10 Common Myths About The Liver

Our liver is a powerhouse that controls over 500 functions. So, if it gets sick, illness such as fatty liver, cirrhosis and liver cancer are bound to be developed. Although, more people are getting prone to liver illness, yet many of us have limited knowledge about this potentially lethal sickness. Now,  let’s tackle the common misconceptions about the liver to keep it healthy so that it can soundly perform it’s endless functions.

Myth #1   Liver diseases are “drinker’s diseases”

If you only believe that liver sickness is caused by alcohol, then you’re wrong! Aside from alcohol, liver illness can also be associated by unhealthy diet intake (eg: high-fat, high-sugar content food), viruses, obesity, and excessive or misuse of medication.

Myth #2   I should feel some discomfort/pain when my liver is unwell

Most people experience no apparent symptoms or pain even when the liver is 70% degraded. There are cases of hepatitis patients that only get diagnosed with the illness much later in their life. To be on the safe side, start talking to your doctor about getting a regular liver check-up.  

Myth #3   Liver condition can only be detected with regular blood test

We hate to burst your bubble but blood test can only partly explain the liver condition. Blood test will usually be abnormal in significant liver disorder. However, a normal liver index may reflect in some cases of mild liver disease. This is why imaging test of the liver such as ultrasound scans or MRI scans are important in determining the degree of liver disease.

Myth #4   Fatty liver is reversible

It is somewhat true depending on the severity of your liver condition. Yes, the initial stage can be reversed with proper lifestyle and diet management. Obesity, long term alcohol consumption, unhealthy diet intake, diabetes and viruses causes fat to build up around the liver. However, critical cases of fatty liver which has progressed to cirrhosis (the permanent hardening and shrinking of liver due to excessive liver scarring), liver cancer and liver failure are all difficult to reverse.

Myth #5   Severe liver disease can definitely be cured by liver transplant

Liver sickness can be managed with medication treatment and lifestyle modification. A liver transplant is considered necessary only when patients with failing liver are required for it. Sometimes, even after the procedure, the body might reject the new liver or the new liver can fall victim again to the original source of liver problems. Hence, a transplant requires intensive follow-up and cooperation on the part of the patient and caregiver.

Myth #6   Only adults can develop liver illness

Completely untrue. The harsh reality is that genetics, viruses and blockage in liver can cause liver ailment in teenagers, children and even infants. Children that struggle with obesity are found to have a higher risk in struggling with a fatty liver.

Myth #7  A hepatitis patient is unlikely to be infected with other types of hepatitis

No! Different types of hepatitis are caused by different virus. Co-infection (infected with more than one virus) is common especially for Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. The viruses interact with each other in the body and one virus usually becomes dominant over the other. For patients with co-infection, the treatment is usually based on assessing which hepatitis virus is dominant.

Myth #8   I’m free from Hepatitis B upon vaccination

It’s true that all newborns are vaccinated with Hepatitis B vaccine. However, the levels of anti-HBs are more likely to decline in late adolescence or early adulthood, increasing the risk of developing Hepatitis B infection increase due to social behaviours (Hepatitis B spreads through blood, semen or other body fluids from an infected person). To be on a safe side, further follow-up is required to determine whether a booster vaccination is needed.

Myth #9   I might get infected if I share my food with a Hepatitis B, C patient or carrier

Don’t worry! Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C viruses can’t spread through saliva by sharing of food or drinks, and eating utensils. It also doesn’t spread through kissing, sneezing, coughing, breastfeeding and casual contact such as hugging and holding hands.

Myth #10   Meat is unhealthy for liver disease patient

Of course, liver disease patients are recommended to limit the consumption of red meat, processed meat and organ meat. However, protein is essential for liver cell repair and maintenance. Hence, maintaining animal protein consumption such as fish, poultry and lean meat to meet daily protein requirement is recommendable. Plant protein from nut and legume sources are also acceptable. In chronic cases of liver sickness, such as last stage of cirrhosis or advanced hepatitis patient; strict limitation of protein intake may be instructed in accordance to medical advice.

By understanding the right facts and clearing off fictional beliefs – efforts on prevention, diagnosis and management of liver disorder can be done at an early stage in a more realistic and effective way. Ultimately, the best thing you can do to keep your liver healthy is to treat it well. Avoid frequent overconsumption of food and alcohol, maintain a healthy diet and exercise regimen as well as get your health checked regularly!

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