reviewed 10/3/2018

Liver health: What harms or helps?

Your liver is one of the largest organs in your body— and one of the most important. But did you know there are some things than can harm your liver and some things that may help keep it healthy? Take this quiz to see if you know which is which.

Harms or Helps: Alcohol.

Harms. The liver breaks down alcohol so it can be eliminated from the body. When you drink more alcohol than the liver can handle, the alcohol can damage or destroy live cells and cause fat to build up in the organ. It can also lead to alcoholic hepatitis, a condition that causes swelling or inflammation and cirrhosis.

Harms or Helps: Smoking.

Harms. Smoking tobacco is associated with an increased risk of developing liver cancer. If you quit smoking, you will have a lower risk than those who continue to smoke. However, your risk will still be higher compared to those who have never smoked.

Harms or Helps: Exercise.

Helps. You've heard it before—exercise is good for you. And it's true when it comes to your liver too. For one thing, exercise may help control your weight. That's important because carrying extra pounds has been linked to liver cancer and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, a condition unrelated to alcohol use that causes fat to build up in the liver and may lead to cirrhosis.

Harms or Helps: Acetaminophen

Harms. Commonly used to treat pain and reduce fever, acetaminophen—like certain other medicines—can be hard on the liver if you take too much. Don't drink alcohol when using it or take more than directed. And be aware: Acetaminophen may be found in many different over-the-counter and prescription medicines. Don't take more than one medicine containing acetaminophen at a time.

Harms or Helps: Fiber

Helps. Fiber makes it easier for your liver to function at its best. Good sources of fiber include fruits, veggies and whole-grain foods.

A blood test can tell you a lot about your liver health. Ask your doctor if you should get one done; it could help you identify issues such as liver disease or liver cancer early on.

Learn more about liver cancer

Sources: American Cancer Society; American Institutes for Cancer Research; American Liver Foundation; National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Related stories