The liver is the second largest organ in our body and should be given the same importance as the brain and the heart. It is a key player in the body's digestive system. The liver functions are very important in our body and contribute to the digestive functioning for effective metabolism. Over the past decade, there has been a steady rise in the number of cases of liver diseases. World Liver Day is observed on the 19th of April every year. At Medicircle, on the occasion of World Liver Day, we are speaking to eminent Gastroenterologists and Hepatologist to build awareness about the healthy functioning of the liver.
Dr. Sheetal Mahajani is a Top Liver Physician. She is the Director of Hepatology, Transplant Hepatology, Gastroenterology, and GI Endoscopy in Sahyadri Speciality Hospital in Pune. She is also the Founder and Director of LIVER CARE Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and GI Endoscopy Clinic in Pune. She's instrumental in starting liver transplants and also led the first liver transplant program in Pune. She has completed over 95 transplant surgeries since then and is considered the best Liver Transplant Physician in Pune. She is an expert in liver transplant medicine and specializes in treating end-stage liver disease patients before and after transplant. She is also an expert in liver critical care. She is known for her pioneering work in creating awareness for liver diseases and liver donations. She is keen on organ donation awareness programs. she has created "liver support group" and "liver foundation".
Jaundice is the common symptom of liver disease
Dr. Sheetal addresses, “liver does not give any signals in asymptomatic stage of liver disease. But there are multiple symptoms that can present as a part of a presentation of liver disease. First and foremost is Jaundice, yellowish discoloration of eyes and urine. With Jaundice, sometimes people can have itching also. Sometimes one can simply feel that there is no appetite at all, you want to eat but you can't eat, lethargy, tiredness is also seen in some cases. When the liver disease advances especially Cirrhosis or Chronic Liver Disease, one can have symptoms in the form of a collection of fluid in the tummy, one can start getting edema over feet, sometimes people become drowsy, they are not clear in their thoughts, they start becoming irrelevant, one can have potential bleeding, either you can vomit blood or you can pass blood in the stools that are a very dreadful complication of liver disease. Because of liver disease, you can also have kidney problems as people can start having less and less urine output. Sometimes liver cannot produce any symptoms meaning it is the asymptomatic phase. So, it is important for us to find out,” speaks Dr. Sheetal.
Patients with co-morbidities should have regular liver function tests
Dr. Sheetal informs, “If somebody is obese or is diabetic or has thyroid problems or is struggling with lipids, all these patients should regularly have their liver functions tested. It is nothing but a simple blood test, which tells you about your bilirubin percentage and enzymes. But it's a good idea to have one liver function test every year especially after 40 years of age because it reflects your body's metabolism overall.”
Poor lifestyle often results in Fatty liver diseases
Dr. Sheetal expresses, “Fatty liver has become the important presentation of our poor or bad lifestyle. If we will start doing sonography for the general population, almost 30 - 35% of obese people will have fatty liver, but certain lean individuals may also have fatty liver. It simply means that it is our poor lifestyle that has resulted in fatty liver. Now, there are two parts of this fatty liver disease, one part is any liver disease like alcoholic liver disease, hepatitis B or C, or other complicated liver diseases like autoimmune liver disease, etc. These diseases are related to your lifestyle. And these individuals necessarily have to put in a lot of effort regarding three important things - they have to keep their weight in check, they have to start exercising regularly especially the aerobic exercise in the form of brisk walking, simple walking, swimming, running, jogging, etc. And the third important thing is they have to start observing their diet. One cannot have too much oil and fat in their diet,” talks Dr. Sheetal.
One should avoid junk food for a healthy liver
Dr. Sheetal speaks, “So, all of us love eating outside and outside food is absolutely junk with lots of oil. As a result, it is one of the major factors why people have started having fatty liver. Now in lockdown, I think many people might have lost weight because of the simple fact that they have stopped eating out. Barring these, there are certain medications, vitamin supplements, or newer molecules that are contributing but this takes a lot of time for fatty liver to revert back to normal. Having said that, the lifestyle change is the bottom line for fatty liver, which is very difficult yet so important.”
Balanced diet acts as a tonic for the liver
Dr. Sheetal says, “Liver is a very silent and robust organ of our body. I call it silent because all we have to do is maintaining a nice good discipline lifestyle and give balanced food to the liver. With a little exercise, the liver is very happy. So, you don't really require any additional supplements. However, there is a certain role of vitamin E, caffeine to some extent which is there in coffee, and garlic. All these natural things are known to cause some boosting effect on the liver. But that doesn't mean one can start having plenty of all this because that will have harmful effects on something else. So, a balanced diet is a tonic for the liver. Avoiding alcohol, avoiding fatty food, avoiding junk, avoiding excess of anything, keeps your liver in proper shape. There is no quick fix for the liver. It’s only a balance wholesome meal that works,” adds Dr. Sheetal.
(Edited by Renu Gupta)