The One Surprising Habit That Could Drastically Improve Your Liver Health

Woman with liver for awareness

When it comes to liver health, many people already know that drinking alcohol in excess is a habit to avoid. While it’s true that habitually drinking alcohol isn’t good for liver health, there’s more to protecting your liver than watching how much you drink.

In fact, Dr. Arvinder S. Bhinder, MD, an oncologist with OhioHealth who has been treating patients with liver cancer for 17 years, says there’s one habit in particular he wishes more people knew was important for liver health.

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How To Know How Well Your Liver Is Functioning

The liver is a crucial organ; you can’t live without it. Some of the functions the liver is responsible for include supporting metabolism, immune health, digestion, detoxification and vitamin storage.

Since we can’t see the liver, it can be tricky to know what type of shape your liver is in. However, Dr. Bhinder says there are signs a liver isn’t functioning well, which include fatigue, nausea, appetite, weight loss, jaundice and pain in the upper right of your midsection. “These symptoms can be vague or hard to track down, but anyone that is consistently experiencing these symptoms should call a liver specialist as soon as possible to get their liver enzymes checked,” he explains.

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When liver damage is advanced, Dr. Bhinder says that the immune system becomes severely weakened due to a decrease in white blood cells and platelets, explaining, “The liver plays a very important role in destroying toxins in the body, and it’s important that we are armed with the knowledge to take care of it."

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The Surprising Habit That Can Protect Your Liver

If you want to support your liver, Dr. Bhinder says that one important habit everyone should work toward is maintaining a healthy body mass index (BMI). “Often when BMI increases, there is a higher chance that things will go south. Patients with a higher BMI are more likely to have what we call a fatty liver, which is more susceptible to liver diseases. I often recommend that patients keep their BMI under 25,” he explains.

With this in mind, Dr. Bhinder shares that it’s important to maintain a healthy lifestyle that’s consistent through both diet and exercise habits. In terms of diet, he says to avoid rich, fatty foods such as ultra-processed foods. Though a diet high in saturated fats is linked to liver damage, incorporating unsaturated fats such as nuts, avocado and olive oil is linked to supporting liver health.

As you might suspect, Dr. Bhinder also says it’s important to limit alcohol consumption. It’s advice you’ve likely heard before, but there’s a reason why it’s so often repeated. If you don’t drink alcohol at all, your odds of getting liver disease are very low.

Dr. Bhinder emphasizes that there is no medication that can bring down liver fat; that’s why maintaining a healthy BMI is so important. In terms of if liver damage is reversible, Dr. Bhinder says this depends on how severe the damage is. “If you are in the early stages of liver damage, it is possible to turn it around through a healthy lifestyle and diet adjustments. However, if faced with cirrhosis or a more severe liver disease, it is not possible to reverse the damage, but it is possible to keep it from progressing,” he explains.

If someone has been diagnosed with cirrhosis or hepatitis C, Dr. Bhinder says that treatment includes screening for liver cancer every six months to a year as a way to take preventative measures, explaining, “Liver cancer is much more likely to happen when there is preexisting liver disease, and we want to prioritize prevention as much as possible."

Of course, it’s best if your liver never reaches this dangerous point in the first place. By having healthy habits in place that are connected to maintaining a healthy BMI, you’ll be supporting your entire body—your liver included.

Next up, check out this list of 12 foods that support liver health.