Liver is a cone shaped organ that lies in the upper right-hand portion of our abdominal cavity. It is made up of two lobes, each of which is made up of eight segments. Its function is to regulate almost all chemical functions in our body. Blood-carrying nutrients from our intestines first come to the liver where all nutrients are further broken down. The liver also metabolises any drug we consume so that they reach the target area in a form that is needed and are non- toxic. Liver is involved in fat digestion, assimilation and production. It is the most important organ for removing harmful toxins from our body. It stores energy in the form of Glycogen to be used when food is not available. It regulates protein production, stores iron and regulates immune system to protect us.
Liver carries out more than 500 lifesaving and sustaining functions daily. Like any other organ, liver can also be damaged or infected causing it to weaken and not function properly. Some common liver diseases include:
1. Infections: Hepatitis or inflammation of the liver caused by viruses like Hep A, B and C.
2. Immune system may malfunction and attack the liver leading to Autoimmune Hepatitis, Primary Biliary Cholangitis, and Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis.
3. Cancers of the liver include Hemochromatosis, Hyperoxaluria, Wilson's disease, Alpha1-anti trypsin deficiency.
4. Other causes of liver diseases include Alcohol abuse, Drug overdoses, Non Alcoholic Fatty liver Disease-NAFLD.
5. Any one of the above conditions may lead to Acute liver failure or Cirrhosis of liver , both of which can be fatal.
(Also Read: 9 Foods Recommended By Ayurveda For A Healthy Liver)
Foods that are beneficial for Liver health:
1. Coffee: Experimental studies have shown that moderate consumption of coffee actually helps with keeping the liver disease-free. Coffee consumption is shown to reduce fatty deposition in the liver while increasing the antioxidant capacity by increasing Glutathione-a potent antioxidant- production.
2. Oats: There is plenty of evidence to support intake of whole grains for a healthy liver, but out of all, oats is the one that works very well. The beta glucan compounds present in Oats help fight against inflammation and strengthen the immune system in our body. Oats are also protective for our liver as they help reduce fat storage.
3. Garlic is helpful for our liver as it is considered a liver stimulant. In addition, studies have shown that consumption of garlic reduces the fat content and weight in people with NAFLD. Being overweight and obese has a direct detrimental effect on our liver.
4. Cruciferous Vegetables: These vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, kale and mustard greens/ They contain carotenoids and other powerful phytonutrients that help detox our system. Vitamins and minerals present in this group of vegetables help our liver.
5. Beetroot is a very nutritious food, rich in antioxidants and nutrients such as folate, pectin, betalains, and betaine. In addition, it provides fiber, manganese, potassium, vitamins A and vitamin C. It is understood that these nutrients help improve the flow of bile which helps remove the toxic waste from our body.
6. Eggs are the best proteins. Containing all 9 essential amino acids along with other compounds, they help maintain the integrity of the body cell membrane and hence improve the liver tissue.
7. Spices and Herbs like turmeric, ginger, milk thistle, cilantro, support the detox processes of our body.
8. Nuts contain healthy unsaturated fats, Vitamin E and are rich in phytonutrients. They protect against inflammation and oxidative stress. Just a handful is enough to protect against NAFLD as they add satiety and prevent weight gain.
9. Olive Oil has also been seen to reduce oxidative stress and is a good source of Monounsaturated fatty acids. Reduction in oxidative stress means a liver which is well protected.
10. Berries are a rich source of anthocyanins that help liver health by their anti-inflammatory activity and by their effect on enhancing immune cell response.
Having said this , I would like to emphasise that our liver is one of the most important organs that keeps us energised, and which digests and assimilates our food, filters out the toxins and keeps our body safe. We can look after our liver and keep it healthy by simply following the basics of good food.
1. Eat least processed grains.
2. Eat seasonal fruits and vegetables
3. Choose lean cuts of meat, skinless poultry. Eat omega -3 rich fishes at least thrice a week
4. Include plant proteins from legumes and pulses, nuts and seeds
5. Choosing low fat or skim dairy milk, yogurt, paneer, cheese, will help cut back on invisible fat sources.
6. Replace saturated fats with healthy monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats.
7. Avoid foods that may introduce trans fats in your diet. Bakery products are mostly made with hydrogenated vegetable oils, so read the labels and keep their intake to the minimum.
8. Sugary beverages, juices with added sugar should be avoided. All extra carbs consumed are converted to fats, which may lead to NAFLD.
9. Food made with fresh ingredients is mostly low in sodium, however processed foods are where the sodium overload comes in from. Beware.
10. Exercise daily, sleep well and stay happy - three more important points for a healthy body.
STAY SAFE, STAY HEALTHY
About Rupali DattaRupali Datta is a Clinical Nutritionist and has worked in leading corporate hospitals. She has created and lead teams of professionals to deliver clinical solutions for patients across all medical specialties including critical care. She is a member of the Indian Dietetic Association and Indian Association of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition.