Your liver is tired of putting up with your bad habits
There is a common misconception that liver disease is single-handedly caused by excessive drinking, but this is not the case. Liver damage can be brought on by a number of lifestyle factors so the best way to fight liver disease is to avoid them at all costs.
The liver is a powerhouse organ: It is one of the largest and most complex internal organs in the body — performing over 500 vital functions to keep our bodies alive, much like a factory. Everything we eat or drink passes through the gut and then into the bloodstream and makes its way to the liver, where it is broken down, metabolised or stored as energy.
For #WorldLiverDay, celebrated annually on 19 April, 702's Refilwe Mpakanyane chats to Dr. Bilal Bobat, Specialist Gastroenterologist at Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre about the negative impact that a reckless lifestyle can have on the most crucial organ in the body, your liver.
In the interview, Dr. Bobat outlines some of the vital functions that the liver is responsible for:
• Producing and excreting bile
• Metabolising fats, proteins and carbohydrates
• Storing energy, vitamins and minerals
• Purifying your blood from toxins such as alcohol, drugs and medication
As far as organs go, it's safe to declare that the liver is the "tough guy" of the body but, it too has its limits. While the liver can be considered to be the ultimate wingman, it can also be a toxic enemy — it all depends on how you treat it.
Unfortunately, due to the industrial food complex that we live in, in our current day society, we're doing this to ourselves. We are force-feeding ourselves to the point where we are turning out livers into foie gras - where our livers are becoming enlarged and fatty.Dr Bilal Bobat, Specialist Gastroenterologist — Liver Unit at Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre
Lifestyle factors that can put a strain on your liver:
Research shows that the prevalence of overweight and obesity in South Africa is high. On average, 39% of men and 69% of women are classified as overweight or obese, with 90% of obese patients suffering from some degree of liver damage.
Excessive alcohol consumption
According to the World Health Organization, South Africa has among the highest alcohol consumption rates in the world, and it continues to rise. Drinking in excess over a period of 10 years or longer dramatically increases the risks of developing liver disease.
While certain medicines may not seem harmful, the toxic by-products expelled when going through chemical changes in the body can have toxic consequences on the liver.
One of the liver's functions is regulating blood sugar. If excess fat builds up in the liver, the organ is less responsive to insulin, which in turn leaves too much glucose in the blood. When this happens, it can lead to diabetes and, raises the risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Viral Hepatitis B
According to Dr. Bobat, South Africa has one of the highest prevalence of viral Hepatitis B in the world. Considered a silent killer, viral Hepatitis B is a serious liver infection caused that attacks and damages the liver and, often progresses from treatable inflammation to permanent, irreversible liver disease.
Exercise is one of the things that is absolutely crucial for liver health. We're getting very nutrient-dense foods... and then we're living a sedentary lifestyle, we're not able to burn that off and, that is one of the biggest risk factors of developing metobolic associated fatty liver disease.Dr Bilal Bobat, Specialist Gastroenterologist — Liver Unit at Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre
How do you know when your liver is not performing optimally? According to Dr. Bobat, the signs of liver disease stay hidden right up until the liver has already become badly damaged, leaving doctors with very few options for treatment.
Here are some of the signs that your liver is not happy:
• Loss of appetite
• Lack of energy
• Easy bruising
• Weight loss or sudden gain
• Yellowing of skin or eyes
• Swelling of the legs and ankles
• Light coloured or bloody stool
• Dark urine
Here's how to look out for your liver:
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Source : Essentiale Extreme