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liver diseaseThe liver is the largest internal organ in the body and is about the size of a football. The liver is situated just beneath the rib cage on the right side of the abdomen. Amazingly, a healthy liver has the ability to regenerate itself. It does this by repairing or replacing the injured tissue. Also the liver has many cell units that are in charge of the same task, so if there is an injury to an area, other cells will perform the tasks and functions of the injured section until such time that the damage has been repaired, or indefinitely if it cannot be repaired.

The main functions of the liver are:

– To regulate your hormones and blood sugar levels.
– To store energy from nutrients
– To makes blood proteins, bile and enzymes that the body needs and
– To remove, filter and neutralize any toxic substances that enter our bodies.

Toxic substances include medications, alcohol, chemicals added to food, chemicals that are added to our water (well over 700), and any other potentially harmful chemicals.

If the livers process to filter and neutralize these toxins are compromised due to disease or injury, it causes the filtration process of the liver to be disrupted. If toxins are not neutralised, they pose a grave risk to blood health as well as organ function.

Prolonged liver impairment causes toxins such as ammonia to build up in the blood stream which places vital organs like the brain and nervous system at risk for hepatic encephalopathy or compromised brain function. With hepatic encephalopathy, as the tainted blood moves through the lungs the toxins are expelled in breath, creating fetor hepaticus, which is the scientific name for bad breath associated with liver disease.

The breath of someone who has hepatic encephalopathy usually smells musty. This musty smell has also often been referred to as the breath of the dead. Associated with late stage liver disease, treatments for hepatic encephalopathy and fetor hepaticus could range from changing ones diet to using medications specifically designed to flush the body of toxins. Hepatic encephalopathy is fatal if it is left untreated.

How to look after your liver

1. Alcohol
Try to keep the alcohol intake to a minimum. Alcohol damages the cells of the liver, which leads to swelling or scarring, that then become cirrhosis. This is deadly.

2. Lifestyle
Make sure that you are on a healthy diet and that you get regular exercise. If you are overweight, have diabetes or have high levels of fat in your blood, it could lead to a condition called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. This disease can also lead to cirrhosis. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease can be avoided by loosing that extra weight, exercising regularly and eating a healthy balanced diet.

3. Medications
Keep away from taking any medications that can harm the liver. Drugs for cholesterol and painkillers acetaminophen (Tylenol) is toxic to the liver if you take to much or for a extended period of time. You will be surprised to know that Tylenol is found in hundreds of medications such as cold medicines and in prescription pain medications. If you combine certain medications, or even if you consume alcohol with certain medications it is very toxic to your liver. Before combining any medications talk to your doctor about it first. One last thing, always follow the dosage information on any medication that you are taking.

4. Hepatitis
Become aware of hepatitis and how it can be transmitted. Hepatitis is a virus that causes the liver to become inflamed. There is more than one type of hepatitis, although the symptoms are the same they are not contracted the same way.

Hepatitis A is transmitted by water and is spread mainly through sewage and contaminated food and water. You can prevent hepatitis A by washing your hands regularly and by avoiding any unclean places.

Hepatitis B & C are transmitted through body fluids and blood. If these two hepatitis are not treated it could lead to cirrhosis, cancer of the liver as well as liver failure. Hepatitis B & C can be prevented by not sharing toothbrushes, razors and needles. Try to limit the sexual partners you have, and if you have more than one partner always wear a condom.