About the size of a football that rests under your rib cage, your liver is responsible for various functions in the body, such as filtering toxins and processing medicines. An unhealthy liver, therefore, causes multiple problems. This article will go over ten signs your liver is struggling with and what you can do to maintain a healthy liver.
Learn 10 Signs Your Liver Is Struggling and 5 Ways to Protect It
Liver disease can be inherited or caused by various factors that impair the liver, such as viruses, alcohol use, and obesity. Here are ten signs your liver is struggling.
10 Signs of Liver Damage
This might be the first sign your liver is struggling. A dark orange, amber, or brown urine might indicate liver illness. The dark urine color is due to a build-up of bilirubin in the liver. Bilirubin is a yellowish pigment produced in the liver after red blood cells are broken down. After passing through the liver, it is excreted out of the body through waste products.
Yellow Skin or Eyes
Like dark urine color, a change in skin and eye color might also occur due to the build-up of bilirubin. Seeing your skin or the whites of your eyes turning yellow can be a sign of liver damage. The discoloration might be due to various liver diseases, ranging from cirrhosis to hepatitis B.
Black and Tarry Stools
If your stools are black and tarry, it may indicate liver failure due to blood passing through the gastrointestinal tract. When veins inside the gastrointestinal tract swell — a condition commonly associated with cirrhosis or other severe liver diseases — they might rupture, resulting in either bloody stools or black, tarry stools.
A bruise occurs when blood gets trapped under the skin, usually due to an impact that damages a blood vein. However, you may bruise without any significant impact if the liver stops producing the proteins that help in blood clotting. As a result, you may suffer from bleeding and easy bruising.
A damaged liver also causes reddening in both palms due to increased dilation of blood vessels. It typically occurs on the lower part of the palm, although it can sometimes spread up into the fingers. The degree of redness is often related to the severity of the liver disease. According to research, 23% of people with liver cirrhosis suffer from reddened palms.
Swollen Abdomen, Legs, and Ankles
Another warning sign is the swelling in the abdomen, legs, and ankles. These body parts might become swollen due to fluid retention. Fluid retention is the most common symptom of liver disease, affecting about 50% of cirrhosis patients. This occurs when your liver cannot produce albumin, a protein preventing bloodstream leaks into tissue.
Itching is another symptom of chronic liver disease. You might have a localized itch on your lower arm or a diffuse itch, which spreads all over the body. Itching might be due to increased bile salt levels under the skin. However, not everyone with high bile salt levels is itchy, and some people are itchy even though their bile salt levels are normal.
Nausea and an upset stomach are common early signs of liver disease. Constant nausea is a reaction to the body’s excessive waste products. It occurs if there is a toxin build-up in the bloodstream as the liver fails to filter harmful substances.
Patients with liver disease frequently report fatigue. According to research, fatigue in primary biliary cirrhosis is present in 85.3% of the patients. It is one of the worst symptoms in about half of them. Although the cause of fatigue in liver disease is unknown, it is related to abnormalities in neurotransmission between the diseased liver and the brain.
Loss of Appetite
The last sign your liver is struggling is a loss of appetite. Research has shown that malnutrition is highly prevalent in chronic liver disease, affecting up to 80% of patients with decompensated cirrhosis. Inflammation, early satiety, and taste changes can all affect food consumption.
5 Ways to Protect Your Liver
Get the hepatitis A and B vaccines if you’re at risk of contracting hepatitis. According to research, vaccine protection against hepatitis A is expected to last 20–25 years. In comparison, that number against hepatitis B is at least 15 years. Research also suggests that both types of vaccines can provide lifelong protection.
Ensure Food Safety
Before eating or preparing food, wash your hands thoroughly with antibacterial soap. Avoid raw food and cook at least 75°C or hotter to kill any harmful bacteria. It will be best if you also use a thermometer to monitor the temperature of cooked foods and reheat them until they are steaming hot.
Protect Your Skin
Wear gloves, long sleeves, and a mask to prevent toxins from being absorbed through your skin when working with harmful chemicals. Multiple studies have suggested a link between pesticide exposure and liver cancer. In particular, organochlorine pesticides may increase hepatocellular carcinoma risk.
Reduce Alcohol Consumption and Maintain a Healthy Weight
It would be best to consume no more than two drinks per day since alcohol is harmful to the liver. More than eight drinks per week for women and more than 15 drinks per week for males is considered heavy or high-risk drinking. In addition, try to keep your body in good shape since obesity can cause nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
Take Drugs Only When Necessary and in Recommended Doses
Take prescription only when necessary and only in the specified dosages. Don’t mix drugs and alcohol under any circumstance. Before using herbal supplements with prescription or nonprescription medications, consult your doctor.
5 Signs Your Liver Is Healing
If you have executed all the ways above to protect your liver, you should expect these five signs indicating that your liver is getting healthier:
- Feeling more energized
- Having clearer and healthier skin
- Having better digestion without any bloating or nausea
- Noticing reduced inflammation
- Getting better sleep and an improved mood
Your liver is an essential part of your digestive system. Therefore, being able to notice the signs your liver is struggling allows you to keep your liver healthy and prevent the potential problem from escalating.
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