Despite all the hype around liver detoxes and cleanses, most people know precious little about what the liver does and how important a role it plays in the body. The liver can be thought of as your body’s engine and processing plant that is largely responsible for the generation, digestion, and metabolism of various essential compounds, as well as for the filtration of blood and distribution of vital nutrients. To keep the plasma tissue (rasa dhatu) pure and free of harmful substances, the liver captures toxins (ama) that pass through and breaks them down before excreting them. For that reason, Ayurveda describes the liver as a hot, fiery organ. As a vital organ, the liver is no less important than the heart. This is precisely why the rising incidence of liver disease is so threatening and it’s a risk that we all need to safeguard against.
The liver has a remarkable ability to heal itself from minor damage and stress that results from wear and tear, exposure to toxins and other risk factors like obesity or alcohol abuse. However, this damage can become irreversible and progressive when the liver is repeatedly abused and not given a chance to recover. Fortunately, most problems can be detected early through liver disease symptoms such as abdominal pain beneath the ribs on the right side, nausea, vomiting, weakness, jaundice — yellowish skin and eyes, loss of appetite, and abnormal stools.
The best way to safeguard against liver disease is by taking steps to prevent further liver damage. With appropriate diet and lifestyle changes, you can encourage liver rejuvenation and reduce the chances of falling prey to dangerous liver conditions.
Types of Liver Disease
When liver functioning gets disturbed, a number of diseases may arise. In all, there are over one hundred liver diseases, all relating to some kind of malfunctioning of the organ. As a person develops liver disease, they may lose vital functions, putting them in potentially life-threatening situations.
Some of the most common liver diseases include:
- Alcohol-related liver disease: cirrhosis or scarring of the liver caused by excessive alcohol consumption
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: liver damage resulting from fat build-up caused by obesity, high blood sugar, insulin resistance, or high levels of fats in the blood
- Hepatitis: infection caused by hepatitis A, B, C, or D virus
- Primary biliary cirrhosis: commonly a result of autoimmune disease
- Haemochromatosis: a hereditary condition in which an iron overload can cause liver cirrhosis
While the causes and risk factors vary from condition to condition, one can significantly improve their liver health by adjusting their lifestyle and diet.
Lifestyle & Diet to Prevent Liver Disease
1. Liver-Cleansing Foods
Certain foods have the ability to boost the health of your liver and provide you with detoxifying effects. In general, you should follow a pitta-pacifying diet and increase the amount of vegetables and fruits you consume. You should also introduce high-fiber plants such as whole grains and legumes to your diet.
Food For Healthy And Clean Liver
In case you’re looking forward to creating a detailed diet plan, here are the top liver-friendly foods to consider:
- Garlic contains sulfur compounds that activate liver enzymes, making it an essential ingredient in any liver friendly diet. Both garlic and onion have been found to have a hepatoprotective effect, making them useful as a non-alcoholic fatty liver disease remedy, but researchers found that they work best when used together.
- Coffee often gets a bad rap, but several studies have shown that coffee may play a big role in preventing and treating chronic liver diseases. Although researchers are unsure as to how exactly it benefits liver health, they found that it reduces fat buildup and collagen deposition in the liver, thereby protecting against liver damage.
- Nuts are an excellent source of antioxidants and essential nutrients, including healthy fats, making them a good addition to your diet. Based on some research, it would also appear that nuts can promote healthy levels of liver enzymes.
- Omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish have been shown to slow down the progression of fatty liver disease through their support of healthy enzyme and blood lipid levels. They also help restrict fat buildups and can fight liver inflammation.
- In addition to the foods mentioned above, it would be a good idea to bulk up your meals with fresh fruits and vegetables like grapefruits, blueberries, cranberries, grapes, beetroots, cruciferous vegetables, and leafy green vegetables. These foods not only reduce the load on your liver, but they are also rich in dietary fiber and antioxidants that can help minimize any risk of liver damage. Olive oil, turmeric, and green tea would also make for healthy additions.
2. Foods to Avoid
As is often the case, restricting intake of certain foods can be just as important as including others. Certain foods need to be restricted because of the stress they place on the liver, as well as because of their aggravation of other symptoms or complications that are associated with liver disease.
Intake of both salt and sugar needs to be restricted and this requires avoidance of all processed and junk foods. Such foods are also loaded with refined carbs and trans fats, giving you more reason to avoid them. You are also advised to cut back or avoid any consumption of alcohol and foods containing sugar.
3. Alcohol Consumption
While moderate alcohol consumption can be beneficial, studies over the years have shown that excessive alcohol intake can lead to liver damage through its direct action as a hepatotoxin. High alcohol consumption over a prolonged period also increase the risk of other liver diseases like chronic viral hepatitis and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Excessive alcohol intake greatly increases the risk of liver damage
Since alcohol is one of the primary causes of several types of liver disease, restricting or moderating alcohol intake is critical to maintaining liver health.
4. Exposure to Harmful Substances
It isn’t just the food and drink you ingest that affects liver health. We are constantly exposed to toxic substances that may find their way into the bloodstream, placing greater stress on the liver.
- Protect your skin. Common products that we use in everyday life can have high levels of toxicity, such as household disinfectants, pesticides, aerosol sprays, paints, and so on. While some amount of exposure is unavoidable, you can take precautions by using protective equipment and following safe practices. For example, simply wearing gloves when handling these substances limits the risk of exposure through skin permeation.
