Fort Lauderdale likes a drink. There’s nothing nicer than sitting in the shade on a hot day, sipping something cool and alcoholic. And there’s nothing at all wrong with that! When consumed in moderation, studies tend to indicate that alcohol can actually be good for you. However, when you drink more than a moderate amount, your liver will suffer. And teetotallers need not get smug at this point. It’s not just alcohol which will damage your liver - high fructose corn syrup, sugar, obesity, and prescription meds will also do a number on it. Fort Lauderdale is no stranger to any of the above, according to some sobering  statistics . If you’re a drinker and/or a sugar lover, it’s probably about time you gave your liver a bit of a rest. But why should you do this? How will it benefit you, and how long will it take to see results?
The liver is the largest organ in your body. It is located at the base of your ribcage, on the right side of your body. It has a more than 500 functions, including:
- Processing toxins - either by removing them from your body, or converting them into something harmless.
- Protein synthesis - metabolizing proteins so that the body can use them more effectively to build muscles and other tissues.
- Nutrient metabolization - the liver breaks down fats, carbohydrates, and (as we’ve mentioned) proteins.
- Bile production. Bile helps the small intestine to break down and absorb fats, carbohydrates, and vitamins.
- Nutrient storage - the liver stores vitamins A, K, D, E, and B12. It also stores iron and copper. These are utilized as and when needed by the body.
- Backing up the immune system.
- Aiding in the production of bone marrow and red blood cells
So it’s a pretty important organ! Liver disease is painful, and serious, and - if left untreated - frequently has negative outcomes.
The liver is a big and powerful organ, but it can be damaged through prolonged abuse. Luckily for the more unhealthy among us, the liver is the only organ in the body which can regenerate. People who donate portions of their liver for transplant can regrow their livers completely from just 25% of the original tissue. Sounds promising, right? Well, yes. However, if your existing liver tissue receives prolonged damage, it will develop scars and fissures. Tissue cannot regenerate from these scars. This scar damage is known as ‘cirrhosis’ , and it commonly affects people who have abused alcohol or been severely obese for some years. If you suspect that you may have caused long term damage to your liver, it is vital that you see a specialist to assess the problem and help you out . Symptoms of liver damage include:
- Itchy skin
- Yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes
- Abdominal pain
- Clubbed fingers
- Abdominal swelling
- Swelling of the ankles
- Fatigue and dizziness
- Vomiting and nausea
- Trembling hands
- Increased sensitivity to alcohol
If you fear that your liver is not working as it should be - do not panic. As mentioned, the liver is able to heal itself, so a lot of liver damage is reversible. However, if you are worried, do see a doctor.
In order to let your liver heal itself, you have to give it an easy time. This involves cutting the unhealthy stuff out of your diet, and sticking to a clean and healthy lifestyle. Usually a month of clean living is about enough to straighten out the average liver - but, for the sake of your general health, it’s probably a good idea to incorporate at least some of your changes into your long-term lifestyle! Here are some liver-friendly tips.
- Drink plenty of water. Your liver needs a lot of liquid to do its job properly.
- Cut out alcohol. Alcohol is one of the biggest and most damaging toxins the average liver has to deal with.
- Cut down on sugar. Be particularly careful of high fructose corn syrup, as this has been proven to have a detrimental effect on liver function .
- Exercise. The more you up your metabolism through exercise, the more support your liver will have.
- Get plenty of sleep. Your liver does some of its most important jobs while you’re resting. Give it a chance to do its stuff!
 Jeanna Bryner, “The List: The Most Obese Cities”, LiveScience, Mar 2012
 Greg Allen, “The ‘Oxy Express’: Florida’s Drug Abuse Epidemic”, NPR, Mar 2011
 British Liver Trust, “Cirrhosis of the liver”
 Harvard Heart Letter, “Abundance of fructose not good for liver, heart”, Harvard Health Publications, Sept 2011