Time to love your liver

This week, Sally tells us why we should love our livers, for the sake of our long-term health. Also this week, a little gift, from the VavistaLife team to you!

It may not be something that you give much thought to (other than the morning after a heavy night out on the town) but your liver is pretty incredible. Not only does it deal with that overindulgence in alcohol (it’s basically a poison filtering system for you) but it also helps you to absorb food, and processes, stores or breaks down substances vital for normal bodily functions. It’s important too in releasing energy sources when we need them. So we should be looking after it really well – after all, unlike our kidneys, we only have the one. But, it’s under threat…

Did you know that your liver can get fat too? Not a nice thought but as someone who is privileged to see inside the human body each week when operating, it is clear that this is a problem that is on the increase. It is sad to see an organ, as efficient and amazing as the liver, struggling to do its job due to damage by overeating.

We all know that alcohol in excess can do dreadful things to our poor livers…and in severe cases can cause liver disease such as cirrhosis. But doctors are now increasingly concerned that obesity seems to be overtaking alcohol as the leading cause of cirrhosis. In fact, experts believe that by 2020, more liver transplants will be linked to over-eating than alcohol abuse.

What is fatty liver?
Around a third of us are now suffering from nonalcoholic fatty liver disease – a build up of fat in liver cells associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol or high triglycerides. You don’t have to be severely obese to suffer from this – simply being overweight, particularly if you carry your fat around the middle, puts you at risk. Most people with fatty liver aren’t even aware of it …although it can show up on blood tests raising concerns about other illnesses such as gallstones or hepatitis. However, in some people it can lead to inflammation followed by scarring (cirrhosis) and in rare cases, liver failure or cancer.

What can you do?

• Lose weight
This is the best way to reduce your risk– and also helps to treat any type 2 diabetes, that can go hand-in-hand. It can also reverse fatty liver disease in those who have already developed it. Once the inflammation and scarring have occurred, it may be too late.
• Check your waist:hip ratio.
Divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement. as, if this ratio is over 1 in men or over 0.85 in women, there is a greater risk of having fatty liver and other health problems – even if you aren’t really overweight.
• Eat ‘real food’
Check your diet to ensure you are eating plenty of fresh veg, protein, wholegrains and healthy fats in moderation. Avoid processed foods wherever possible. It all helps weight loss and gives your liver fewer chemicals to worry about!
• Ditch sugar
Several studies show that our high sugar diet can increase fatty deposits in the liver so try to take heed of the recent World Health Organisation guidelines that recommend no more than 12 teaspoons (ideally 6) of added sugar per day. Added sugar is any sugar other than that found in whole fruit and milk so check the labels carefully.
water fizzy drinks• Cut the fizzy drinks
It seems that sugary drinks are particularly bad news for your liver with research showing that people who had more than one sugary drink per day had more fat in their liver than those who didn’t have those sugary drinks – even after accounting for their overall calorie intake, weight and various other factors. Researchers suggest that it is the fructose type of sugar in these drinks that is the major cause of fat being deposited in the liver.
• Exercise
A recent study from Australia found that any exercise – doesn’t really matter how much or of what type – helped to reduce fat in the liver and around other internal organs. Researchers performed MRI scans to measure changes in internal fat over an 8 week period in 48 overweight or obese individuals who were enrolled in different exercise programmes. They showed a significant drop in fat in the groups that performed any sort of exercise over the group that did none at all….even if they didn’t lose any overall weight in that time.

It can be really disheartening when our attempts at eating healthily and exercising don’t seem to make a jot of difference to the number on the weighing scales. That is far less important, though, than what is going on inside. It may be some consolation to know that as long as you are eating better and doing some form of exercise, regardless of weight-loss, your liver will be far happier – and work better for you as a result. Love your liver and it will love you back for many more years to come!

References:
Effect of aerobic exercise training dose on liver fat and visceral adiposity, Nathan Johnson, et al., Journal of Hepatology 2015

Exercise and improvement of NAFLD: Practical recommendations, Roohit Loomba, Helena Cortez-Pinto, Journal of Hepatology 2015

McPherson S, Hardy T, Henderson E, Burt AD, Day CP, Anstee QM. Evidence of NAFLD progression from steatosis to fibrosing-steatohepatitis using paired biopsies: Implications for prognosis and clinical management. Journal of Hepatology 2015

Ma, J; Fox, CS; Jacques, PF; Speliotes, EK; Hoffmann, U; Smith, CE; Saltzman, E; and McKeown, NM. Sugar-Sweetened Beverage, Diet Soda, and Fatty Liver Disease in the Framingham Study Cohorts.Journal of Hepatology, June 2015


FINALLY…

I’ve been a big fan of Andrew Johnson’s Deep Sleep App for a long time – nothing beats it when it comes to helping calm your mind and set you off on a deep, relaxing snooze, and so when Andrew got in touch with us to kindly share a free trial of some of his bestselling tracks (including the Deep Sleep Track), I of course jumped at the chance to let you all in on this favourite of mine.

There are a vast array of apps and tracks in his series, and this set of bestsellers includes a relaxation track (perfect for those of you who struggle to unwind), a meditation track (a simple, but effective one suited to beginners), and a self-confidence track that is designed to help boost self-esteem. The four free tracks are available online and can be played on your computer, or from your mobile or tablet… so just click on the button below and get started!

Head over to listen.withandrewjohnson.com to get listening.