No, it’s not alcohol.
We’ve heard of alcohol causing liver damage, but moderate intake of alcohol is actually good for you.
To begin with, why is it necessary to take care of our liver?
The liver is the largest glandular organ in the body weighing about 3 lb (1.36 kg). Its main function is to refine and detoxify what you eat, drink, breathe, even substances absorbed through the skin. It filters harmful substances from the blood (such as alcohol); it converts glucose to glycogen and maintains proper level of glucose in the blood. The liver also secretes substances that break down fats, urea, certain amino acids and produces about 80% of the cholesterol in your body. It also acts as a storage for vitamins and minerals (Vitamins A, D, K and B12) processed by your body.
With everything that the liver can do, it is just natural that we hear a lot of preventive campaigns on how to take care of it, but surprisingly, not everyone knows the basics on how to do it.
Alcohol is actually not that bad. Drinking a bottle or two of beer or a glass of wine every night is healthy, but anything more than that can be very bad for your liver. Alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream from the stomach and intestines. All blood from the stomach and intestines first goes through the liver before circulating around the whole body. Enzymes from the liver break down the alcohol into other chemicals which are also broken down into water and carbon dioxide and are then passed out in the urine. A healthy liver can process a certain amount of alcohol.
There are some substances, though, as ordinary as they may seem, that can potentially damage your liver. Environmental toxins such as fumes from paint thinners, aerosol and bug sprays also pose a threat. Chemicals from such substances are picked up by the tiny blood vessels in your lungs and are carried to the liver. Like with alcohol, the liver can only handle a certain amount of chemicals and high concentration of such can lead to liver damage.
If exposure to such substances is inevitable, ensure that you wear masks, protective gloves and immediately wash off chemicals that your skin may get in contact with.
Medications may also cause liver damage as severe as excessive drinking. Acetaminophen found in pain relievers, can cause liver damage. The risk becomes higher when this type of drug when the patient is also an alcohol drinker.
Although antibiotics are used as medications for patients with liver problems, some brands used in treating bacterial infection in children are found to have increased the risk of acquiring life-threatening liver problems.
A study in The University of California, San Francisco Children’s Hospital cites anabolic steroids to cause liver damage by decreasing good cholesterol and increasing the bad. From that study, people using anabolic steroids (used to treat some types of impotence, and body degeneration caused by HIV infection or other diseases) began experiencing liver toxicity within 12 weeks of taking the medication.
What to do? Always ask your doctor before taking any supplements or prescribed medicines as they may have conflict with the ones that you are already taking. Be honest about you and your family’s medical history because your doctor can advise you if you have potential risks.
Aim for a healthy diet. Eat a variety of fresh fruits and veggies, lean meat and whole grains. These are rich in antioxidants which will aid the body and your liver in ridding the body of toxins.