04/05/2013 12:09 EDT | Updated 06/05/2013 05:12 EDT

Six Ways to Help Your Liver

It comes as a shock to people that most liver disease in Canada (and likely the U.S.) is caused by food abuse causing obesity and not by alcohol abuse. The liver of a 10-year-old overweight child who is fed junk all his years can be just as damaged as that of a 60-year-old alcoholic. Both conditions lead to cirrhosis and potentially cancer.

In fact, liver cancer is one of the very few cancers still on the increase. Why? Because people don't know about the problem. One in ten Canadians have liver disease. Many, if not most, don't even know about it until the condition is very advanced. Perhaps irreversibly.

Your liver performs over 500 jobs and does so silently and judiciously. Among those jobs are the master tasks of managing your cholesterol, hormones and filtering your blood. You can't survive without any one of those processes. The liver is the largest organ in the body and when it is done doing all of that, it is the only organ that can regenerate itself.

The Canadian Liver Foundation is sounding the alarm that we can no longer marginalize liver disease as one of simply alcohol abuse. Diet plays a much bigger role as does the very preventable, treatable Hepatitis A, B and C. Many are and will carry and transmit this virus without knowing it and yet simple, cost effective screening is available.

So, here is what you can do:

1. Have your liver tested for its functionality, it is a simple blood test that you can request from your doctor.

2. Have your liver tested for Hep A, B and C and have the appropriate vaccines

3. Watch your diet for sugar, bad fats and excess calories. Any healthy lifestyle choices that you make for your heart will also benefit your liver.

4. Remove toxic cleaning products and air fresheners from your home, your liver has to filter these things out.

5. Watch all drugs and herbal medications. Acetaminophen in particular needs to be managed, high doses and/or in combination with alcohol it is very damaging.

6. Donate to The Canadian Liver Foundation. Someone you know is going to need their help and research in prevention and treatment is a lot less costly that treatment or transplant.

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