Liver is the second largest organ in the body, weighing about 3 pounds. It is an organ that has many vital functions in the body including metabolism, digestion, regulation and storage of nutrients along with immunity in the body. It is imperative that one take a healthy diet for optimal functioning of liver. However, liver is a very resilient organ that has a capacity to recover and regenerate on its own.
The function of liver includes:
Digestion: Liver helps in the digestion of food by production of bile, which is a mixture of bile salts, water, cholesterol and bilirubin. Fats in food are emulsified by bile that helps body digest fat easily and the bilirubin is excreted out of the body.
Detoxification: Hepatocytes produce enzymes that metabolize toxins such as alcohol and other drugs are converted into their inactive forms.
Immunity: Kupffer cells of liver help in digestion of bacteria, parasites, fungi, old RBCs and cellular debris. Kupffer cells form a part of mononuclear phagocyte system.
Metabolism: The function of liver includes metabolism of carbohydrates, lipids and proteins converting them into materials that are useful biologically. Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose; lipids into fatty acids, glycerol, phospholipids and lipoproteins; proteins into amino acids, which are further converted into glucose molecules and used as energy source.
Production: Liver produces several protein components such as albumin, prothrombin and fibrinogen. Albumin is responsible for maintaining the isotonic environment of blood. Prothrombin and fibrinogen play an important role in blood coagulation.
Storage: Liver is the storage house of several nutrients such as glucose, vitamins (such as A, D, E, K and B12), minerals (iron and copper) and fatty acids. Liver plays an important role in maintaining blood glucose homeostasis.
Thus, it becomes crucial to eat foods that are healthy for the body as well as liver.
What Foods Can Damage The Liver?
Certain foods should be avoided or taken in moderation in order to maintain a healthy liver and these are:
Foods Rich in Vitamin A: Vitamin A has many health benefits such as they are good for eyes, skin and normal growth of the body. However, excessive vitamin A consumption can lead to its toxicity as well as liver failure.
Soda and Sugar: Carbonated drinks have a lot of sugar and caffeine. Excess sugar is converted into glucose and stored in liver as glycogen, but when excessive sugar is consumed it can damage the liver. Excess sugar also leads to greater risk for obesity. It is better to avoid simple carbohydrates such as donuts and cookies.
Alcohol: In moderation, alcohol does not have much effect on liver, but when consumed excessively and regularly the workload on liver increases leading to alcoholic fatty liver disease and also liver cirrhosis in the long run causing scarring and death of liver cells. In addition, paracetamol should be avoided with alcohol that can precipitate liver damage.
Fatty Foods: The intake of fats should be limited as too much fat increases the chance of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease as well as obesity. The daily fat intake should not be more than 20 to 35% of total daily calorie. Unhealthy fats contain saturated fats that are hard to digest and these include processed, fried and fast foods.
Salt: The daily intake of salt should be around 1500 mg. It is generally not bad, but there are certain foods that contain too much salt such as soups, canned foods and fast foods. These foods contain too much sodium and when consumed in excess they cause liver damage. Excess salt causes fluid retention in the body.
Proteins: They are good for health, but when consumed in excess they can cause liver to malfunction and also leads to other diseases such as gout. Proteins should be balanced with carbohydrate intake and vegetables. Meat, steaks, turkey and bacon should be eaten in moderation.
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