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How Not to Wreck Your Liver

Care for Your Liver continued...

Get tested for and vaccinated against hepatitis. Because hepatitis often doesn't cause symptoms, you can have it for years without knowing it. If you think you've been exposed, talk to your doctor about being tested. Baby boomers in particular are urged to get tested for hepatitis C. There are vaccines for hepatitis A and hepatitis B. 

Don’t touch or breathe in toxins. Cleaning products, aerosol products, insecticides, chemicals, and additives in cigarettes contain toxins that can damage liver cells. Avoid direct contact with them, and don’t smoke.

Be careful with herbs and dietary supplements. Herbal remedies, herbal combinations, and dietary supplements aren't subject to the same approval process as medications, and some can harm the liver. A few that have caused liver problems are cascara, chaparral, comfrey, kava kava, and ephedra.

In recent years, some herbs and supplements have hit the market claiming to restore the liver. Those include milk thistle seed, borotutu bark, and chanca piedra. “There’s never been any high-quality evidence that any of these promotes liver health,” Chung says. Some may even harm the liver.

Drink coffee. Research shows that drinking coffee can lower your risk of getting liver disease. No one knows why this is so, but it’s worth keeping an eye on as more research is done.

To keep your liver healthy, follow a healthy lifestyle and keep a close eye on medicines, Chung says. “The liver can be a very forgiving organ, but it has its limits."

Reviewed on October 28, 2013

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