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3 Lifestyle Changes for Better Liver Health

By Kate Silver

The liver plays a critical role in the body – processing nutrients, getting rid of toxins and making essential proteins. So, it is no surprise that liver disease is serious (or has serious implications). Given the general stigma that liver disease is caused by alcohol consumption1, the reality is that liver disease isn’t limited to those who drink alcohol. In fact, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) impacts nearly one-quarter of adult people living in the United States. 2NAFLD can progress to a condition called non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH. 3NASH is caused when fat accumulates in the liver, leading to inflammation, which can cause liver injury. 4 The chronic disease is often referred to as “silent” because NASH may not have any apparent symptoms, until it has reached an advanced stage.5 NASH, however, can lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer and even liver failure in some extreme cases.6 Experts say that in the near future, NASH is expected to become the leading cause of liver transplantation.7

Research shows that certain risk factors may increase the likelihood of developing NASH, including obesity, Type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance.8 While the prospect of developing NASH may be concerning, a number of lifestyle changes9 may help lower the risk of developing the condition. Here are a few simple steps to take to help retain liver health.

1) Eat a healthy diet to maintain a healthy weight10

As a general rule, people should aim to incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products into their daily diets. This means limiting foods that are high in cholesterol, processed foods, sugars and saturated fats (the United States Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate provides visuals on how a healthy plate should look). Abiding by a healthy and balanced diet can help keep off excess weight, a common risk factor for NASH.

2) Make a habit out of exercise11

It is said that exercise is “nature’s tonic” – it enhances mood, burns fat, and improves energy levels. To reap the benefits of exercise, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults aim to achieve at least 150 minutes of moderate activity, 75 minutes of vigorous activity, or a combination of both, each week.12 The CDC also recommends strength-training activities that involve all muscle groups at least two days per week.

3) Watch your alcohol intake

Although NASH is not directly caused by alcohol consumption, excessive drinking may contribute to liver disease.13

Knowledge is the first step to better health. When people make strides to care for themselves, especially their weight and diet, it can have a long-term impact in preventing NASH and related conditions.

  1. Current Indications, Contraindications, Delisting Criteria, and Timing For Transplantation.” Transplantation of the Liver (third edition): 2015
  2. The Facts About Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease,” American Liver Foundation.
  3. The Facts About Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease,” American Liver Foundation.
  4. What is Nash?” The NASH Education Program.
  5. What is Nash?” The NASH Education Program.
  6. NAFLD and NASH Research Update,” Mayo Clinic.
  7. NAFLD and NASH Research Update,” Mayo Clinic.
  8. Risk Factors [for NASH],” The NASH Education Program.
  9. What is Nash?” The NASH Education Program.
  10. The Facts About Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease,” American Liver Foundation.
  11. The Facts About Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease,” American Liver Foundation.
  12. “Physical Activity Guidelines,” CDC.
  13. Alcohol and Public Health,” CDC.