National ‘Love Your Liver’ week in the third week of June is focussing on raising awareness amongst the one in five of us in the UK who may have the early stages of liver disease but not yet be aware.
This year, for the first time, supporters of the British Liver Trust are percolating coffee to raise awareness and funds for the charity. Recent research has suggested that having a daily coffee may actually be good for your liver. By holding ‘Perk up your Liver’ coffee breaks up and down the country, at home, at work, in schools, hospitals, and community groups they hope to make more people aware of liver disease and the risk factors and raise vital funds for research and care.
There is a growing body of evidence that drinking moderate amounts of coffee can reduce your chance of developing liver disease and can also limit the rate at which liver disease progresses. The British Liver Trust is calling for more clinical research in this area. However if you really want to reduce your chances of developing the condition there are three easy steps to ‘Love Your Liver’
Step 1: Keep to a healthy weight
The increasing numbers of us who are overweight is the major reason that we are seeing the huge rises in the numbers of people with Non-Alcohol related Fatty Liver Disease in the UK. Love Your Liver by making sure you have a healthy diet, plenty of water to drink and regular exercise.
Step 2: Reduce the amount of alcohol you drink
As a nation, we are drinking far more than our parents did. Too much alcohol can cause serious and lasting damage. The British Liver Trust recommends having two to three days each week without drinking. It’s an easy message but a very effective way of reducing the amount you drink, giving your liver a rest and making it easier to stick within the Government guidelines of 14 units a week.
Step 3: Know and avoid the risks for viral hepatitis
Blood-borne viruses such as hepatitis A, B and C can cause permanent liver damage and increase the risk of liver cancer. Avoid these viruses by never sharing personal items like toothbrushes, razors, nail scissors or tweezers, drug equipment and by practising safer sex. If you get a tattoo make sure it is in a licensed parlour. If you think you may have been at risk in the past – even if it was a long time ago – ask your doctor for a test.
“Although the liver is remarkably resilient and can regenerate if given time to recover, by the time most people have signs and symptoms of liver damage, it is often irreversible. It’s known as a silent killer because it has few symptoms. Three quarters of people already have end stage liver disease when they are first diagnosed - by this time for many it is too late,” warns Andrew Langford, Chief Executive of the British Liver Trust.
“I would urge everyone to see if they are ‘at risk’ by doing the Love Your Liver Health Screener on our website. If the simple online questions reveal you’re at risk, you should see your GP, who can do blood tests. Depending on the results of those, you may be referred to a specialist (either a hepatologist or a gastroenterologist), who will carry out further investigations.”