Our Liver. Our Life.Without the liver, we couldn't digest food and absorb nutrients, get rid of toxic substances from our body or stay alive. Everything we eat, drink, breathe and absorb through our skin eventually reaches the liver.
What Does Our Liver Do?
Liver ProblemsExcessive alcohol consumption over many years is a leading cause of liver disease. Too much alcohol can make a normal liver swell with fat, causing a condition called fatty liver. If the fat becomes inflamed, it can lead to either alcoholic hepatitis, a liver problem that causes serious but often reversible liver damage, or cirrhosis, which causes irreversible liver damage. Because of extensive scarring, a cirrhotic liver shrinks to a fraction of its normal size.
Viral hepatitis can lead to serious liver problems and is the most common type of liver disease. Hepatitis causes inflammation of the liver. The three types of hepatitis viruses - hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C - can all be prevented.
Signs and SymptomsSigns and symptoms of liver problems include:
To keep our liver healthy and avoid any potential liver problems, see the doctor if we have any signs or symptoms that concern us.
Protect Our LiverHere are the most important things we can do to protect our liver:
Milk ThistleMilk thistle (Silybum marianum) has been used since Greco-Roman times as a herbal remedy for a variety of ailments, particularly liver problems.
Milk thistle is believed to have protective effects on the liver and improve its function. It is typically used to treat liver cirrhosis, chronic hepatitis (liver inflammation), and gallbladder disorders. Silymarin, which can be extracted from the seeds (fruit) of the milk thistle plant, is believed to be the biologically active part of the herb.
Silymarin, which actually consists of a group of compounds called flavonolignands, helps repair liver cells damaged by alcohol and other toxic substances. Silymarin also keeps new liver cells from being destroyed by these same substances, reduces inflammation (important for people with liver inflammation or hepatitis), and has potent antioxidant effects.
Source: National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, U.S. National Institutes of Health; University of Maryland Medical Center.