Nutrition & Exercise
Nutrition and the liver are interrelated in many ways. Some ways are well understood; others are not. Your liver plays a key role in converting food into the chemicals essential for life. The liver serves several important metabolic tasks in handling nutrients.
Carbohydrates (sugars), absorbed through the lining of the intestine, are transported through blood vessels to the liver and then converted into glycogen and stored. The liver breaks down this stored glycogen between meals, releasing sugar into the blood for quick energy to prevent low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia). This enables us to keep an even level of energy throughout the day. Without this balance we would need to eat constantly to keep up our energy.
The liver is vital in maintaining the body’s protein and nitrogen metabolism. Proteins in foods can be broken down into amino acids in the intestine and delivered to the liver for use in making body proteins. Excess amino acids are either released by the liver and sent to the muscles for use or are converted to urea for excretion in the urine. Certain proteins are converted into ammonia, a toxic metabolic product, by bacteria in the intestine or during the breakdown of body protein. The ammonia must be detoxified by the liver and made into urea which is then excreted by the kidneys.
Through the production of bile, the liver makes it possible for dietary fat to be absorbed. In addition, vitamins A, D, E and K, which are fat soluble, are dependent on bile from the liver for absorption.
Fatty liver disease
linked to poor nutrition, obesity and sedentary lifestyle is now the most common form of liver disease in Canada. In addition to obesity, fatty liver disease has also been linked to other risk factors, including insulin resistance, hyperlipidaemia, high blood pressure, and type II diabetes.
If you already have liver disease, you may have to limit or even avoid certain foods or ingredients – for instance salt. If you are otherwise healthy however, there is no specific ‘liver health diet’ but your liver will be grateful for every healthy choice you make – like having a bowl of oatmeal and fruit for breakfast versus a high fat muffin.
Faced with so many decisions to make on what food to buy and how to prepare it, it can be difficult to know what to choose. For some tips on healthier choices, download our LIVERight Liver-healthy Shopping Guide.
or to see some liver-healthy recipes, click here
Exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. It helps give your body the energy it needs to work well, can help boost your immune system and will help keep your liver healthy. Exercise is especially important in maintaining an ideal weight for your age, gender and body type. People who are overweight or obese, run a higher risk of developing a fatty liver which can lead to fatty liver disease.