Federated Health Charities’ mission is to improve the health and quality of life of all Ontarians by supporting 21 different health charities providing critical services to those experiencing, or affected by, illness. We believe education and prevention are key parts of supporting the health of our communities, so our weekly Health Hint series strives to provide tangible and easy to implement hints and tips on how to maintain your health, prevent disease, and enjoy increased quality of life. Check out our latest Health Hint on the type of diet to follow to support liver health. We hope you find it helpful. If you would like to join our efforts to support the health of Ontario, please consider a donation to Federated Health Charities.
What Does the Liver Do?
Your liver is a powerhouse organ that keeps the rest of your body free of toxins and energized so it can perform its functions every day. Your liver performs over 500 different tasks to keep you healthy. It cleans up alcohol and drugs from your blood, creates glucose (energy), fat, and many proteins like the ones responsible for helping with blood clotting. The liver regulates your hormones, cholesterol, and your supply of vitamins and minerals, and regulates bile to help eliminate toxic substances from your body. Your liver is vital to your health so it’s important to take good care of it! The Canadian Liver Foundation has much more information on the many essential processes carried out by your liver.
What Are Some Liver Diseases?
Liver diseases can be dangerous because they put a strain on the liver’s basic functions which can put stress on your other organs and the rest of your body. If liver disease goes undetected and untreated, it can advance to a later stage and scar your liver. This scarring is called cirrhosis and it decreases your liver’s capacity to perform its many tasks. Viral infections like Hepatitis A, B, C, Wilson’s Disease, prolonged exposure to environmental toxins, and other conditions may cause liver disease if left untreated. One of the most pervasive in Canada is non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which can affect as many as one in four Canadians.
General Eating Tips for Promoting a Healthy Liver
Because liver diseases affect the liver in different ways, you should consult with a health care professional on the specific meal plan for your condition. Some liver illnesses may require you to watch your iron intake while others may put a constraint on the amount of copper, protein, or fiber you eat. The Canadian Liver Foundation has many tips on healthy eating for your liver. Because it can be difficult to change the way we eat, take a look at this guide for some food substitutions you can make to lower the amount of sugar and fat in your diet.
1. Don’t mix alcohol and medication, especially painkillers like acetaminophen (Tylenol). This combination can place a lot of stress on your liver. Prolonged periods of alcohol and medication consumption can eventually lead to scarring of your liver.
2. Drink 6 to 8 glasses of fluids (preferably water) a day. Some teas like green tea have antioxidants which can prevent your liver from experiencing oxidative stress. It should be noted that too much of a good thing can be a bad thing! Consuming too much green tea extract or concentrated formulations can lead to liver damage. If you are drinking teas, enjoy in moderation and avoid concentrated supplements.
3. Fruits and vegetables are high in antioxidants, which are essential for your liver health. Antioxidants are found in many vegetables and can help remove free radicals from your body, which hamper with its normal functioning and have been linked to cancer. Broccoli, cabbage (main ingredient in coleslaw), cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, garlic, and onions are excellent sources of antioxidants for your body. Try different brightly colored veggies so you consume a variety of antioxidants (and vitamins and minerals).
4. Eat saturated fats, salt, and sugar in moderation. These macronutrients have been associated with an increased risk for developing a fatty liver disease.
5. Eat vitamin D fortified dairy products. Vitamin D deficiency may be linked to liver disease.
6. Try substituting more lean meats, legumes, and healthy fats (like nuts and avocados) into your diet. These foods can also help to improve your cardiovascular health.
7. You can find many healthy eating tips on Canada’s Food Guide website.
8. Eat regularly and watch your portion sizes.
Exercising and maintaining a healthy body weight can also prevent your liver from experiencing too much stress. Remember, it’s not easy to eat healthy every day. Do your best to make substitutions in your meals and indulge occasionally and responsibly.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our latest Health Hint!
NOTE: This article is intended to provide general health tips based on available research. You
should consult with a health care professional for specific medical and dietary instructions that are right for you.