- Avoid unsafe activities. Don’t share syringes and make sure the person is using clean equipment if you’re getting body piercings or a new tattoo. Additionally, use barrier protection like condoms during sexual intercourse unless you are in a long term monogamous relationship.
- Get vaccinated. Vaccination is the most effective method of preventing chronic liver disease that is associated with hepatitis A and B infections.
- Stay away from body fluids and blood of other people. The hepatitis viruses can be easily spread through contact with infected body fluids and blood. Maintaining high levels of hygiene can therefore minimize the risk of infection.
5. Stay Active
Liver conditions like non-alcoholic fatty liver disease have become increasingly common and are closely linked with obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. This risk can be easily mitigated through small measures at bodyweight management. By dropping the extra pounds, blood sugar and lipid levels can also be improved, resulting in further reduction of liver disease risk.
Man out for an early morning jog
Physical activity doesn’t necessarily require gyming, but can include a range of physical activities, including walking, jogging, cycling, or swimming.
Ayurvedic Herbs for Healthy Liver Function
This anti-inflammatory ‘spice of life’ is highly regarded in Ayurveda for its purifying effects. It is often used in cleansing rituals and diets to detoxify the liver. While it is known to balance all doshas, turmeric excels at pacifying pitta, therefore making it a perfect remedy for liver diseases.
The use of turmeric as a defense against liver disease is also supported by research. According to a study that appeared in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, may “significantly protect against liver injury by decreasing the activities of serum aspartate aminotransferase and alanine aminotransferase and by improving the hepatic glutathione content, leading to a reduced level of lipid peroxidase.”
You can get your daily dose of turmeric by simply adding a teaspoon of turmeric powder as garnishing in your meals. Ayurvedic physicians also recommend consuming a glass of warm milk with a teaspoon of turmeric powder daily.
In Ayurveda, manjistha is regarded as a blood purifier and lymph mover. Both the blood as well as the lymph tissue may get congested if the body is not detoxifying properly. Subsequently, this puts a lot of stress on the liver and other organs. Manjistha comes with a potent cooling effect and is ideal for soothing aggravated pitta, which is why it is regarded as beneficial for liver disease protection.
Although more research is needed, some studies suggest that manjistha may exercise a hepatoprotective effect, lowering the risk of various type of liver disease. One study suggests that rubiadin, an important bioactive compound in the herb, may be instrumental in protecting against liver damage under certain conditions.
Ginger is now one of the most widely used culinary herbs across the world, but it also has a long history of medicinal use, especially in Ayurveda. The herb is regarded as a superfood that destroys ama or toxins and supports healthy digestion and respiration. Although its rasa and virya make it potentially pitta aggravating, it can be beneficial for the liver when consumed in moderation.
According to research, ginger could be a viable remedy for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease due to its liver-protective properties and its ability to prevent or limit degenerative liver damage. Furthermore, as an antioxidant agent, ginger can reduce oxidative stress, decrease insulin resistance, counter inflammation, and inhibit other factors that contribute to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. You can add fresh ginger or ginger powder to your drinks and dishes or use ginger supplements.
Cinnamon doesn’t just have a delectable flavor, it’s also incredibly healthy. Often added to desserts and dairy beverages, cinnamon is also widely used in a number of Ayurvedic formulations. With a rasa that is sweet, pungent, and bitter, the herb is regarded as excellent for pacifying vata and kapha, but is a potential pitta aggravator. This is why users are advised to consume it in moderation.
Cinnamon has also come to be appreciated in the broader scientific community because of findings that reveal significant health benefits. One of these benefits relates directly to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, making it one of the most promising fatty liver home remedies. Increased insulin resistance is closely linked with fatty liver disease and controlling resistance and limiting oxidative stress is a strong safeguard against liver damage. Cinnamon has been found to be beneficial in this regard, with a study in Nutrition Research suggesting that a daily dose of 1500 mg could be beneficial in the management of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Another study also shows that under certain circumstances, cinnamon supplementation can lower liver toxicity levels and improve enzyme levels.
Before you begin adding cinnamon to your diet, whether in food or through supplementation, keep in mind that research shows that excess cinnamon consumption can have an adverse effect on the liver. Daily dosage of cinnamon should not exceed 1500 mg.
Amla or amalaki, better known in the west as Indian gooseberry, has been an important Ayurvedic ingredient for millennia. It features in a range of herbal formulations, including the most widely use Ayurvedic medications – Chyawanaprash and Triphala. Amla has a pacifying and balancing effect on all three doshas and is most notable for its immune boosting effect. However, it supports general health and is believed to help lower toxicity levels in the body. This is why it is often recommended as a natural remedy for fatty liver and other liver conditions.
Most nutritionists encourage the inclusion of amla in liver disease diets because of it’s rich nutritional profile and high antioxidant content. These recommendations are supported by several studies, including a 2013 study, which found that diabetic rats showed considerable increase in antioxidant levels after being introduced to amla extract.
You can consume amla by eating the fresh fruit, drinking the juice, or ingesting it in the powder or capsule form.
The Final Word
When it comes to liver disease, keep in mind that there are no approved pharmaceutical drugs for conditions like fatty liver disease. Conventional treatment for liver disease also has the same objectives as Ayurvedic medicine, focusing primarily on dietary and lifestyle modifications. Maintaining a healthy bodyweight is broadly regarded as the most important strategy for the management of liver disease, with a weight loss of just 3 to 5 percent also lowering the risk. Of course, if symptoms of liver disease surface or worsen, you should seek medical help to protect against complications that may be life threatening.
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