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. At Medicircle, on the occasion of World Liver Day, which is celebrated on 19th April every year, we are speaking to eminent Gastroenterologists and Hepatologist to build awareness about the healthy functioning of the liver.
Dr. Yamini Chitra is a well-experienced Surgical Gastroenterologist and a Gastrointestinal Cancer Specialist. Her special interest has been hepatobiliary and pancreatic diseases. She has great expertise and experience in treating all types of gastro-related cancer starting from cancer of the esophagus, cancer of stomach, liver, gall bladder, pancreatic cancers, cancers of colon, rectum, and anal to name a few. She has been a great teacher to several batches of MBBS and postgraduate MS students in the past with several International publications to her credit. A two-time Gold medallist, she has won the Dr. Ramakrishnan Gold Medal in Pediatric Surgery in the year 2001 and the prestigious Dr. Rangabashyam Gold Medal for excellence in GI surgery in the year 2008.
Liver is a factory that performs many functions
Dr. Yamini describes, “Liver is like a factory that performs a lot of functions like production, cleansing, storage and excretes things also.
Production – Liver produces albumin which is a protein. Protein is needed for our body cells to build up. Clotting factors that help in clotting the blood are produced in the liver. When a person’s liver gets damaged, blood doesn’t clot, so there is a lot of blood loss, vomiting out blood. Liver is also responsible for bile production. Bile produces pith which is needed for the digestion of any fatty food and fat-soluble vitamins into your body.
Cleansing process - When we eat food, we indirectly take a lot of toxins and pesticides inside. These are broken down so that it doesn't harm us. All this is metabolized and thrown out of the body by the liver. When the liver is damaged, this cleansing work is affected. All bad products get stayed inside our bodies.
Storage – It stores glycogen. It is a storehouse of glucose and stores iron as well. When we need iron, it gets mobilized by the liver.”
Protect your liver by following simple safety measures
Dr. Yamini listed out some ways to keep our liver healthy
“We should adopt healthy lifestyle. By doing exercises we don’t put on excess weight. We should avoid obesity at any cost.
We have to eat a lot of healthy food that includes lot of vegetables and avoid all junk food.
There are diseases which can come through unsafe practices. If one of the partners has Hepatitis B and is doing unprotected sex, there is a chance of transmitting disease to the other partner also.
Hepatitis B and C viruses gets transmitted through blood. So, if an individual comes accidentally in contact with someone, you have to go and visit the doctor and get yourself checked.
People are not supposed to share shaving razors, nail clippers because all this can have blood. People have to be really cautious.
We have to wash our hands with soap and water because Hepatitis A virus can be transmitted through motion. One should also avoid eating in an unhygienic place. Hepatitis A infection affects our liver and people may get Jaundice.
People should not take overdose of OTC drug especially painkillers. Long-term consumption of pain killers can result in liver damage.
Teenagers and young adults should beware of drugs heroine, cocaine that can have a very bad effect on liver.”
Obesity is a slow killer
Dr. Yamini elaborates, “there are three components of food i.e protein, carbohydrate, and fat. Whatever excess we eat, it is stored as fat. This fat gets stored everywhere. It comes around our waist, belly, our legs become fat. What we see on the outer side of the body, the same happens to the organs inside. The liver also becomes plump with fat. Once the fat increases, it deposits in the liver. Around 20 years ago, there was alcohol-induced liver disease. Now it is obesity-induced nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. So once this fat goes in, it doesn't keep quiet, it starts irritating. So that irritation is called inflammation and gets swollen. Once it gets swollen, it initiates the damage where the liver cells start dying. So, in the fourth stage where liver cells die, something has to fill in the gap. So dead liver cells get replaced with scar tissue. Slowly a fatty liver gets condensed to a shrunken liver called Cirrhosis. In this way, obesity is a slow killer. So, we have to always remember that only the first stage of fatty liver is reversible. From the next stage which is inflammation to Cirrhosis we cannot reverse the condition, we can only avoid further damage but whatever damage has happened has happened,” says Dr. Yamini.
Healthy diet for a healthy liver
Dr. Yamini shares some healthy diet tips for healthy liver
“Eat vegetarian food. Eating green leafy vegetables is very good. Broccoli is a good antioxidant while avocado has got anti inflammatory properties. This will reduce the amount of stress on your liver and help it to regenerate. It will help to reduce the effects of toxins. Nuts are a rich source of antioxidants, one can take all types of nuts in a balanced way. Consuming small fish that contains omega three fatty acids are good for the liver.
Avoid meat because it will only add fat to your weight. Don't eat anything junk and more refined food like pizza, pastas, burgers as they don't add value to your food. Avoid alcohol and drugs. Overdose of simple painkillers may also harm the liver. Avoid unnecessary intake of medicines.”
Dr. Yamini adds, “Injection can be a source of contamination. Every time during injection, we have a risk of exposing ourselves to Hepatitis B, C, and also HIV. So, avoid injectables, if it can be 100% avoided but if there is no other move, we can go for it. Preferring needles over medicines for quicker action is a myth because everything has its own risk.”
(Edited by Renu Gupta)