Deaths from liver diseases, such as hepatitis C (up 123 % in the last decade), and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is rising with the obesity rate, and liver cancer is one of only a few types of cancer on the rise. Why?

Dr. Gerard Mullin, MD, director of Integrative GI Nutrition Services at John’s Hopkins Hospital, says that more than half of acute liver failure cases are due to drug-induced causes. “Whether the increase is due to the potency of prescription drugs, a weak immune system, or abuse is unknown.” Dr. Mullin listed six of the most common medications that harm the liver. 1. Acetaminophen (Tylenol), especially with alcohol. 2) NSAID’s such as aspirin and ibuprofen. 3) Antifungal antibiotics, such as Sporanox and Lamisil. 4) Antihypertensives (to lower blood pressure) such as diuretics and ACE inhibitors. 5) Antidepressants, such as SSRI’s. 6) Statins such as Lipitor and Zocor.

Protect your liver! It is the body’s largest organ and is the true alchemist of the body, responsible for more than 500 different functions, from breaking down fats, getting rid of toxins, and basically keeping you alive between meals (by controlling blood sugar). Liver disease is insidious; symptoms are vague or non-existent, especially early on, when intervention would be most beneficial.

Stay away from trans fats, sugars, and processed food, and keep saturated fat use minimal. These all make the liver sluggish. Extra protein also adds to the liver’s workload, since the amino group must be clipped from the protein molecule and converted into ammonia for excretion. Fruits and vegetables, and foods rich in omega-3 fats boost liver function. Green tea consumption has also shown to reduce the risk of liver damage.

I blogged yesterday about the beneficial effects of the cruciferous and onion family of vegetables. Another way to bolster the liver is with supplementation. Turmeric powder, selenium, milk thistle, and vitamins E, C, and A are also important. Keep in mind that supplementation will not make up for a poor diet. Exercise is also a must.

Try to eliminate as many toxins as possible. Don’t use any plastic containing the chemical bisphenol (BPA), avoid fumes from solvents, avoid cigarette smoke, and buy organic when possible. Limit alcohol consumption. Help the liver live.

Stay well, John R Blilie, M.S.