The liver is the largest solid organ in the body, weighing on average about 3.5 pounds.
According to the John Hopkins Medicine Health Library, cirrhosis and other chronic liver diseases are common causes of death in the U.S. It also states that, on average, 31,000 people in the U.S. die each year from cirrhosis. So it’s imperative for people to look for signs of liver damage.
In many cases, we damage our liver because of our lifestyle choices. Whether it’s constantly consuming large amounts of alcohol, smoking cigarettes or overeating unhealthy food, you’re putting extra stress on your liver. If your liver is overstressed, it won’t be able to break down fats and produce energy, so you’ll end up fatigued.
• Manufacture (synthesize) proteins, including albumin (to help maintain the volume of blood) and blood clotting factors
• Synthesize, store, and process (metabolize) fats, including fatty acids (used for energy) and cholesterol
• Metabolize and store carbohydrates, which are used as the source for the sugar (glucose) in blood that red blood cells and the brain use
• Form and secrete bile that contains bile acids to aid in the intestinal absorption of fats and the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
• Eliminate, by metabolizing and/or secreting, the potentially harmful biochemical products produced by the body, such as bilirubin from the breakdown of old red blood cells, and ammonia from the breakdown of proteins
• Detoxify, by metabolizing and/or secreting, drugs, alcohol, and environmental toxins
SIGNS OF LIVER DAMAGE
Below you will find the most common signs of liver damage, and if you’re experiencing any of them, you might want to see a doctor and consider changing some of your habits.
According to Bruce Bacon, a professor of internal medicine and chair of gastroenterology at the St. Louis University School of Medicine, one common sign of liver damage is abdominal aches. Bacon says you’ll feel swelling or pain in the right upper quadrant of your abdomen. The reason it’ll be the right side is that the fat end of the liver is on the right side.
Yellow Skin or Eyes (Jaundice):
Jamile Wakim-Fleming, a liver disease expert at Cleveland Clinic, explains that damaged liver causes your skin or eyes to become yellow because it allows bilirubin (a yellow compound) into your blood. If your liver is healthy, it will be able to dispose of bilirubin, Fleming adds.
Pain In Your Joints:
Fleming states that vomiting, joint pain, fatigue and loss of appetite are all interrelated symptoms of liver disease – mainly autoimmune hepatitis. This is a condition where your immune system attacks the cell tissues in your liver. According to the National Institutes of Health, this condition is more common in women than men.
According to Fleming, if your liver is not properly cleaning the blood in your body, clotting issues can occur near the surface of your skin. Fleming adds that these clotting issues can cause large skin blemishes.
One of the signs of liver damage is if you begin to experience confusion. According to Fleming, a damaged liver can allow too much copper to build up in your blood and brain. This can lead to Alzheimer’s-like symptoms. She adds that if you’re experiencing this, chances are it’s not the only symptom you’ve experienced. Confusion is associated with advanced-stage liver disease.
If you have an oversized stomach with swollen ankles and skinny/weak arms and legs, it could be a direct result from fluid imbalances that are commonly caused by a diseased liver, says Fleming. This can also occur around your temples and or above your cheeks. Fleming adds that these symptoms are late-stage liver disease symptoms, so it’s highly unlikely you’ll experience these symptoms out of the blue.
HOW TO PREVENT LIVER DAMAGE:
One way to prevent your liver from being damaged is to increase your intake of vitamin E. It can help reduce symptoms of liver disease by preventing cell damage, according to researchers at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. Some of the best sources of vitamin E are nuts, wheat germ, seeds, vegetable oils and leafy greens.
Monitor Your Alcohol Intake:
Alcohol abuse is the number one cause of liver damage. The easiest way to ensure that your liver is healthy is to watch how much you consume.
Need motivation? According to a recent study conducted at London’s Royal Free Hospital, regular alcohol drinkers who cut out alcohol for a month saw their liver fat reduced by 15% and also saw an improvement in their blood sugar levels and cholesterol levels.