Monday, October 29, 2012

Beware of silent illness in liver

There is a saying in Korea that if a body is worth 1,000 won, then the liver comprises 900 won of that. Many people know that liver is important, but few people treat it as such. The liver is called the “silent organ,” as there are no symptoms even if 70 to 80 percent of it is destroyed. When you go to clinic after noting some symptoms, it is probably too late.

Doctors thus recommend regular checkups, and those carrying hepatitis viruses should take special heed. Seoul St. Mary’s Hospital in Gangnam and professor Jeong Sook-hyang at Seoul National University Bundang Hospital provided information on the liver and how to keep it healthy.

Role of the liver

Liver turns the diverse food we eat into essential nutrients that our body needs. As the brain uses glucose as a source of energy, it needs a continuous provision even when the stomach is empty. The liver serves as container for glucose to continuously provide it to the brain. It also manufactures or synthesizes protein, and contributes to the making of bile that helps absorb fat and fat-soluble vitamins. Albumin and some blood clotting factors are manufactured only by the liver.

Viruses and alcohol, enemies of the liver

When there is problem in the liver, one can feel fatigue, dyspepsia or nausea. However, in many cases there aren’t any particular symptoms until much of the organ is damaged. The ones that need the most attention are hepatitis B and C viruses. These cause over 60 percent of liver cancer. Fatty liver and alcoholic hepatitis are also increasing. If a person does not exercise while taking in too many calories, the leftovers are stored in the liver in the form of fat. Alcohol, obesity, diabetes and medicines can cause a fatty liver.

How to maintain a healthy liver

The most important thing is to abstain from alcohol, and maintain balanced nutrition. If people with an alcoholic fatty liver continue to take excessive alcohol, it may turn into cirrhosis. If those with liver disease quit alcohol, the possibility of cirrhosis or complication caused by cirrhosis drops and so does that of liver cancer.

One should also be careful with medicine intake as excessive doses or intake for a long time may cause toxic hepatitis. Not only modern medicines but also oriental medicine, health supplements, and herbal medicines can damage liver. Those with liver disease should take special heed as the side effects can be more serious for them.

Fatty food or eating too much can cause a fatty liver. Hence, it is recommended that one eat vegetables or food with abundant vitamins or proteins to keep liver healthy.

As it is involved in energy metabolism, overwork could weigh on liver. One should take adequate rest and exercise for a healthy liver. Adequate exercise is helpful even for hepatitis patients.

People should get vaccinated against for hepatitis B, and check if antibodies are formed. However, there is no vaccine yet for hepatitis C. One should avoid unhygienic procedures such as unauthorized acupuncture and tattooing. Reckless sexual relations or sharing needles should also be avoided.

Food and drink can also be contaminated by hepatitis viruses A and E. People should therefore check the hygiene of water and food they take outside home. Those aged under 40 should check if they have antibodies for hepatitis A and get vaccination. The hepatitis E virus is transmitted from raw meat or secretion of animals.

Advice: Seoul St. Mary’s Hospital, Professor Jeong Sook-hyang at Seoul National University Bundang Hospital.

Korea Times
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