The liver doesn't get as much attention as the heart and lungs, but our livers need some lovin’ too. We spoke with the experts at Hepatitis Queensland about why it’s important to look after our livers and what we can do to make these workhorses of the human body feel more appreciated.
What does the liver do?
The liver is like a factory. It manufactures, stores, and processes anything you put in your body, including food, alcohol, medicine, or toxins. Weighing in at an average of 1.5kg, the liver is the largest organ inside your body.
Filters the good stuff that your body can use and gets rid of the things that are of no use or are harmful (e.g. alcohol and other toxins)
Makes and stores vitamins and minerals
Assists in hormone production which helps to regulate your mental health
Regulates your energy levels by storing and releasing sugars
Produces the building blocks your body needs to make cells.
Why is it important to look after it?
Your liver is one of the body’s hardest working organs and performs over 500 functions. It needs to be looked after so it can perform all the important jobs that keep our bodies functioning.
Hepatitis Queensland CEO Katelin Haynes says the liver is incredibly resilient but can only take so much damage.
“The liver is like an elastic band. It can only stretch so far before it will show signs of damage, or even break,” Dr Haynes said.
Improving the health of your liver can have wide-ranging health benefits. In fact, looking after your liver can help reduce your risk of developing liver disease.
What can people do to keep their liver in tip top shape?
To keep your liver in tip-top shape, so it can do all the heavy lifting your body needs, everyone is encouraged to:
Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. Limit fat, cholesterol, and salt and eat plenty of fruit and vegetables.
Exercise regularly. Exercise improves your overall wellbeing and helps maintain a healthy body weight.
Limit alcohol intake. Heavy alcohol use can permanently damage your liver and its ability to function. It’s recommended that adults have no more than two standard drinks per day with two alcohol-free days per week.
Ask your GP for a liver health check and hepatitis test.
Is it possible to reverse damage to the liver?
The liver is quite unique. It is the only organ in the body capable of regenerating itself and replacing damaged tissue with new cells. However, the liver can lose its ability to regenerate when it’s under constant attack by fat, alcohol, drugs, viruses, or inflammation. This prevents the liver from regenerating completely and instead, scar tissue builds up. Once scar tissue has developed, it’s very difficult to reverse this damage.
Even though liver disease is on the rise, there’s good news.
“In many cases, lifestyle changes can help reverse or stop the progression of these fatty liver diseases,” Dr Haynes said.
“The good news is that up to 70 per cent of liver cancer is preventable. Simple lifestyle changes can reduce your risk.
Visit Hepatitis Queensland at hepqld.asn.au to find more about liver health or you can call them on 1800 437 222.