7 Reasons You Might Be at Risk for Liver Disease
The largest glandular organ in the human body; our liver, simultaneously performs more than 500 functions. These functions of digestion, absorption, glucose regulation and toxin filtration are essential for human survival, yet liver health is often overlooked. The burden of liver disease in India is significant as around 10,000 patients with liver cirrhosis are newly diagnosed every year in India(1). If the same continues, experts speculate that by 2025, India could become the liver disease capital of the world (2). Given its high prevalence, it is important that we are aware of possible factors that can damage the liver.
- Overconsumption of alcohol.
Drinking large amounts of alcohol can lead to fat accumulation and inflammation of the liver, which can progress to a chronic condition known as Alcoholic fatty liver diseasee.
Too much sugar (=> 50 g per day) is not only bad for your teeth, but also for your liver. Excessive consumption of refined sugar or high fructose chemicals causes fat to accumulate in the liver, which leads to liver disease (4). It can affect you even if you are not overweight. This is all the more reason to limit foods with added sugars, such as sodas, pastries and candies.
Parasites and viruses can cause inflammation inside the liver, impairing its ability to function. These infections spread easily through blood, semen, contaminated food, water, and even close contact with an infected person. Viruses like Hepatitis A, B, C, and E (5) when contracted lead to liver damage and so, in order to avoid it, maintaining proper hygiene and sanitation is necessary.
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
Excess fat in your body can build up in your liver cells and lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). In this case, your liver swells and over time it can also harden and scar the liver tissue. If you have conditions such as obesity, diabetes, or low blood sugar, you may be more susceptible to NAFLD (6). This condition is relatively common among middle-aged people in the 40-60 age bracket. And so, to avoid complications, one should follow a balanced diet and maintain a healthy exercise regimen.
- Abnormal autoimmune conditions.
There are times when your immune system mistakenly attacks your own body cells. However rare, it negatively affects the liver. The times when your immune system attacks the liver for no reason it gets inflamed and this condition is called Autoimmune hepatitis. In another case, when the body’s natural defense mistakenly attacks the bile duct, it fills with toxic content that injures it. This state is called Primary biliary cholangitis. When the immune system’s natural action of removing toxins unintentionally damages your bile duct, the condition is called Primary sclerosing cholangitis. In order to prevent these conditions from getting worse, make sure you have regular check-ups.
Any excess causes harm. Drug-induced liver disease is caused by an overdose of prescribed medications, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, hormones, herbs, illicit recreational drugs, and environmental toxins. When exposed to excessive doses of supplements and medications like acetaminophen, vinyl chloride, biphenyls, etc. (7), this leads to high levels of toxicity in the body, setting the stage for liver disease. It is therefore essential to keep an eye on your number of drugs.
An abnormal gene inherited from one or both of your parents can cause various substances to build up in your liver, which can lead to a blockage and eventually; liver damage. When your body makes too much iron or oxalate due to its genetic makeup, liver problems can occur. A deficiency in certain proteins such as Alpha-1 antitrypsin is also a genetic problem that makes your liver vulnerable.
A sedentary lifestyle, increased alcohol consumption and obesity are the major causes contributing to making India the liver disease capital of the world. In order to avoid the same, it is important to consume more fiber than fat (8), moderate the consumption of alcohol and drugs and ensure that food is not contaminated. Additionally, protecting the skin from toxic chemicals and maintaining personal hygiene are also mandatory.
Simple preventative measures like timely vaccinations and sufficient physical activity will help control your liver health (9). Eat a healthy diet and exercise as this will help you maintain a healthy weight. Most importantly, get tested if you notice any symptoms or risk factors for liver disease. Prevention is better than cure, and now that you know how to avoid liver problems, it’s time to take action by treating your liver properly.
(1)Dr. S. Sivakrishnan, et al. World Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. 2019;1385-1395
(2) Murray CJ, Lopez AD. Alternative projections of mortality and disability by cause 1990-2020: global burden of disease study. Lancet 1997; 349: 1498-1504.
(3) The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines binge drinking as a pattern of alcohol consumption that brings the blood alcohol level (BAC) to 0, 08% – or 0.08 grams of alcohol per deciliter – or more. For a typical adult, this model corresponds to the consumption of 5 or more drinks where 1 drink = 12 oz of beer, 8 oz of malt liquor, 5 oz of wine or 1.5 oz of “hard liquor”)
(4) Perheentupa J, Raivio K. Fructose-induced hyperuricaemia. Lancet. 1967;2(7515):528–31.
(5) Bosch FX, Ribes J, Diaz M, Cleries R. Primary liver cancer: global incidence and trends. Gastroenterology. 2004;127:S5–S16.
(6) Alkhouri N, Feldstein AE. The TONIC trial: a breakthrough in the treatment of pediatric non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Hepatology. 2012;55(4):843-844
(7) Holt MP, et al. Mechanisms of drug-induced liver injury. Aaps J. 2006;8:E48–54.
(8) J. Clin. Med. 2019;8, 1065
(9) Plauth M, et al. Clin Nutr. 2019;38(2):485-521 (ESPEN/international guidelines for nutritional recommendations)
IND2238540 Date: July 18, 2022
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