You may already know that drinking too many alcoholic beverages wreaks havoc with your liver. But alcohol is not your only liver nemesis.
First of all, what does your liver do, and why should we care if havoc is wreaked with it? It's almost easier to tic off what it doesn't do. Your liver gland regulates plasma protein synthesis, glycogen storage, composition of red blood cells, hormone production, and detoxification, playing a major role in your metabolism. As an accessory digestive gland it produces bile. It synthesizes and breaks down small and complex molecules essential for many vital functions. All told, your liver – that most journeyman of glands – carries out something in the neighborhood of 500 key jobs.
The problem with having an organ that does so much is how vulnerable that single point of failure can make you. Lose your liver, and it's pretty much game over. Artificial livers are yet to be invented, and liver dialysis is only a short-term option.
So, take care of your liver, and go easy on these liver-killers:
Acetaminophen. We all know those people who pop acetaminophen-laden painkillers like Pez, and these folks are risking liver disease. Pay attention to the labels on the bottles when it comes to recommended or maximum daily doses, and heed the warnings.
Sugar. As if you needed one more reason to avoid this artificial sweetener, know that too much refined sugar and high-fructose corn syrup causes a fatty buildup that can lead to liver disease. In fact, research has shown that sugar can be as damaging to the liver as alcohol, even if you’re not overweight.
The herbal supplement kava kava. This may have surprised you. After all, “herbal” means “all natural,” and how can “all natural” be bad, right? But kava kava, which many women take for relief of menopause symptoms, can interfere with their liver's proper functioning and lead to hepatitis and liver failure. In fact, some countries have banned or restricted the herb, but it’s still available in the U.S.
Pro-Tip: You probably do not need any more Vitamin A than you are already getting from the plants in your diet. Even if you are a raging carnivore and salads are against your religion, you are still probably vitamin A-OK from the red, orange and yellow vegetables used to make your chiles and pizza sauces. This is important to bear in mind, as the high doses of vitamin A found in supplements can be a problem for your liver. Check with your doctor first before loading up on the supplemental Vitamin A.