March is Help Fight Liver Disease Month, and it’s a movement that focuses on the
important role that the liver plays in your total health.
Your liver is the largest organ inside your body. It helps your body digest food, store energy, and remove poisons. It’s approximately the size of a football and is located under your lower ribcage on the right side. It stores a sugar called glucose, which gives you energy boosts.
There are over 100 different types of liver disease, including:
Diseases caused by viruses, such as hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C
Diseases caused by drugs, poisons, or too much alcohol. Examples include fatty liver disease and cirrhosis.
Inherited diseases, such as hemochromatosis and Wilson disease
Symptoms of liver disease vary, but they include abdominal pain and swelling, leg and ankle pain and swelling, bruising easily, changes in the color of your stool and urine, itchy skin, dark urine color, pale stool color, chronic fatigue, nausea or vomiting, loss of appetite, and jaundice, or yellowing of the skin and eyes. Sometimes there are no symptoms. Imaging tests and liver function tests can check for liver damage and help to diagnose liver diseases.
Common causes of liver disease are:
Excessive use of alcohol
Poor diet and/or obesity
Reactions to medications, street drugs, or toxic chemicals
Methods for preventing liver disease include:
Avoid alcohol (beer, wine, liquor, mixed drinks).
Get vaccinated against hepatitis A and B, if not already immune. Also get a one-time pneumovax and yearly fall flu shots.
Avoid liver-toxic medications, such as over-the-counter pain killers (aspirin-like medications). Tylenol (acetaminophen) in less than 2 grams per day is safest (one extra-strength every 6 hours). Some cholesterol drugs can also occasionally hurt your liver. Some medicines can cause damage if combined with alcohol or other drugs. Review all other medications with your doctor.
Avoid iron supplementation unless your doctor has shown that you are iron deficient. (If you take a multivitamin, use a brand that does have iron as an ingredient.)
Eat a low-fat, “heart smart” diet, which helps prevent nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, a condition that leads to cirrhosis. It’s also good for your heart!
If cirrhosis develops, get screened yearly with upper endoscopy to follow your risk of bleeding and with ultra-sound to detect liver cancer.
For additional support, visit our online store and check out our selection of premium liver health supplements. You may also contact our pharmacists for a consultation!
MedlinePlus, National Library of Medicine: