The liver, not as strong as you think The liver, not as strong as you think

The liver, not as strong as you think

Special 10 December, 2016 Ana María López de Mesa


The number of those who suffer from fatty liver disease seems to be growing. Recommendations to prevent it include avoiding alcoholic beverages and only taking herbal medicines with the advice of a doctor.

Medical Advisor JUAN CARLOS RESTREPO – Hepatologist

When boxing matches escalate, the strong blows boxers make to their opponent’s liver does not come without a cost. When this vital organ hurts, it can bring even the biggest of builds to the floor. The greatest blows to the liver, however, do not come from the outside, they come directly from a careless diet: an excess intake of fat, alcohol, sugar and salt.

The liver is the body’s largest, most complex and most active organ. Its functions ae vital to keep the body going: it filters the blood that passes through it from the digestive tract, protects us from infections and helps to eliminate the bilirubin in the blood (a byproduct of decomposed red blood cells. Who can forget Juan Luis Guerra’s catchy song from the 90’s, “La bilirrubina,” (bilirubin)? Except it’s not love that make bilirubin levels rise (as the song goes), it’s not taking care of our liver.

Damage to this organ is caused by practices that can sometimes turn into daily habits. First and foremost is the excessive use of alcohol. This damages and destroys the liver’s cells, which deteriorates it down and allows for fat to accumulate in it, known as “fatty liver.” The liver becomes inflamed and can result in cirrhosis, which is essentially the scarring of the liver, and can lead to death.

The second leading cause of damage to the liver is self-medication. Some may think that this refers to taking a pill for a headache or for general discomfort. However, vitamins and herbal or weight loss supplements also play a role here as well as all those trending medications that are used without the advice of an independent doctor whose interest is not in making a profit. Taking these types of “medicines” can lead to liver failure or to serious levels of toxicity in the liver.

According to Juan Carlos Restrepo hepatologist, professor and coordinator of the Liver Transplant Group at Universidad de Antioquia the best way to care for the liver is to avoid “…consuming alcoholic beverages, unregistered herbal products, self-medication and to avoid the excess consumption of flours, sugars and fats.” Restrepo points out that while some people seem to be able to exaggerate their intake of fat and sugar, sooner or later the body ends up rejecting these practices and it is becoming more common to meet young people that suffer from fatty liver disease.

“If someone is diagnosed with a condition such as fatty liver disease, they should visit a hepatologist to determine whether this organ is inflamed or not and to detect its causes, as they can vary among patients. I have seen cases of individuals that do not drink alcoholic beverages, but that perhaps they frequently ate fried foods, which can lead to the onset of this disease. It is important to remember that all of our bodies are different and some are more likely to become ill than others,” Restrepo states.

One of the greatest risks of fatty liver disease or cirrhosis is that they can lead to cancer, which in most cases is devastating and acts quickly. Other liver diseases include hepatitis A, B and C, which are caused by consuming contaminated foods, obesity, allergic reactions or are sexually transmitted.
Experts recommend eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day (always fresh and well rinsed), drinking plenty of water, maintaining a balanced diet and avoiding becoming overweight •

45% is the percentage of alcohol in hard liquor. This percentage varies between 12 -15% in wine.
Men should have no more than two glasses a day.