Your liver may be spared no thought. Hidden deep inside your body, it’s one of the least talked about organs. However, throughout the year, when you’re finding it hard to resist festive or holiday food and drink, it may be a good time to give it some thought. Diabetes is directly responsible for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Additional to that, high cholesterol and high blood pressure also raise the risks of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Europe is currently facing a liver disease epidemic. In just 40 years, cases have risen by 400%. According to the British Liver Trust, it’s now the biggest cause of death between 35 and 49-year-olds; and its mortality rates are expected to overtake heart disease in a few years. ‘Prevalence is rising at an alarming rate. One in five of us are now at risk and we urgently need to raise awareness and improve treatment and services’, says the chief executive of the American Liver Foundation. The good news is, 90% of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is preventable. So what can we do to lower our risk? We speak to the experts to find out more…
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is the next health emergency for diabetics. Reduce your risk with expert advice…
Liver Disease Lowdown
This is the body’s biggest internal organ and it is responsible for around 500 functions. Our hepatologist expert describes it as our ‘body’s factory’. It fights infection and diseases, destroys poisons and toxins (including alcohol and drugs), cleans the blood, controls levels of fat, amino acids and glucose, manufactures bile (that yellow, green, brownish fluid that helps absorb fat), processes digested food, as well as turning it into energy, whilst also storing iron and vitamins. The liver holds approximately 10% of our blood (around 0.5 litres) and also pumps nearly 1.5 litres of the red stuff through itself every minute.
Aside from being one of our hardest working organs, it is also one of the smartest. In fact, it is the only one in the body that can completely regenerate itself and it only needs 25% of the original tissue to do so! That doesn’t mean we don’t need to look after it. Three main causes of preventable liver disease exist alcohol, obesity and Viral hepatitis.
Although many people who are diagnosed with liver disease don’t drink and have never done so. Drinking to excess is still its leading cause.
A common myth is that you have to be an alcoholic to get this disease, but the truth is that more than one in five people in U.S.A drink in a way that could harm their liver. Alcohol has become increasingly acceptable and which means we’re frequently filling up our trolleys with booze and enjoying a few glasses of wine during the evenings.
Alcohol consumption in the US soars over the festive period, with the average American consuming 156 units between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day.
Your head and stomach may seem to suffer the most from a booze binge, but even drinking a few glasses of alcohol every night can increase your risk of developing liver disease and cause irreparable damage. The American Liver Foundation advises having three consecutive alcohol-free days a week.
Doing so not only reduces the alcohol consumed, but also gives your liver rest and a chance to rejuvenate, explain doctors.
Our body needs about 1g of liver for every kilogram of body weight, to do its job properly. A healthy liver should contain little or no fat, but almost two thirds of us are overweight or obese, a major factor in the rise of non-alcohol-related fatty liver disease.
However, there’s good evidence that you can reverse it by losing 20% of your body weight. We suggest speaking to your doctor about help with losing weight safely, eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables, drinking plenty of water, cutting down on fatty, sugary and processed foods and getting at least half an hour’s exercise a day.
Blood-borne viruses, such as Hepatitis B and C can cause permanent liver damage and increase the risk of liver cancer. Hepatitis A and E are both spread by faecal-oral transmission (usually through consuming contaminated food and water). We recommend getting vaccinated against Hepatitis A and B when visiting countries with poor sanitation or where it’s common. Speak to your pharmacist before travelling. Also, ensure food is cooked through, drink bottled water, never share personal items (toothbrushes, razors, nail scissors or tweezers), practice safe sex and only use licensed tattoo and piercing parlours.
Treat Liver Disease
Early detection is key to successful treatment, but unfortunately liver disease can be a silent killer, as there are often no symptoms in the early stages. Due to this, three quarters of the people are currently diagnosed with liver disease during a medical emergency, which hepatologist consultants say limits the options for intervention. By this point it’s often too late and very costly to treat people and for some, the only option is having a transplant.
The American Liver Foundation now has a simple test you can take to determine your risk. ‘If the damage is caught early, lifestyle changes can reverse damage to the liver, or play an important part in slowing down disease progression’, assures our hepatologist expert.
E357 – Liver Disease Loosey-Goosey – www.diabetic.today