Body

4 ways to help prevent liver damage

Take these steps to protect your liver and keep it healthy for life.

By Debbie Duncan

We look at four factors that impact the health of your liver.

Lower your alcohol intake

Heavy alcohol use is a major cause of cirrhosis and other liver damage like fatty liver disease, which is the most common of the alcohol-induced liver disorders.

Fat accumulates inside the liver cells, causing cells to enlarge. The liver becomes enlarged, causing discomfort on the upper right side of the abdomen.

What to do: The liver can only process so much alcohol at one time. New Zealand alcohol guidelines recommend no more than two standard drinks on any day for women, but not drinking at all is best for your liver health.

Quit smoking

We all know smoking is hazardous to our health.

Lighting a cigarette creates more than 4000 harmful chemicals with hazardous adverse effects on almost every organ in the body. But smoking is also linked to liver cancer. If you have existing liver disease, smoking may increase the toxic effect of some medications on the liver.

It's not only smokers who are at risk though – scientists have found even second-hand tobacco smoke exposure can result in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Second-hand smoke is the combination of smoke exhaled by a smoker and smoke given off by a burning cigarette.

What to do: Giving up smoking is hard, and to give up for good you may need support. Call Quitline on 0800 778 778. Ask family members or friends who smoke to do so outside where smoke can't blow into the house, and never in the car.

Be careful when getting piercings and tattoos

Tattoos and piercings are increasingly common in the modern world.

If the equipment used to create your tattoo is contaminated with infected blood, you can contract various blood-borne diseases that affect your liver, such as hepatitis B and C and other infections.

What to do: If you are considering having a tattoo or piercing, ensure you go only to a reputable parlour that uses sterilised equipment and follows proper infection control protocols between clients.

Be careful with medication and drugs

It's not just recreational drugs that pose a danger to our livers; prescribed and over-the-counter medications also put liver health at risk.

Over-the-counter analgesics for headaches, coughs and colds, menstrual pain, and muscle aches often contain paracetamol, and we may take more than one product at a time. Unintentional overdose of paracetamol is a major cause of liver failure.

What to do: Follow instructions carefully and pay attention to product ingredients to avoid doubling up.

Always speak to your doctor or pharmacist if you have existing liver disease. This damage can be worse when these drugs are combined with alcohol or other drugs.

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