Many words have been written regarding health, physical strength, conditioning, good diet, and exercise. Most of these posts and articles focus either on overall good practices or cardiovascular health.
We collectively seem to ignore the liver, and I’m going to tell you why we need to start paying attention to this small organ that has a big job. The liver is one of the most important organs in our body, performing a myriad of functions every single second of your existence, providing vital energy, and delivering nutrients to every one of your cells.
If overlooked and neglected, the liver could easily deteriorate, which would lead to many serious health conditions directly impacting one’s life.
One of the most discussed issues in today’s health topics is obesity. Many worry about the way their body looks, but extra fat is not only having a big belly and love handles; it is a disease—specifically a liver disease—before anything else.
Fat gets stored in micro and macro vesicles or spheres in every liver cell. When in excess, it decreases the liver’s performance. in extreme situations, this can lead to liver failure. When left untreated, liver failure could cause death without liver transplantation.
It is projected that non-alcoholic liver disease will become the number one indication for liver transplantation in the next decade. Addressing obesity is a number one priority of every individual and of the governments of developed nations.
So, what is the best way to protect your liver from extra fat? The obvious answer is diet and exercise, but there’s more to it.
A low-fat diet is a good place to start, but fat and protein are also needed for healthy liver function. In my opinion, minimizing the consumption of animal-derived fat and protein is the first priority. In one study, mice were fed casein, a protein derived from milk. These mice developed liver cancer, while others fed with plant-based products continued to thrive. When the diets of these mice were switched, the patterns reversed.
The works of Dr. Campbell of Cornell University have shown over the years that in many instances, animal-based fats and proteins could lead to various medical conditions, including liver cancer.
How to Prevent Liver Disease
Today, we know that liver cancer is not reserved for social outcasts but affects all economic levels; my practice on New York’s affluent Upper East Side is living proof of that.
So what can you do to protect yourself?
Tips for Saving Your Liver
1. Minimize meat and dairy consumption
Most people looking into cardiovascular health consider chicken and fish as healthy alternatives to red meat, but unfortunately for the liver, they are not very helpful.
It is a proven fact that certain populations living on plant-based nutrition rarely suffer from liver disease or liver cancer, unlike westerners who have unlimited access to these products. Kale and spinach are great protein sources, are friendlier to the liver, and provide a good source of nutrition. Avocados and nuts also provide healthy fats necessary for energy production.
Related: 6 Foods with Healthy Fats
In fact, many pro-athletes have very successfully experimented with exclusively plant-based nutrition, contrary to the carnivore culture of professional sports.
In Vermont’s Green Mountain Valley School, a prep alpine ski racing academy where many US Ski Team athletes are born, there’s a tremendous emphasis on delivering calories—and lots of them. However, you will be hard-pressed to find unhealthy snacks in the kids’ dorms, and the salad bar in the dining room stretches so wide that it could easily compete with some of the world’s best hotels and cruise ships. Spinach, chickpeas, quinoa, fresh peppers and melons, nuts, and dried cranberries overpower any other foods on the menu.
With the main emphasis on winning the competition, believe me, they know good nutrition.
2. Get tested
Another important fact about liver health is to know your current status. Periodic testing of liver function is important, but may not give you the whole picture. Hepatitis virus affects millions of people worldwide, and it could live silently in your body for decades. Unfortunately, the diagnosis is often made too late for most patients after dramatic complications have occurred, such as fluid buildup, bleeding from the stomach, and cancer are discovered.
The US Center for Disease Control recommends that if you were born between 1945 and 1965 you should be tested for hepatitis.
Related: 8 Things Healthy People Do
A question many people ask is what could be taken to detoxify your liver or to improve its function? The truth is that there are no truly helpful commercially available supplements. The most known substance “milk thistle” has never shown any true benefit in properly designed clinical trials and the stories about its “magic” properties are largely anecdotal.
When responding to this question, I usually recommend decreasing alcohol intake, avoid beer and hard liquors and limit consumption to 1-2 glasses of red wine a day.
In addition, creating light vegan eating days on a regular basis helps cleansing and purging bad fat content out of the liver cells. A more extreme approach is cleansing with cold press fresh juices, but this should be done after a consultation with a nutritionist and your family physician to establish if it is safe and right for you.
Lastly, coffee drinkers rejoice! Several studies have shown that consumption of two cups of coffee daily significantly reduces the incidence of liver cancer. It appears that coffee also plays a role in fat metabolism in the liver and is beneficial in that regard.
In your efforts to keep your body healthy and strong, don’t forget your liver. The liver is essential to many bodily functions and is a part of you that you should constantly be aware of. To prevent liver disease, minimize meat and dairy consumption, get your liver tested regularly, and make dietary choices to help cleanse and detoxify your liver. A healthy liver is a healthy you.
Dr. Dmitri Alden is one of the most recognized surgical oncologists in the world and practices in New York, New York. At the forefront of medical innovation, the recognized “compassionate” surgeon treats the most complex cancers using only the most advanced surgical procedures.
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