How many times have you said or maybe heard someone say, “My liver hurts,” or “My liver doesn’t feel well.” Probably never. That’s because unlike other ailments, like a cold, stomach flu or injury, our livers don’t send out direct signals of distress.
This is why it’s that much more important to recognize the subtle signs that your liver is trying to give, so you can keep it healthy.
Why keep your liver healthy
The American Liver Foundation estimates that at least one in 10 Americans – or 30 million people – are living with some form of liver disease. And if this number is shocking, consider there are more than 100 different forms of liver disease. It’s commonly believed that liver disease only affects those who drink excessive amounts of alcohol, but there are many factors that put you at risk for liver damage.
And Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is one of the greatest health risks in America this year, because of the country’s obesity epidemic.
The point it, your livers is an important organ which has the ability to cleanse, not only itself, but the entire body as a whole. Everything that enters your body at some point filters through your liver. In large part this is what can make your liver terribly sick. It handles all the toxins and suspect food ingredients.
Unfortunately, though, our livers don’t signal to us that there is an issue the same way other illnesses or organs do. To complicate matters further, many of these symptoms can be confused with other illnesses as well. Knowing what to look out for is key to keeping not only your liver, but yourself, as healthy as possible.
If you’re concerned that your poor health may be linked to your liver, here are some of the signs and symptoms to watch for.
What’s making your liver sick
First and foremost, when determining liver disease, there are a few factors to consider. Some forms of liver disease could be hereditary, or genetic. Then you have the most commonly understood form brought on by alcohol abuse. Lastly, other factors such as viruses and obesity can also negatively impact the liver.
Some types of liver disease are liver cancer, cirrhosis, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, fatty liver disease, hepatitis A, B and C, gallstones, Reye’s syndrome, sarcoidosis, and galacstosemia.
Cirrhosis, for example, can lead to permanent damage on the liver. It can result in a blockage of blood flow that can affect liver function. In the case of gallstones, these are brought on by lumps of cholesterol crystals which form in the liver, usually due to obesity. Gallstones, unlike cirrhosis, will not leave permanent damage and respond well to treatment.
The severity of each form of liver disease ranges, but anything that affects the liver directly impacts your overall health as well – keeping your liver healthy will ensure you’re keeping yourself healthy as well.
Signs and symptoms of liver disease
The most common signs and symptoms of liver disease include:
- Yellowish skin and eyes known as jaundice
- Abdominal pain and swelling
- Itchy skin
- Swelling of ankles and legs
- Dark urine
- Bloody or pale stool
- Chronic fatigue
- Nausea or vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Being prone to bruising
If you experience these symptoms for some time, seeking medical advice is a must. Your doctor may examine your family history, your eating and drinking habits, and even look at medications you may be taking as those can impact your liver as well.
Keeping your liver healthy
Even if you’re not experiencing any of the symptoms of a poor liver, your liver takes quite the hit everyday, so taking steps to keep it healthy can greatly improve your health.
Some suggestions from the Mayo Clinic to keep your liver healthy include: Maintain a healthy weight, drink alcohol in moderation, avoid contact of other’s blood and fluid to prevent hepatitis, always wear protective equipment when dealing with toxins or chemicals, follow manufactures’ instructions on aerosol cans to avoid exposure, and keep up to date with your vaccines, in particular the hepatitis vaccine.
You can also eat for your liver by limiting your intake of high-fat foods and red meat, enjoying lemon water daily, ensuring you’re getting enough vegetables, in particular dark leafy greens, and that you’re not smoking. These are all ways to protect your liver and also help it detox.
If you are thinking of performing a store-bought detox or a juice cleanse, just know that there is limited evidence proof to support these products and claims. Because our livers can detox themselves, simply eliminating unnecessary toxins (and bad foods) in your life is enough to give it a break to perform its job more effectively. Regardless, always speak to a doctor prior to starting a liver cleanse.
You may not think about your liver often, but for a small organ it plays a large part in your health. Recognizing when your liver is sick is a good way to prevent more serious problems from developing.
But your No. 1 defense against liver disease? Prevention. Eating well and avoiding toxins is your secret weapon to a strong, healthy liver.