The liver plays an important role for your body. It does tasks ranging from producing cholesterol, bile and proteins to storing minerals, vitamins and carbohydrates. It breaks down medications and alcohol. That's why it's crucial to maintain the health of this powerhouse organ. Here are some habits that you may not realize are harming your liver.
You eat too much sugar.
Sugar isn't just harmful to your teeth. It can hurt your liver, too. Too much refined sugar and high-fructose corn syrup causes a fatty buildup, which can lead to liver disease. Limit foods like soda and baked goods. Stick to natural sources of sugar like fruit. Read more about why you should limit sugar.
Obesity is thought to factor into nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, NAFLD. It's the buildup of extra fat in liver cells. It's one of the fastest-growing forms of liver disease, says the American Liver Foundation. Weight loss can help reduce liver fat.
You practice unsafe sex.
If you have unprotected sex, especially with multiple partners, you put yourself at risk for hepatitis. It's a potentially deadly liver disease that can be sexually transmitted. Practice safe sex by using a condom whenever you engage in intercourse.
You drink too much.
You know that alcohol can damage your body. How much is too much varies from person to person. If you drink too much for you, you can cause your liver to have ongoing inflammation and have to overwork. That can lead to development of scar tissue and cirrhosis (a late stage of scarring of the liver). Talk to your doctor about what amount of alcohol is right for you. You may be told to drink alcohol only in moderation or to quit completely.
Smoking can raise the risk of liver cancer and cirrhosis of the liver. A study found that smoking was the cause of nearly half of all liver cancers. Smoking stresses your system and can cause liver cell damage as well as cellular damage of the entire system.
You don't follow directions on your medications.
Medications used incorrectly—taking too much, the wrong type or mixing them—can harm your liver. Don't mix alcohol with medication. Tell your health care professional about any medications you use and get instructions on how to properly take them.
You adore salt.
On average, Americans eat more than 3,400 milligrams of sodium each day—much more than the American Heart Association and other health organizations recommend. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 mg a day and moving toward an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 mg per day for most adults. If you have pre-existing liver issues, too much salt can promote water retention and inflammation in the abdomen. That can overwork your liver. If you have scarring of the liver or cirrhosis, it's important to follow a low-sodium diet. That can prevent complications from fluid building up in the body. Learn more about salt, sugar and dietary guidelines.
You use a dirty needle.
They're not just associated with intravenous drug use. Follow up with your doctor and get tested if your skin has been penetrated by dirty sharp instruments or needles. Also, be sure tattoos and body piercings are done with clean needles, says the Liver Foundation.