Although it is the body’s most active vital organ, it is alarming how little people actually know about its functions, and how that information should be put to use.
Many of the beliefs we have about the liver are outdated or simply incorrect. As a liver specialist at Southern California Liver Centers who is a board-certified doctor in internal medicine, gastroenterology and transplant hepatology, here are a handful of tips as well as the five most common myths debunked about the liver I generally hear as a doctor specializing in treating viral hepatitis, fatty liver and cirrhosis, as well as caring for patients before and after liver transplantation. These will help you better understand the liver and the purpose it serves, which leads to a healthier lifestyle overall.
- MYTH: Once my liver goes bad, it is ruined forever. The liver is actually the most forgiving organ, due to the fact that liver cells regenerate very quickly. In fact, if you were to cut the liver in half, within two weeks it would be 80 to 90 percent regenerated. It is even possible to operate on an infected liver and make it “brand new” once again. However, lifestyle changes must occur to prevent a liver infection from happening again.
- MYTH: I can’t drink at all if I want to have a healthy liver. This simply is not true. The key to maintaining a healthy liver is moderation–and yes, that applies to alcohol. In order to enjoy a few drinks while still maintaining a healthy liver, it is important to eat nutritious foods throughout the day to make sure your liver can properly metabolize the alcohol. Southern California Liver Centers recommends limiting yourself to two or three drinks during a night out to ensure optimal liver health in the long term.
- MYTH: I have liver pain or other problems, I should see a gastroenterologist. While it is true that gastroenterologists are well-versed in the overall functions of the digestive system, they are not solely focused on the liver. It is actually recommended that you see a liver specialist when you are experiencing problems with your liver, as they can assess the problems you are dealing with directly and recommend lifestyle changes to put you on track to a healthier liver.
- MYTH: I should only care about my liver if I have pain. Since the liver is the filter through which everything you consume passes through, it is important to pay attention to it even when you are not experiencing pain. If young people are thinking about their liver health before it becomes a problem, there is a high chance that they won’t ever have to deal with issues. It is important to know how to take care of your liver before it becomes a problem so you can reduce the high risk your liver faces as you age.
- MYTH: Since a parent had liver problems, I will also have liver problems. While genetics do play a role in liver health, dieting factors are just as, if not more, important. By paying attention to what exactly you are consuming, and therefore putting through your liver, you can offset your genetic predisposition to fatty liver or liver failure. You only inherit your family’s genes, not their habits, after all.