5 Liver-Saving Strategies for the New Year

Dharani Guttikonda, MD; Nancy S. Reau, MD


December 23, 2019

4. Adopt a Mediterranean diet.

The Mediterranean diet is rich in plant-based foods, such as whole grains, seeds, nuts, legumes, fruits, and vegetables, and calls for moderate consumption of lean proteins, such as seafood and poultry, and avoidance of red meats and dairy.

Although there is no one-size-fits-all diet, many, including the European Association for the Study of the Liver, recommend adopting a Mediterranean diet to reduce hepatic fat and hepatic insulin sensitivity, independent of exercise and weight loss.[7,12] Adhering to the Mediterranean diet has also been linked to improvements in insulin resistance, inflammatory markers, and cardiovascular risk factors.[1,13,14]

5. Recognize the risk of a liver detox.

The sale of "liver detox" supplements has become increasingly common, and is especially popular during the holiday season. These supplements are not regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration and may actually be harmful to the liver, especially if the liver is stressed from overindulging in high-fat foods and alcohol.[15] LiverTox provides a valuable list of supplements linked to liver toxicity.

Although some supplements containing such ingredients as turmeric and milk thistle have observationally been used as an herbal treatment for liver conditions, human trials have been largely inconclusive about their efficacy.[16,17] Because the liver is self-cleaning, one of its jobs is removing toxins (including medications and supplements). Liver cleanses are also not intended to cure existing liver disease and do not replace the need for medications prescribed by a clinician.

Rather than investing in costly supplements, prevention through the lifestyle modifications is much safer and cost-effective.

Dharani Guttikonda, MD, is a fellow in gastroenterology/hepatology at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and is pursuing a career in transplant hepatology. Her clinical interests include nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, alcoholic hepatitis, acute cellular rejection, and pregnancy-related liver diseases.

Nancy S. Reau, MD, is chief of the hepatology section at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, and a regular contributor to Medscape. She serves as editor of Clinical Liver Disease, a multimedia review journal, and recently as a member of HCVGuidelines.org, a web-based resource from the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) and the Infectious Diseases Society of America, as well as educational chair for the AASLD hepatitis C special interest group. She continues to have an active role in the hepatology interest group of the World Gastroenterology Organisation and the American Liver Foundation at the regional and national levels.

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