By Nico Strydom
The liver has a wide variety of functions and is one of the most hard-working organs in the body.
The liver is an important part of the digestive system, responsible among others for cleansing your blood of toxic substances, processing medicine, helping digest fat, storing glucose and producing protein to coagulate your blood.
The liver can regenerate itself but only up to a point and continuous damage can lead to inflammation, scars and cirrhosis. It causes the liver to shrink and harden and prevents it from being able to function normally.
Too much alcohol and other poisonous substances, a diet consisting of too much fat and certain infections can damage the liver.
Following are possible signs that your liver is not healthy:
- Constant tiredness
- A very pale stool
- Yellow skin or eyes
- A reddish colour in the palms of your hands
- You bruise easily
- Dark urine
- A swollen belly
- An itchy skin
- Red cheeks
Liver diseases can among others be caused by infections, an abnormality in the immune system, genetics, cancer and other growths, chronic alcohol abuse and fat that accumulates in the liver.
Viral hepatitis is caused by a viral infection. This is a serious disease that damages your liver and there are various kinds. You can contract hepatitis A when you drink water or eat food contaminated with the virus. Hepatitis B and C are transferred through blood and bodily fluids. You can prevent this by not sharing toothbrushes, razors and needles with someone else and not having unprotected sex with several partners.
However, there are various ways in which to keep your liver healthy. Maintain a healthy diet as your liver processes food and liquids and stores them as energy and nutrients. This is why a bad diet will damage the liver over time.
It is also important to keep your weight down, exercise regularly and drink enough water. Also decrease your alcohol intake and don’t abuse over-the-counter medication.
Make an appointment with your doctor if any of these symptoms continue and you suspect something is wrong. One of the first steps will be to do a blood test of the liver function, which can determine whether excessive enzymes are being secreted. The result of the test however does not mean your liver is healthy and in accordance with your medical history and symptoms the doctor might decide to have more tests done, including a sonar or MRI.
Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/liver-problems/symptoms-causes/syc-20374502
Everyday Health: https://www.everydayhealth.com/news/facts-about-your-liver/