in people that have a long-standing history of excessive alcohol consumption.

However, fatty liver can occur in people that are not heavy drinkers. In this case, the condition is called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

This condition has a genetic component, but it is also aggravated by obesity and poor eating habits. Again, the good news is that it is possible to reverse the condition if caught early enough.

Fatty liver disease may be diagnosed after a routine blood test reveals enzyme abnormalities, or it may be noticed incidentally through an MRI or other imaging systems.

Although someone suffering from fatty liver usually does not show symptoms, in some cases a person may notice fatigue, abdominal pain under the right rib cage, and even weight loss. It is normal for the liver to accumulate some fatty deposits, though.

In many cases of incidentally discovered fatty liver, there is little harm unless the condition becomes excessive. Still, it can lead to inflammation of the liver and possibly eventually scarring or cirrhosis of the liver.

Some of the causes linked to non-alcoholic fatty liver include Type 2 diabetes, certain types of medications, elevated cholesterol or triglycerides, rapid weight loss, metabolic syndrome, obesity, high-carbohydrate diets, and even exposure to various toxins, such as pesticide.

As you can see, many of the causes of non-alcoholic fatty liver are indirectly or directly related to dietary habits. For example, poor dietary habits can lead to diabetes, cholesterol and triglyceride elevation, obesity, and metabolic syndrome.

For these reasons, it is not unreasonable to consider the liver a primary casualty of poor eating habits that are often combined with a sedentary lifestyle.

One of the best ways to reduce the accumulation of liver fat is to commit to a long-term healthy eating plan that focuses on good nutrition. For many patients, this plan will be a diet that includes lots of healthy vegetables.


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