Medical FAQ

By Devyn Bernal – October 1, 2016

While we’re out having fun, our liver is working overtime to make sure our body recovers once we’re done acting a fool. As sweet as that is of our largest organ, what are you doing to care for your liver in return? Dr. Imtiaz Alum of Austin Hepatitis Center gave us the inside scoop on how to treat your liver the way you’d want to be treated, and increase your chances of a healthy body.

The liver is considered one of the master organs of the body, and yet it is most often assaulted by toxic choices. What is the most harmful substance that can damage our liver, and how soon does the liver take to cleanse after being exposed to it?

The liver functions as a unique organ with many crucial roles to sustaining life. The liver's principal role is to filter the blood coming from the digestive tract, before passing it to the rest of the body. The liver also purifies chemicals and toxins and breaks down drugs or medications. Therefore, it is at great risk of contamination from environmental toxins (such as alcohol) and those contained in over-processed foods. Our liver can metabolize, or in this case detoxify, about a third of an ounce of alcohol (about eight to ten grams) per hour in a healthy adult, with generally speaking less so in females. This is less than one drink per hour to fully be cleaned out of our system, as there is typically half of an ounce of alcohol in a standard drink regardless of what it is.

The liver is the chief regulator of protein metabolism and hormones. How vital is diet when it comes to the liver and pancreas?

If you eat a healthy diet, your liver “informs” you that you’re doing a great job. You will get the message because your liver is able to function properly and, provided your overall health is good, you feel in great physical shape. If, on the other hand, you aren’t careful with your diet, your liver is vulnerable. When you consume fatty or fried foods, and add too much salt, your liver is literally under assault. If you don’t avoid foods high in fat, sugar, and salt, the end result are liver diseases (such as a fatty liver) and, possibly, disorders that could affect other organs. Be careful with over the counter natural herbs and dietary supplements. Some can damage your liver, such as cascara, chaparral, comfrey, ephedra, and kava. The best foods for a healthy liver and pancreas include: garlic, grapefruit, beets, spinach, lettuces, cabbage, kale, avocados, broccoli, lemons, walnuts, red grapes, red reishi mushrooms, sweet potatoes, berries, green tea, and turmeric. Additionally, recent research shows drinking two to three cups of coffee per day can lower your risk of liver damage.  

As a hepatologist/gastroenterologist, what is the biggest piece of advice you’d like to emphasize for our active readers?

Best answered with words of wisdom from Suzanne Somers: “Your liver is your vital detoxification organ, and if it becomes overloaded with toxins from the food, drink, or medications you're consuming, you'll have more toxins circulating throughout your body, damaging your organs and glands. Detoxing your liver will help it work more efficiently—and help you slim your waistline.” Every morning you wake up is another chance to get it right to love your liver! 

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