Drinking alcohol isn’t the only bad habit that can destroy your liver. Certain kinds of drugs and supplements, junk food, and even risky sexual behaviors can result in a handful of illnesses and diseases. You may not even realize you’re self-sabotaging one of your body’s most important organs. To keep your liver healthy, try not to engage in the following destructive practices.
1. Taking too many dietary supplements
Dietary supplements aren’t hard to obtain — and if you aren’t careful, your excessive intake could become problematic. Drug induced liver injury from weight loss and bodybuilding supplements isn’t all that uncommon, says Consumer Reports. Unfortunately, many of these supplements include ingredients not listed on product labels, so it’s challenging to identify the ingredients that could be responsible. Follow the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine’s guidelines to use supplements safely.
2. Not drinking enough water
Your liver is your body’s waste processing organ. It’s one of two major team players in detoxification, or the process of ridding your body of harmful waste. According to Livestrong.com, water is an essential part of your body’s detoxification process. It flushes toxins out of your liver for disposal, and helps your kidneys filter these toxins properly. Dehydration can interfere with this process, and lead to liver damage. Most people need anywhere from 64 to 100 ounces of water daily, Mayo Clinic says.
3. Not practicing safe sex
Practicing safe sex protects you from a number of STDs. It also guards you against certain types of cancer, like the type that can develop in your liver. According to the American Cancer Society, unprotected sex can transmit hepatitis B and C viruses from person to person. These chronic viral infections can lead to liver cells being replaced with scar tissue, eventually causing a disease called cirrhosis. People living with cirrhosis have an increased chance of developing liver cancer and dying.
4. Depending on over-the-counter painkillers
Whether you seek over-the-counter relief for your pain or have a prescription, taking too much of certain medications — or too many medications at once, too frequently — can cause significant damage to your liver. Acetaminophen — you might recognize it as Tylenol — has been known to cause liver damage in large doses, says Forbes. Never take a larger dose of a medication than instructed, and make sure you aren’t taking multiple acetaminophen-containing drugs at once.
5. Following a junk food diet
Consuming high amounts of sugar doesn’t just give you diabetes. According to Harvard Health Publications, diets high in sugar can also lead to the buildup of excess fat in your liver, called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Overloading your body with refined sugars also raises LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, a major risk factor for heart disease. You don’t have to shun processed foods completely from your diet, but try limiting your intake — for your liver’s sake, if nothing else.
6. Not getting enough sleep
Sleep deprivation could prove more damaging than you thought. People with sleep apnea, for example, experience fatty liver disease at higher rates than people without the disease, Anahad O’Connor writes in The New York Times. The exact reason why this happens isn’t clear. However, not getting enough sleep can still damage your liver in other ways, like prompting you to eat more unhealthy food. Try to regularly get at least six or seven hours of sleep to keep all your organs functioning properly.
7. Smoking cigarettes
Smoking isn’t just bad for your lungs. According to some research, smoking can negatively impact your liver function in a similar way to long-term alcohol use. Inhaling cigarette smoke causes oxidative stress, which can lead to significant liver damage over time as the cells begin to break down. If you haven’t already considered giving up this habit, there’s no time like the present. Already trying to quit? These foods won’t cause your liver too much stress — and they’re good for your overall health, too.