The liver is the body’s largest glandular organ and has hundreds of important functions. The three most essential functions are producing bile to aid digestion, cleansing harmful toxins from the blood and storing glucose to fulfill the body’s energy needs.
With the vital role that your liver plays in your body, it is important to pay attention to its health. Diet, exercise and adequate sleep are three keys to a healthy liver.
By avoiding an excess of toxic food and beverages, such as alcohol, coffee and refined grains, you’ll be doing a great favor to your liver’s health.
When anything goes wrong with the liver, the effects can be seen in different functions and parts of the body. There are several types of liver problems. The most common are cirrhosis, cystic disease, fatty liver disease, gallstones, and hepatitis.
Always remember that if you look after your liver, it will surely look after your health. By keeping an eye open for any early signs of liver damage, you can seek treatment sooner rather than later and help your liver make a full recovery.
Here are the 10 early signs of liver damage.
1. Nausea and Vomiting
Many people ignore nausea and vomiting as it is usually not considered to be a serious medical problem.
If nausea and vomiting occur separately or together without any known reason, such as motion sickness, dizziness, a migraine, food poisoning, early pregnancy, anxiety and depression, it can be due to a kidney or liver problem.
People suffering from liver damage often have a persistent feeling of nausea. This arises due to the liver’s diminished ability to process and eliminate toxins. Changes in metabolism and digestion also cause nausea and vomiting.
Constant feelings of nausea or vomiting can wreak havoc on your health and should be investigated thoroughly by a doctor.
2. General Weakness and Tiredness
Constant feeling of fatigue and tiredness can also be a tell-tale sign of improper liver functioning. It is the liver that breaks down food to release energy required for performing daily tasks.
When the liver is not in good condition, your body needs to work harder in order to survive and hence needs more rest.
Plus, fatigue and weakness are likely to worsen due to an increase in toxic products in the blood, which the damaged liver is not able to eliminate properly.
If the feelings of weakness and tiredness are present along with any other symptoms mentioned in this article, consult your doctor for a diagnosis.
3. Loss of Appetite
Loss of appetite is also one of the early signs that your liver is not working properly. If you experience loss of appetite along with any other symptoms mentioned here, make an appointment with your doctor immediately as it could be a sign of chronic liver disease, hepatitis or kidney failure.
People with liver damage may not feel like eating anything, due to the problem with bile production. Bile helps break down fats so that they can be digested. When food is not digested properly, it often leads to loss of appetite and even severe weight loss.
Significant changes in appetite can also make a person weak and tired, which can further hinder recovery.
4. Digestive Issues
The liver plays an active role in the digestion process through the production of bile. Bile helps process the nutrients absorbed from the small intestine and plays an important role in digesting fat.
Thus, if the liver begins to malfunction, it can result in digestive problems like diarrhea and indigestion.
Abnormalities in bile production can also lead to gallstones, abdominal bloating, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome and intolerance to fatty foods and alcohol.
When the damage is severe, it can cause severe abdominal pain that often sends people to the doctor.
5. Changes in Urine Color
If you are drinking enough fluid and your urine has a darker color, it may be an indication of a liver problem. Dark-colored urine can look orange, amber or brown.
The change in urine color occurs due to an increased level of bilirubin in the bloodstream. This happens when the liver is unable to eliminate bilirubin via excretion through the kidneys.
Dark urine can also be caused by dehydration, taking vitamin B supplements, side effects of antibiotics, enzyme deficiencies, a urinary tract infection and kidney problems.
If your urine is persistently dark, you should visit your doctor for a diagnosis.
6. Yellowing of Skin
One of the early signs of liver damage is jaundice, where yellowing of the skin, eyes, tongue and fingernails or fingertips is noticeable.
Jaundice is caused by a buildup of bilirubin in the blood and body tissue that the liver normally would get rid of along with old red blood cells. Bilirubin is a yellow pigment that is formed by the breakdown of dead red blood cells in the liver.
When bilirubin accumulates in your bloodstream and then on your skin, it takes on a yellowish hue.
As jaundice may also indicate a serious problem with your gallbladder or pancreas, do not take it lightly and follow your doctor’s advice.
7. Changes in Stool Color
Changes in stool color may also indicate liver trouble. A well-functioning liver releases bile into the stool, giving it the normal brown color.
Inflammation or scarring in the liver affects bile production, which causes stool to appear grey, pale, yellow or clay-colored.
Having pale or clay-colored stools once in a while is fine. If it occurs frequently, consult a doctor to rule out the possibility of liver damage or any other illness.
8. Changes in the Abdominal Area
Changes in the abdominal area is another possible sign of a malfunctioning liver. You may experience pain or cramping in the lower abdominal area as well as swelling. This can quickly lead to the feeling of bloating. Medically, these symptoms relate to the problem known as ascites.
Ascites is a buildup of fluid in the abdominal cavity, which happens due advanced liver disease or cirrhosis. It is usually accompanied by other symptoms, such as portal hypertension (an increase in the blood pressure in the portal vein system of the liver).
Ascites can also be caused by non-liver disorders. Hence, it is best to consult a doctor for proper diagnosis.
9. Fluid Retention
Early liver damage can also lead to fluid retention that causes swelling in the feet and ankles. This is also related to ascites and portal hypertention. Also, liver damage affects liver function and causes changes in the secretion of fluid-regulation chemicals.
Other possible causes of fluid retention are a hormonal imbalance in the body, kidney-related problems, heart disease and a problem with the lymphatic system. Hence, it is important to consult a doctor for proper diagnosis.
10. Increase in Skin Sensitivity
Another early sign of a liver problem is increased skin sensitivity. Your skin may become itchy, flaky or oversensitive to touch. It may even bruise easily. In some cases, people also notice the appearance of veins through the skin.
These skin problems occur due to irritants on the skin that the liver normally takes care of.
Keeping the skin moisturized will help provide relief to some extent, but the skin sensitivity will probably worsen until the underlying liver problem is identified and addressed.
Tips to Strengthen Your Liver
- Stop drinking alcohol completely.
- Quit smoking as soon as possible.
- Eat liver-cleansing foods, such as garlic, turmeric, walnuts, grapefruit, beet root, apples, broccoli, avocado and lemon.
- Include high-quality probiotics in your diet to help remove toxins from the body.
- Start drinking green tea, 2 to 3 cups daily.
- Eat foods rich in vitamin C, which has protective effects against liver oxidative damage.
- Limit your animal protein and salt intake.
- Avoid processed and junk foods, as they are not good for liver health. Also, avoid dairy products and refined sugar products.
- Daily exercise like walking, yoga, swimming, jogging or running is essential.
- Take all possible measures to avoid constipation, as it may worsen the condition.
- Strive to keep your cholesterol and triglycerides at healthy levels.
- If you are overweight, work toward gradual and sustained weight loss.
- If you are diabetic, keep your blood sugar level under control.