Everything You Need to Know About Your Liver

Your liver is more important than you might know about, and a lot more than alcohol can impact its health. Keep reading to know more about factors influencing liver health.

By URLife Team
19 Apr 2024

Liver health might not be the first thing that comes to our mind until things go awry. It is an important organ in your body and has beyond 500 critical jobs to do. If you are a teetotaller and are under the impression that your liver is in good shape, it might surprise you that individuals who do not consume alcohol can also develop liver conditions.


Everything you end up eating or drinking, including medicine, passes through it. You need to treat it right so it can stay healthy and do its job. From removing all toxins to processing medications, and metabolising food, the functions of the liver extend far beyond building proteins and making bile. It even stores sugar for when you really need it and regulates hormone levels. For your liver, that’s all in a day’s work.


A 2022 study in the journal Clinical Liver Disease reveals that the burden of liver disease in India is significant because it alone contributed to 18.3 per cent of the two million global liver disease-related deaths. 


Another 2024 study published by the Apollo Hospitals found that 3 in 4 persons who came for preventive health check-ups were either obese or overweight, as per their BMI. Additionally, it's crucial to note that obesity is closely linked with liver diseases.


Let us understand the association of the liver with different aspects of our health.


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Symptoms of Liver Diseases

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
  • Abdominal pain and swelling
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dark urine
  • Pale-coloured stools
  • Itching
  • Easy bruising or bleeding


Fatty Liver

If you think only lifelong and habitual heavy drinkers can get liver cirrhosis, then you’re mistaken. Consuming just four ounces of hard liquor daily for men (two for women) can damage your liver. Forget this, even those who don’t consume at all can also have liver-related issues. The culprit could be an unhealthy diet, PCOS, obesity, high cholesterol or even a sedentary lifestyle.


Fatty liver disease, a condition characterised by the accumulation of fat in the liver cells, poses a significant health concern globally. It can manifest in two forms: alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD) and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). While AFLD is directly linked to excessive alcohol consumption, NAFLD primarily results from factors such as obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.


The Connection Between Liver Health and PCOS

According to a 2023 study published by the Journal of Clinical Medicine, approximately 25 per cent of the global population is suffering from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and there is a growing concern and strong association with PCOS. Having  PCOS may increase the risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).


In another 2014 study published by the World Journal of Gastroenterology, obesity and insulin resistance are considered to be the main factors related to NAFLD in PCOS. Excessive androgen levels may be an additional contributing factor to the development of NAFLD.


Treating PCOS and addressing associated factors like obesity, insulin resistance, and excessive androgen levels can help mitigate the risk and progression of NAFLD. Adopting a balanced diet and committing to regular exercise may not always be easy, but they are crucial steps in improving overall health.


A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism showed that women with PCOS who supplemented their diets with 4 grams of fish oil for eight weeks saw a significant decrease in liver fat and triglycerides.


Related Story: Healthy Eating Tips For Diabetes


Link Between High Cholesterol and Liver Disease

You must have probably heard that eating too much cholesterol is bad for your heart, but you’ll be surprised to know that it is even worse for your liver.


Most of the cholesterol you consume ends up in the liver. Consuming too much can increase your risk for fatty liver disease. Elevated cholesterol levels can also worsen fatty liver disease, leading to a more severe and sometimes fatal condition called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). If left unaddressed, fatty liver can lead to cirrhosis, liver inflammation, alcoholic liver disease and many more.


Regular aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking or swimming, can help improve overall health and support liver function. Additionally, reducing the intake of saturated and trans fats, commonly found in fried foods and processed snacks, can lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of fatty liver disease. Increasing fibre intake by consuming more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can aid digestion and promote liver detoxification. Limiting carbohydrates, particularly refined sugars and starches, can also help manage blood sugar levels and prevent excessive fat accumulation in the liver.


Research suggests that following a Mediterranean diet, which emphasises plant-based foods, healthy fats like those found in olive oil, and moderate consumption of lean proteins like fish, can be particularly beneficial for liver health.


Also, certain cholesterol medications may sometimes result in side effects that can lead to liver issues. Taking excessive amounts of the painkiller acetaminophen (Tylenol) can also harm your liver. You might be consuming more acetaminophen than you're aware of, as it's present in numerous medications such as cold remedies and prescription pain relievers. Some medications can adversely affect your liver if you consume alcohol alongside them, while others may pose risks when combined with other drugs. It's essential to chat with your doctor or pharmacist to ensure you're taking your medications in the safest manner possible.


Related story: What You Should Know About Cervical Cancer Screening—Pap Smear And HPV Test


The Association Between Liver Health and Weight Loss

A 2023 clinical trial published in the journal Obesity has shown that a three-month rapid weight loss programme was not only safe but also effective in reducing the severity of a liver disease called non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) with liver fibrosis.


A 2015 study showed that losing 10% of one’s body weight can reduce liver fat, resolve inflammation, and potentially improve scarring.


Another 2019  meta-analysis published in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers combined data from 22 studies and found that weight loss is instrumental in treating non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.


The above proves that weight loss is beneficial for individuals with liver conditions. However, if it is not done in a guided manner, it can even worsen the situation.


Rapid weight loss can contribute to the development of fatty liver disease due to several factors. When individuals engage in extreme or rapid weight loss methods, such as crash diets or very low-calorie diets, the body often metabolises fat stores rapidly to meet energy demands. As a result, large amounts of fatty acids are released into the bloodstream and transported to the liver for processing.


The liver, however, may become overwhelmed by the influx of fatty acids, leading to an imbalance in lipid metabolism. This imbalance can disrupt the normal processes of fat breakdown and removal from the liver, causing fat to accumulate within the liver cells. Additionally, rapid weight loss can exacerbate insulin resistance, a condition in which the body's cells become less responsive to insulin, leading to increased fat storage in the liver.


Moreover, rapid weight loss often involves significant muscle loss, which can further impair metabolic function and exacerbate insulin resistance. As a result, individuals undergoing rapid weight loss may be at an increased risk of developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), especially if they have pre-existing risk factors such as obesity, insulin resistance, or metabolic syndrome.


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Taking care of your liver is crucial for overall health. Avoiding excessive alcohol consumption is essential to prevent liver damage and diseases like cirrhosis. Additionally, adopting a healthy lifestyle with balanced nutrition and regular exercise can help maintain liver function and reduce the risk of conditions like fatty liver disease.


Regular health checks are essential for everyone, but they are particularly important for individuals who are at risk of or already have any underlying conditions. Taking regular health checks can help detect the condition at an early stage when it is easier to manage and treat. With the UR.Life lab tests, we help you to invest in your well-being through seamless interventions and targeted medical treatments.



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