7 Easy Habits to Maintain a Healthy Liver

Contributed by: Dr Foo Kian Fong

In Singapore, liver cancer is the fourth most common cancer among Singaporean men, and not even among the top 10 cancers in women. However, it is the third most common cause of cancer-related deaths in men, and the fifth most common cause of cancer-related deaths in Singaporean women. Despite its prevalence, liver health is often overlooked until it is too late.

The liver is one of the most important organs in the human body. You cannot live without a working liver as it plays a vital role in the body’s metabolic system, including:

  • Storing nutrients
  • Producing bile to help digest fats and eliminate waste in the blood
  • Filtering and processing food, beverages and medications that enter the body
  • Detoxification of toxins absorbed from the intestines
  • Producing protein and clotting factors

A healthy liver keeps your body’s metabolic functions in optimal condition. When liver health is neglected, it can result in liver disease, including liver cancer.

Fortunately, you can prevent liver cancer through simple lifestyle changes. Here are 7 easy habits you can adopt to maintain a healthy liver:

1. Limit your alcohol intake

High alcohol consumption is one of the leading causes of liver damage worldwide. Consuming high amounts of alcohol can adversely affect liver function and lead to inflammation and scarring (also known as cirrhosis) in the liver. This is because our liver can only process a certain amount of alcohol at any given time.

It is thus important to moderate or limit your alcohol intake to one standard drink a day for men, and half the standard drink a day for women. A standard drink of alcohol is equivalent to a glass of red wine, or one shot of spirit.

2. Maintain a balanced and healthy diet

Adopting a balanced and healthy diet that is high in fibre and low in saturated fats, trans-fats and hydrogenated fats can reduce fat build-up in the liver and help you maintain a healthy liver.

Reduce your intake of processed foods, deep fried foods, red meats and dairy products as these foods are high in saturated fats, trans-fats and hydrogenated fats. Instead, opt for proteins such as fish, white meat, and beans. You should also increase your intake of foods that are high in fibre such as vegetables and whole grains.

3. Exercise regularly and maintain an active lifestyle

Regular exercise can help reduce stress on the liver, increase energy levels and prevent obesity — one of the major risk factors for liver disease. Aim for a total of 150 minutes of exercise per week. This can include brisk walking, cycling or swimming.

Together with a balanced and healthy diet, maintaining an active lifestyle can help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight that is within the ideal body mass index (BMI) target of 18.5 to 22.9, and reduce your risk of liver disease as well as other chronic diseases.

4. Get vaccinated

Hepatitis A, B and C are viral infections that can lead to liver disease and even liver cancer. Hepatitis A can be contracted from contaminated food and water, while Hepatitis B and C can be transmitted sexually or through contaminated blood and needles.

Vaccination against Hepatitis A and B can help reduce your risk of getting these infections. There is currently no available vaccine for Hepatitis C.

5. Reduce your sugar intake

High sugar intake can result in insulin resistance, which may lead to diabetes. Diabetes, along with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity, can pose major risks for liver disease.

Fortunately, you can keep your blood sugar levels under good control with regular exercise, and a balanced and healthy diet. You should also limit your intake of sugar in the form of soft drinks or artificial sweeteners. Avoid sugar in the form of fructose corn syrup, soft drinks, artificial sweeteners, and etc.

6. Smoking cessation

Smoking affects more than just the lungs; it can affect almost every organ in the body, including the liver.

Fortunately, smoking cessation at any age can help reduce your risk of developing liver disease, as well as other chronic diseases.

7. Check on your supplements

Over-the-counter weight loss supplements and herbal medications which are available without a prescription may contain unknown toxins and ingredients that can stress and affect the regular functioning of your liver.

Over-supplementation may also cause liver inflammation and can lead to irreversible liver damage or even failure. If you are in doubt about the supplements you are taking, or would like to take, consult your doctor.

liver cancer infographic - what you need to know
POSTED IN Cancer Prevention
TAGS cancer awareness, healthy lifestyle, vaccination