March 15, 2013

5 ways to look after your liver

Did you know that the liver is about the size of a rugby ball and is the largest organ in the body? It is also hugely important to our overall health and has hundreds of functions. Some of the key roles our livers perform for our bodies are: aiding our digestion, fighting against infection and regulating our blood sugar levels. As you can see, the liver is hugely important and you will reap the rewards if you take good care of your liver.

Toxin ban
The liver filters all of the toxins in our bodies, so the more toxins you put into your body, the more your liver has to filter these potentially harmful poisons. Therefore, if you want to look after your liver you need to limit the amount of toxins you put into your body. 

Some common items you may use every day that contain toxins include cigarettes, cleaning products, aerosol sprays and some beauty products, such as makeup or shampoo.  To limit the amount of toxins you put into your body, opt for organic products. It is also a good idea to stop smoking and, where possible, try to avoid using these toxin-filled products in enclosed spaces.

Time for tea

Although controversial, milk thistle has been used to help people with liver disease and many believe it works wonders for your liver. The milk thistle seeds can be drunk as a tea and if you want to keep your liver healthy this hot drink may help you; especially if you have liver damage as a result of drinking alcohol or because of toxins. The active ingredient in milk thistle that is thought to help your liver is silymarin, which has anti-inflammatory properties. Silymarin is also an antioxidant.
However, before you dash out to buy a big stock of milk thistle tea, it is worth noting that studies have been contradictory and whilst some show that milk thistle is beneficial to the liver, others conclude that it is not.  
In the same way that some foods can harm our liver, there are also foods that can help make our livers healthier and stronger. One such food is the artichoke. Adding some globe artichoke to some of your meals will help you keep your liver healthy because it is renowned for its ability to stimulate and improve the functions of the liver. Similarly, eating beetroot will help your liver because beetroot helps support liver detoxification. You could always add a small beetroot salad as a side-dish to your meal.
Some research has also found that drinking green tea can help keep your liver healthy, as it may protect it from some liver diseases, such as fatty liver disease. Again, studies are not conclusive about the benefits of green tea though.

Cut back

Shockingly, it is thought that a quarter of adults drink too much alcohol and we drink so much that we put our health at risk. If you worry you are drinking to the point where you might damage your liver, be aware of how many alcohol units you should be consuming. In addition to this, if you want to look after your liver make sure you have two alcohol-free days during the week.
These ‘rest days’ are essential for keeping your liver healthy because it allows the liver to repair the damage you have done by drinking excessively. Also, it is advised that if you exceed the recommended daily limit of alcohol you should not drink for at least 48 hours after. Again, this will give your liver a chance to recover and repair itself.

Get moving

Interestingly, exercise will help you to look after your liver. One type of liver disease that is affecting more and more people is non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). This disease is caused by fat building up in the liver. This fat can scar and damage your liver. One of the simplest ways to avoid NAFLD, or to help limit the disease’s progress, is to get moving and take regular exercise.
If you have not exercised in some time, then the prospect of getting into shape can be daunting. The best thing to do first is to work out whether you are fit enough to train.  Once you know you are fit enough to exercise, think about what you would enjoy doing. Finding something you will actually stick to is the key to getting fitter.  You should then aim to be active for 30 minutes a day and try to do a mix of cardiovascular and strength training exercises.

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