Liver cancer is a terrible disease. It does not just affect your liver, but also the way your entire body works.
While a healthy liver has the ability to grow back, or regenerate, when it is damaged, chronic inflammation can damage the liver permanently… leading further to cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Unfortunately, there is no way to make up for loss of liver function in the long term. Although liver dialysis may help for a little while, liver transplantation is the only long-term solution for liver failure. Therefore, it’s vital that you take steps to keep your liver healthy and cancer-free.
6 Steps for Maintaining a Healthy Liver
While it’s true that liver cancer is a life-threatening condition, there are some things you can do to help prevent yourself from getting it in the first place. Some lifestyle and dietary changes may be necessary to help you avoid liver cancer.
1. Quit Smoking- If you already smoke, it’s a good idea to stop all-together. If you don’t smoke, continue to stay away from cigarettes. Avoiding cigarettes is crucial, not only to prevent liver cancer, but smoking cigarettes negatively affects your whole body as well.
- Try to quit smoking by reducing your cigarette consumption a little bit every day or by using cessation aids like nicotine patches.
- If you have trouble quitting smoking, contact your doctor for more support.
- If you don't smoke, stay away from people who do. Second-hand smoke is bad for you and can lead to increased risk of liver cancer as well.
2. Avoid drugs that were not prescribed by your doctor- Certain drugs can increase your risk of liver cancer. Your liver metabolizes any drug you ingest, so exposing your liver to potentially harmful drugs over long periods of time could lead to developing liver cancer.
3. Drink alcohol in moderation- Over time, drinking large quantities of alcohol can lead to cirrhosis, or scarring, of the liver which can contribute to liver cancer. Try to avoid drinking too much, specifically over long periods of time. Binge drinking (having more than five drinks in one sitting) is especially damaging to your liver. Consider completely eliminating alcohol to minimize the impact it may have on your liver.
- To maintain your health, women can drink up to one drink per day and men can drink up to two drinks per day.
- One drink is considered 12 fluid ounces of beer, 5 fluid ounces of wine, or 1.5 fluid ounces of distilled spirits.
4. Maintain a healthy weight- A big risk factor for liver cancer is having a fatty liver, which is caused by being overweight or obese – especially if you carry most of your weight around your midsection. Obesity can also lead to type 2 diabetes, which is associated with an increased risk of liver cancer.
- If you are overweight, try putting yourself on a diet and exercise plan that will allow you to shed some of the extra weight.
- Focus on eating healthy and aim for 30 minutes of exercise every day, even if it is just taking your dog for a walk.
- Talk to your doctor about what kind of diet and exercise plan is right for your body.
5. Watch what you eat- In order to promote liver health, you need to maintain a well-balanced diet on a regular basis. Try avoiding fatty, fried foods and be sure to get plenty of fresh veggies. To protect your liver, your diet should include the following foods:
- Raw plant food, especially raw vegetables
- Fresh fruit, but in small quantities
- Cooked vegetables (excluding starchy potatoes)
- Protein from seafood, poultry, lean red meat, eggs, and/or legumes
6. Preventing and understanding the risks of Hepatitis B and C- Since about 80% of people around the world who suffer from liver cancer also have either hepatitis B or hepatitis C, it is important to understand this correlation and what you can do to prevent infection. Chronic hepatitis infections can result in cirrhosis of the liver, which may lead to liver cancer over time.
Get vaccinated- The best way to protect yourself from contracting hepatitis B is by getting yourself vaccinated against this infection. The vaccine usually takes several months, as you have to get several injections spaced out weeks apart. You should be able to get a hepatitis B vaccination at any general practitioner or health clinic.
- Unfortunately, there is no vaccination for hepatitis C so you need to be cautious and use preventative measures.
Practice safe sex- Hepatitis B and C can both be spread through sexual intercourse, so you should always practice safe sex. This means using a condom unless you are certain about your partner’s sexual health. If you have multiple sex partners, you should always use a condom.
- Remember that sexually transmitted infections are exceedingly common these days.
- Every time you have sex without a condom, you put yourself at risk for contracting something.
Be careful when getting a tattoo or piercing- Getting tattooed or pierced can be very exciting, but make sure you choose a clean, professional setting with properly trained staff. Infections and diseases can be spread through improper hygiene of the shop or unclean equipment.
- The needles used for piercing and the needles that go inside the tattoo machine should always be brand new, opened in front of you, from sterile packaging.