A healthy liver is essential to your overall wellness. The liver plays a vital role in keeping our bodies functioning, and liver disease is a serious health issue that can have devastating effects if it goes undiagnosed.
Listen to your body and look for signs that may indicate your liver is in distress. This will ensure you get the help you need before serious damage is done. Before we get to the symptoms of an unhealthy liver, though, let’s take a look at what a healthy liver actually does.
What’s a liver for, anyway?
The liver is a large, bright red organ that sits protected inside the rib cage above the stomach. Its main jobs are to filter blood coming from the digestive tract, metabolize drugs, break down fats and nutrients so they are easier for your body to absorb, and regulate chemicals in the bloodstream. It is a crucial part of your entire digestive system.
Among the liver’s most important jobs is breaking down and filtering out any harmful substances. The toxins then leave the liver in the form of bile and eventually exit the body as waste.
When your liver is struggling to work properly, it will negatively affect your entire body.
Liver disease can be caused by a genetic trait, lifestyle choices, or both. Fortunately there are a handful of common, easily spotted symptoms that are often dead giveaways that your liver isn’t doing too well.
1. A very important symptom—and perhaps the most alarming—is the color of your urine and feces.
Anytime your body’s waste is dark, tar colored, or bloody, it’s time to go see a doctor ASAP.
2. Constant feelings of fatigue might indicate a liver that’s having a hard time.
3. Lots of things cause nausea. Liver disease could be one of them.
4. People with struggling livers often suffer from diminished appetite.
5. Most obvious of all, pain or inflammation in your liver tells you something’s not right.
6. The yellowing of skin and eyes (known as jaundice) and severe fluid retention are other well-known symptoms of liver failure.
When your liver starts to shut down, it’s unable to properly filter out waste products, and your body begins to retain toxins.
Some Not-So-Common Symptoms and Causes
In addition to the obvious body signs associated with liver failure, there’s a whole list of uncommon symptoms as well. These include bad breath and body odor, extremely itchy skin, bruising easily, developing new allergies, and the development of spider angiomas (swollen capillaries close to the surface of the skin).
Although you can’t control genetic factors that cause liver disease, there are lifestyle factors that can affect liver health and function. If you contract a virus that specifically attacks the liver, such as hepatitis A, B, or C, you will now be dealing with a compromised organ. Being overweight or drinking excessively can also lead to liver scarring or cirrhosis.
The earlier liver disease is diagnosed, the better. With enough time, there are changes you can make to your life and diet to reroute the course of the disease.
The liver has an impressive ability to regenerate and heal itself when given a chance to do so. It’s important to eat well, exercise regularly, and go in for annual checkups to stay on top of your liver health.