You’ve likely heard of the liver before.
But do you know just how vital it is for your body’s various detoxification processes?
The liver is a “super organ” that cleans out your entire body and supports your metabolic system and overall health.
That’s why it’s keeping your liver healthy and in tip top shape is so important.
At 1stCallHealth, we offer a variety of medical services in Washington DC that’ll help keep your liver, and whole body, in optimum health for years to come.
This article is part of an ongoing series on how your body works.
It’s all part of our ongoing commitment to empower you with the knowledge you need to stay healthy and strong in today’s world.
If you’re looking for a Washington DC area medical clinic who puts YOU first, make us your first call.
We offer top quality medical clinic services at an affordable price – call us today to book your appointment.
Or, read on to find out more about the liver and its vital importance to your body.
What Is Your Liver?
Your liver is a crescent shaped organ primarily located in the right upper portion of your abdomen.
As your body’s largest solid organ, your liver takes up a significant amount of space.
The left portion sits above your stomach while the right tilts towards the first part of your small intestine.
As its size suggests, your liver plays a vital importance in long list of bodily processes, such as metabolic, detoxification, and immune system functions.
They are so important to our bodies that we can’t survive without them.
It truly is an amazing organ that can even regrow after surgery or injury.
Usually, that is – more on that later.
What Does Your Liver Do?
Your liver’s primary functions involve your metabolic processes.
It helps with a variety of processes, including:
- Breaking down or converting substances, such as converting glucose into glycogen
- Removing harmful toxins from the bloodstream
- Sorting through nutrients to decide which should be processed, stored, or eliminated
Additionally, your liver is constantly producing and secreting bile.
This helps with digestion and the absorption of fat soluble vitamins and minerals, such as copper and iron.
Other bodily processes your liver helps support include:
- Removal of alcohol and medications from the bloodstream
- Creating immune system defenses against infections
- Creating proteins to help with blood clotting
- Breaking down old and damaged red blood cells
- And much more
What Are Some Common Liver Issues?
Unfortunately, being responsible for so many bodily processes means that issues with your liver can lead to serious complications.
Below are some of the more common liver issues.
Hepatitis describes a variety of diseases which cause inflammation of the liver.
They are represented by a series of numbers and have different causes and symptom severity.
Hepatitis A is a viral infection typically caused by poor sanitation.
It’s most seen in developing countries without access to clean drinking water.
With prompt treatment, most people recover without long term complications.
Hepatitis A can be prevented through vaccines.
Hepatitis B can cause both short and long term infections that can result in serious complications, such as liver cancer and failure.
In the United States, it’s most commonly known as a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
However, you can also acquire it by sharing needles with somebody else who has it.
Like hepatitis A, hepatitis B is vaccine preventable.
Hepatitis C infections typically turn chronic.
It’s most commonly spread by contacted with blood infected with the hepatitis C virus, such as through sharing needles.
Hepatitis C can also be a sexually transmitted infection, but that’s less common.
Hepatitis C can cause liver inflammation that, when left untreated, may lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer, and failure.
Autoimmune hepatitis is a condition where the immune system mistakes your liver for a pathogen and attacks it.
Over time, it destroys healthy liver tissue and can lead to cirrhosis and liver damage.
Many causes for autoimmune hepatitis exist, including viruses such as measles and herpes simplex.
It may also develop as a result of a hepatitis A, B, or C infection.
Fatty Liver Disease
Fatty liver disease is a disease which causes fat buildup on the liver.
It’s quite common, especially considering the risk factors.
If you have type 2 diabetes, are obese, have high blood pressure, are a heavy drinker, or have high levels of cholesterol, you’re at higher risk of fatty liver disease.
And since these factors are increasingly common in the modern world, so is fatty liver disease.
RELATED: Medical Care For Type 2 Diabetes
There are two different types of fatty liver disease.
Alcoholic fatty liver disease, like the name suggests, is linked with heavy drinking.
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is not.
But regardless, this excess fat causes liver inflammation and damage.
Cirrhosis is a condition that interferes with your liver’s tissue.
It turns healthy liver tissue into scar tissue.
It can be caused for a number of reasons, including long term alcohol use, chronic hepatitis, or rare genetic disorders, such as Wilson’s disease.
How Do I Know If I Have Liver Problems?
Liver problems don’t always cause noticeable side effects.
If symptoms are present, they may include:
- Jaundice (skin and eyes that appear yellowish)
- Abdominal pain and swelling
- Swelling in the legs and ankles
- Itchy skin
- Urine or stool that is dark in color
- Chronic fatigue
- Nausea or vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- The tendency to bruise easily
It’s worth noting that many of these symptoms are associated with other conditions.
Dark urine, for example, is also a sign of a urinary tract infection.
And the solution for how to deal with a urinary tract infection (UTI) is quite different than liver disease.
If you notice these signs, book an appointment with your 1stCallHealth primary care provider so we can get to the bottom of it.
How To Keep Your Liver Healthy
Thankfully, there are multiple steps you can take to keep your liver healthy.
Let’s take a look at some of them.
1. Drink Alcohol In Moderation
As we mentioned, your liver is responsible for processing alcohol.
But when you drink, your liver stops anything else it’s doing to take care of the alcohol.
Over time, chronic alcohol use can lead to fatty liver disease as well as bacteria growth that can travel from your gut and into your liver.
Sticking to an average of one or two drinks per day at the absolute most can help prevent these consequences.
2. Practice Safer Sex
Since some forms of hepatitis are transmitted through sexual contact, it’s important that you and all your sexual partners take measures to protect your sexual health.
This means using protection while having sex and getting regular checkups.
3. Eat Dark Leafy Greens
Diet plays a major role in the prevention of liver disease.
Dark leafy greens, such as kale, dandelion greens, broccoli, and rapini are specifically helpful to your liver’s health.
Research suggests that these vegetables may play a role in preventing liver tumors as well as fatty liver disease.
4. Drink Coffee (No, Really!)
Coffee does wonders for your liver’s health.
Studies show that drinking coffee can help to protect your liver from disease.
It can even be beneficial if you’re already living with chronic liver disease.
Coffee helps to prevent buildup of fat and collagen, two main markers of liver disease.
It also has natural anti inflammatory properties.
That said, coffee comes with its own set of drawbacks as well.
Speak to your 1stCallHealth primary care provider to see if coffee is right for you.
5. Don’t Overdo Your Medications
Taking too much prescription medications can cause a lot of havoc on your liver.
However, some medications may cause liver complications even when taken as directed.
For instance, foods, genetics, and other medications can all interfere with prescription medications in ways that affect your liver.
It’s important to talk to your doctor if you experience symptoms, such as nausea, fatigue, and jaundice after starting a new medication.
Over the counters can also pose a risk.
Acetaminophen, better known under the name brand Tylenol, can cause serious liver complications when taken more than directed.
Book Your Appointment With 1stCallHealth Today
Are you concerned about your liver and want to keep it healthy?
Does alcoholism run in your family and you’re concerned it might affect you too?
Do you already have a confirmed liver disease diagnosis and need help managing it?
At 1stCallHealth, we can help guide you to make the best choices for your liver, and for an affordable price.
Book your appointment with us today to begin working towards a healthier liver, and a healthier life.
1stCallHEALTH provides affordable access to primary care services. We believe that everyone deserves affordable, high quality primary care.
Our vision is to challenge the status quo, focus on the individual, and empower personal control to change the way we think about healthcare.