You likely already know that too much alcohol can do a number on your liver. When you drink a lot of alcohol, it can result in an excessive buildup of fat in the liver. Over time, this may cause inflammation that can lead to serious liver damage, including scarring (cirrhosis) and liver failure. But alcohol isn’t the only thing that can damage your liver. You may be surprised to find out that some things you eat, drink and do regularly can also be bad for this essential organ.
Here are 5 surprising things that may damage your liver:
- Sugar. Consuming too much sugar has been linked to many health issues, like insulin resistance, inflammation and weight gain, but did you know that sugar is also bad for your liver? Too much refined sugar can cause the liver to make too much fat, leading to a common condition called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. In fact, some researchers believe sugar may be as damaging to the liver as alcohol.
- Unhealthy fats. Eating too many foods that are high in saturated or trans fats are not good for your liver. They can contribute to obesity and may cause the liver to accumulate too much fat, resulting in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. It is estimated that about 100 million people in the U.S. have this condition, according to the American Liver Foundation.
- Acetaminophen. Taking too much acetaminophen—the medication found in Tylenol—can be bad for your liver. It’s okay to take this medication on occasion to ease pain and inflammation, but watch out for taking too much at one time or taking it too often. Be aware of products that may contain acetaminophen in addition to other medications, such as multi-symptom cold or flu medicines. Don’t take them along with a pain reliever containing acetaminophen or you may get too high a dose.
- Supplements. There is no government regulation of supplements in the U.S. and they may not always be safe. Some supplements may also interact with medications you take and may even cause problems with how your body functions. One herbal supplement called kava kava may keep the liver from working properly. Getting too much vitamin A from supplements (not from food) may also be bad for your liver. Before taking any supplements, talk to your doctor about their safety.
- Occasional binge drinking. It’s not only drinking too much alcohol on a regular basis that is bad for your liver. Even occasional binge drinking can be harmful. Try not to go overboard at any one time when you’re drinking and aim for moderation—one or two drinks max on any given day.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease often has no symptoms but it can cause the liver to swell and become inflamed. Over time, this can cause scarring, resulting in cirrhosis. It may even lead to liver failure. There are no medical treatments for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, but following healthy lifestyle habits, such as eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding certain medications and supplements, and limiting or eliminating alcohol may help prevent liver damage.