The liver is the largest, solid organ in the body which performs over 500 different metabolic functions to keep the body healthy. Its main job is to filter the blood which includes metabolizing nutrients and medications, in addition to helping the body convert environmental toxins into waste products that can be eliminated. This important organ also plays a role a crucial role in supporting a healthy immune response and has even been coined “an immunological organ.” Studies show that liver cells are responsible for producing 80-90% of the immunity proteins circulating in the body1.
When fat molecules accumulate inside liver cells and end up composing more than 5-10% of the liver’s weight, it is called a fatty liver. It is not fully known exactly why certain individuals develop a fatty liver and others don’t, but risk factors such as overweight or obesity, elevated blood sugar levels, and higher levels of triglycerides may lead to its development. A fatty liver can lead to a variety of health complications, including fatigue, pain, abdominal swelling, an enlarged spleen, and jaundice.
To keep your liver healthy and happy, consider the following tips:
Skip the booze
Days without hard alcohol (such as vodka or whiskey) allow the liver to engage in repairing itself. Drinking hard alcohol often may not allow the liver to process the alcohol load quickly enough, which can end up damaging liver cells. Instead, skip the booze to help give your liver what it needs to effectively do its job.
In contrast, red wine (and its natural resveratrol) has been shown to improve liver health. A Danish study showed that wine drinkers were 70% less likely to develop cirrhosis than those who drank liquor (hard alcohol) or beer.
Eat more garlic
Garlic offers a variety of health benefits including supporting a healthy liver. Garlic contains a compound called S-allylmercaptocysteine2. This compound has been found to help promote liver health.
Get more sleep
A study from Taiwan found that participants with sleep disorders had an 80% higher risk of developing fatty liver disease than those who regularly got a good night’s sleep. Researchers believe this is because poor sleep can interfere with eating habits during the day, by increasing the amount of snacking. The excess caloric intake from snacks can then lead to the formation of fatty deposits in the liver.
Eat more oily fish
Wild-caught oily fish, such as salmon and sardines, are packed with omega-3 fatty acids that can reduce fat in your liver. Studies show that people who eat more healthy fats typically have lower levels of harmful fats in their liver and higher levels of HDL – the good type of cholesterol that helps protect against heart disease. In addition, omega-3 fatty acids help promote a healthy mood and improve bone and joint health.
Other ways to promote a healthy liver include staying hydrated, cutting down on red meat intake, eating more broccoli, and drinking green tea on a regular basis.
- Gao B. Basic liver immunology. Cell Mol Immunol. 2016;13(3):265–266. doi:10.1038/cmi.2016.09
- Xiao J, Xing F, Liu Y, et al. Garlic-derived compound S-allylmercaptocysteine inhibits hepatocarcinogenesis through targeting LRP6/Wnt pathway. Acta Pharm Sin B. 2018;8(4):575–586. doi:10.1016/j.apsb.2017.10.003