Looking After Your Liver

You only have one liver, it’s important to know how to look after it.  

It works hard and can take a lot of abuse, but it is like an elastic band – it can only stretch so far before it breaks.​

Across the UK, we are facing a liver disease crisis and the age of people being diagnosed with liver disease is getting younger and younger.

Pamela Healy, CEO, British Liver Trust

Take our Love Your Liver screener

Find out if you’re at risk of liver disease

One in five of us is at risk of liver disease. This could be the most important thing you do today.

About your liver

Your liver is the largest organ inside your body and does hundreds of essential jobs.

  • Fighting infection and disease
  • Destroying poisons and drugs (including alcohol)
  • Cleaning the blood
  • Controlling the amount of cholesterol
  • Processing food once it has been digested

It works hard and can take a lot of abuse, but it is like an elastic band – it can only stretch so far before it breaks.

Find out more about your liver

ALCOHOL

A quarter of us drink at levels could put health at risk.

Regularly drinking more than the recommended amount over a long period can damage your liver. This can lead to alcohol related liver disease (ALD) and liver cancer.

Take at least two days off. Give your liver a minimum of two days in a row without alcohol every week to reduce the impact that alcohol can have on your liver and break the habit of drinking every day.

“ Everyone should have at least two alcohol-free days a week.” Professor Ian Gilmore*

*Professor Ian Gilmore is a Consultant Hepatologist, President of the Royal College of Physicians and Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance . Professor Gilmore is also a member of the British Liver Trust’s Clinical Advisory Community.

  • Men and Women should drink no more than 14 units per week
  • Don’t save up several days ‘allowance’ and drink it all at once – spread it evenly over three or more day

obesity

Many of us are overweight and don’t do enough exercise

Regularly drinking more than the recommended amount over a long period can damage your liver. This can lead to alcohol related liver disease (ALD) and liver cancer.

  • Keep to a healthy weight
  • If you’re overweight, speak to your doctor about help with losing weight safely – avoid crash diets and rapid weight loss
  • Eating plenty of fruit and vegetables is important: aim for 5 portions a day
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Try eating from a smaller plate and cutting down on fatty and sugary foods
  • Get at least half an hour’s exercise a day leaving you warm and slightly out of breath
  • Finding an exercise that you enjoy will help: try walking, swimming, cycling or dancing
  • Stick to the recommended guidelines for drinking alcohol.

Learn more about Non-Alcohol Related Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)
Learn more about alcohol and liver disease
Useful links about exercise and healthy eating

 
fruit and water

NAFLD is characterised by the build-up of excess fat in the liver of people who do not drink more than recommended guideline amounts of alcohol.

The first stage is fatty liver, or steatosis. This is where fat accumulates in the liver cells without any inflammation or scarring. For many people, the condition will not advance and a serious liver condition will not develop, but for some, NAFLD can progress to NASH.

NASH is a more significant condition, as it may cause scarring to the liver and can progress to cirrhosis. Cirrhosis causes irreversible damage to the liver and is the most severe stage of NAFLD.

VIRAL HEPATITIS

There are several viruses that cause hepatitis. The common ones are hepatitis A, B and C. Most people recover from hepatitis A with no lasting liver damage, but hepatitis B and C can cause long term liver disease and even liver cancer.

 

 

Hepatitis A  is passed out in the bowel motions of an infected person, and is passed from person to person by eating food or drinking water contaminated with the virus due to poor  hygiene standards . Most people feel better within a few weeks. The illness can be more severe in those who are old or who have other underlying conditions.

How to look after your liver. There are vaccines available to protect against hepatitis A. Vaccination is recommended if you are travelling abroad outside Europe and the US, but you should also speak to your GP if you think you might be at risk because of your job or your lifestyle.

Learn more about Hepatitis A

Hepatitis B virus is found in blood and body fluids and causes liver damage. It is 50-100 times more infectious than HIV.
Hepatitis C is a virus carried in the blood which infects and damages the liver.

Both hepatitis B and C are easy to catch through blood to blood contact and very hard to get rid of. Even a tiny amount of dried blood – too small to be visible to the naked eye – is enough to pass on the infection if it gets into your blood stream.

This could be from sharing contaminated:

  • equipment for injecting drugs (including steroids)
  • tattoo, accupuncture or body piercing equipment
  • medical or dental equipment
  • razors, clippers, or toothbrushes

or through an open cut or wound.

Sex and passing the virus from mother to baby at birth, are also high risk factors for hepatitis B.

There are few symptoms of hepatitis B and C and people can be infected for many years without knowing, during which time liver damage can occur. An estimated five out of every six people with chronic hepatitis C are unaware of their infection.

There is a simple test to find out whether you have the virus and an effective vaccine to protect you from hepatitis B. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C.

Speak to your GP about testing and hepatitis B vaccination if you think you might be at risk because:

  • your job or your lifestyle puts you in contact with blood or body fluids
  • you are traveling to, or you or your family have spent time in, areas of the world where hepatitis B is common, including South-East Asia, China and Africa (eg seemap)
  • you need regular medical treatment, such as dialysis or blood products
  • you received blood or blood products in the UK before 1991 (when screening for hepatitis B and C was introduced)
  • you have received medical or dental treatment in countries where equipment may have been inadequately sterilized.

Treatment is most effective if viral hepatitis is detected early.

Protect yourself

  • Never share razors, nail scissors or toothbrushes
  • Cover wounds, especially when you play sport  
  • Only use licensed tattoo and piercing studios and make sure all equipment used has been sterilised  
  • Use a condom during sex  
  • Never share drug equipment, and don’t use rolled up bank notes for cocaine
  • If you need medical treatment abroad make sure only sterile equipment is used.

Hear Radio One’s News Beat coverage of drug use and hepatitis C

Learn more about Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C

What is it like to live with hepatitis C?

“…there is so much need to warn people about this silent killer. Make sure they get tested and get the right treatment at the right time.””The best way to survive Hep C is to know that you have got it.”

Find out more about hepatitis B

Hepatitis B in English

Hepatitis B in other languages

liver good life

Animated film explaining what the liver does, its importance and simple steps to protect your liver from alcohol damage, fatty liver disease and infection from viral hepatitis.

Love Your Liver Campaign

Love Your Liver is our national awareness campaign devoted to liver health awareness and giving people the key steps needed to keep their liver healthy.

9 in 10 liver disease cases can be prevented with simple lifestyle changes and as part of our national campaign, we offer a free online screener, arrange national roadshows and work with healthcare professionals.