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How Not to Wreck Your Liver

Care for Your Liver continued...

Some medicines can hurt your liver if you drink alcohol when you take them. And some are harmful when combined with other drugs. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about the safest way to take your medicines.

Learn how to prevent hepatitis. It's a serious disease that harms your liver. There are several types. You catch hepatitis A from eating or drinking water that's got the virus that causes the disease. You can get a vaccine if you're traveling to a part of the world where there are outbreaks.

Hepatitis B and C are spread through blood and body fluids. To cut your risk, don't share items like toothbrushes, razors, or needles. Limit the number of sex partners you have, and always use latex condoms.

There's no vaccine yet for hepatitis C, but there is one for hepatitis B.

Get tested for hepatitis. Because it often doesn't cause symptoms, you can have it for years and not know it. If you think you've had contact with the virus, talk to your doctor to see if you need a blood test.

The CDC recommends you get tested if you're a baby boomer, because your generation is more likely to have the disease.

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

Be careful with herbs and dietary supplements. Some can harm your liver. A few that have caused problems are cascara, chaparral, comfrey, kava, and ephedra.

In recent years, some herbs and supplements have hit the market that say they restore the liver, including milk thistle seed, borotutu bark, and chanca piedra. Be wary of those claims. "There's never been any high-quality evidence that any of these promotes liver health," Chung says. Some may even cause harm.

Drink coffee. Research shows that it 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."

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Reviewed on October 28, 2013

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