Cutting This Popular Food From Your Diet Can Help Fix Your Liver, Experts Say
A simple change can help reverse damage and repair cells.
When it comes to liver health, many people focus on one thing that's known to cause problems: excessive alcohol. But experts say you're probably consuming something else that could be putting this vital organ in distress. Eating too much of this one popular food may cause non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which can easily lead to serious complications. As NAFLD progresses, it can lead to inflammation and compromised function, which in turn can cause scarring (cirrhosis), swelling, liver failure, and even liver cancer.
Read on to learn which popular food can set off this dangerous chain of events, and why cutting it from your diet can help fix the problem by putting your liver on the path to repair.
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Being overweight or obese increases your odds of developing NAFLD.
Most of us understand that maintaining a healthy weight is important for our overall health, but fewer among us recognize the link between weight and liver health specifically. However, "being obese is a contributing factor for liver disease," explains the British Liver Trust. In fact, due in part to rising obesity rates, "non-alcohol related fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is likely to overtake alcohol as the leading caused of liver disease in the next few years," the organization warns.
"Only 34 percent of people link being overweight with liver disease, compared to over 80 percent who understand the link between excess weight and heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes," their website notes. Those hoping to fix their liver health problems may therefore see results by losing weight, experts say.
This popular food could be harming your liver.
One popular food could be causing serious harm to your liver—and it's something most of us eat on a daily basis: added sugar. When you eat foods with added sugar, your body breaks it down into glucose, burning some of it immediately and storing the rest of it for later as reserve energy. "Any excess glucose in the blood is turned into fat cells," the British Liver Trust explains, noting that the liver is one of the places where this fat can be stored.
Over time, liver cells are gradually replaced by fat cells, leading to NAFLD. This can cause inflammation and liver damage as healthy liver cells are replaced by a buildup of fat cells. Your liver can then suffer a reduced ability to filter out toxins from the body, making it less and less effective in its important bodily functions.
Cutting sugar from your diet can help your liver repair itself.
The good news is that your liver is surprisingly good at repairing itself, when given the opportunity. "The liver is a unique organ. It is the only organ in the body that is able to regenerate," experts from the University of Iowa Health Care explain."With most organs, such as the heart, the damaged tissue is replaced with scar, like on the skin. The liver, however, is able to replace damaged tissue with new cells."
"You should limit your added sugar intake to no more than 25 grams per day," advises Lindsday Delk, RDN, a nutritionist with over 20 years experience. "Added sugar is any sugar that is added to food during processing or preparation. This includes sugars like granulated white sugar, brown sugar, powdered sugar, corn syrup, maple syrup, and honey," she notes.
Reducing your sugar intake may also help you lose weight, a measure which research shows is the single best way to reverse NAFLD. "Losing 10 percent of your current weight can dramatically decrease the amount of fat in the liver as well as reduce inflammation," say experts from Michigan Health.
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Making these other changes can also help reverse NAFLD.
Cutting added sugar from your diet should help repair at least some of the damage done to your liver, but experts say there are other ways to improve your liver health through as well. "Eat a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat meats and dairy," recommends Delk. However, she notes that you'll want to steer clear of liver detox programs, as these "are not helpful or effective, and some may even be harmful."
Speak with your healthcare provider for more information on how to prevent or manage non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.