Is your body’s detox engine under pressure? With new research revealing more of us than ever are at risk of liver disease, here’s how to lighten its load.
Boozy barbeques, prosecco-fuelled hen parties, sundowner cocktails… summer can be a surprisingly demanding time for your body’s detox factory. Taking most of the strain is your liver – the largest working organ in the human body, responsible for more than 500 incredible processes, including removing toxins and alcohol from the blood. Chances are, you only spare a thought for your hardworking liver when you’re feeling hungover.
But it’s not just heavy drinking or party binges that put this vital organ at risk. Liver disease is now the third leading cause of premature death in the UK, and more than one-in-five people are at risk of developing the condition, reveals the British Liver Trust. The major risk factors – alcohol, obesity, high-fat and high-sugar diets and viral hepatitis – are all preventable, yet deaths from liver disease have increased by 40 per cent since the 1970s. What’s more, nearly 75 per cent of people with liver disease are unaware they have the condition, shows recent research in The Lancet.
Is your body’s detox engine under pressure? Photo Gallery
‘Liver disease develops silently with no signs or symptoms,’ says Professor Nick Sheron, a liver expert from the University of Southampton. ‘Yet most people with fatal advanced liver disease only become aware they have a liver problem when admitted as an emergency.’ The British Liver Trust’s annual Love Your Liver campaign aims to alert the one-in-five people who may have early stages of liver disease but are unware of it. ‘Helping people understand how to reduce their risk of liver damage is vital to address the increase in deaths,’ says the Trust’s chief executive Judi Rhys. ‘Although the liver is remarkably resilient, if left too late, the damage is often irreversible.’
ARE YOU AT RISK?
Not much of a drinker? Your liver could still be at risk. While alcoholism and heavy drinking are the number one cause of a fatty liver, a high-fat, high-sugar diet is also known to contribute – along with smoking, diabetes, genetics and even rapid weight loss. The British Liver trust is urging people to take three, main preventative steps: ● Drink within recommended limits (no more than 14 units of alcohol a week), and have three consecutive alcohol-free days every week. ● Cut down on sugar, carbohydrates and fat and take more exercise. ● Know the risk factors for viral hepatitis and get tested for it if at risk.
Showing your liver some love doesn’t just protect you from liver disease. The multi-tasking organ also defends your body against infection, aids digestion, controls cholesterol and regulates blood-sugar levels. ‘It helps keep your weight in check and, when it’s clean and happy, speeds up your metabolism, helping to burn fat faster,’ says integrated health expert Sara Davenport, author of new book Reboot Your Health (Hay House, £12.99). ‘When your liver is struggling, it doesn’t work as effectively. Your metabolism slows down and your body creates too much fat, building up the levels stored in the liver. When it contains more than 10 per cent fat, you officially have a fatty liver. As a result, cholesterol levels rise, the body stops converting vitamin D properly and symptoms of PMS, acne, hair loss or female facial hair can develop. Blood sugar levels rise too, ultimately increasing your risk of Type 2 diabetes or other liver disease. The good news is there are easy steps you can take to help repair any damage and protect your liver, says Davenport. Check out the panel on the right for her holistic plan of action.
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