Ask an Expert: Should I be concerned about my liver following the festive period?
02 January 2019
Many of us would have spent the last few weeks overindulging on food and drink, and during this time your liver has been quietly going about its business detoxing your body. We spend little time thinking about our liver, but this organ has many functions including purifying the blood, supporting the immune system and aiding digestion.
Liver disease is becoming increasingly common, and we should be concerned as it is the third most common cause of premature death in UK - much higher than other European countries, including France and Italy. This is mainly due to excessive alcohol consumption and obesity. Liver disease rarely causes symptoms until advanced damage, called cirrhosis, develops and yet 90% of liver disease is preventable.
The latest guidance from the NHS is to not drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week, but just how many units (approx.) are there in our favourite alcoholic drinks?
1 small glass of wine (125ml) = 1.5 units
1 large glass of wine (175ml) = 2.1 units
1 pint of regular strength lager = 2.3 units
It is also recommended to not drink daily, not binge and to have at least two alcohol free days. Alcohol Change UK is encouraging people to take part in their ‘Dry January’ Campaign, where those who take part sustain from all alcohol for the entire month of January. The campaign has benefits of reducing our regular consumption over the rest of the year, and helps lose the weight we may have gained over the previous month.
Obesity is the other major risk factor for liver disease, and affects 63% of the UK population. A third of adults have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) which, like liver damage due to alcohol, may also progress to cirrhosis. Diabetes is also a further significant risk factor.
Fortunately we have the tools to quickly assess patient’s risk of liver disease, including blood tests and a Fibroscan, a safe and painless test taking just a few minutes, which can diagnose significant liver scarring.
- Dr Paul Kooner, Consultant Hepatologist at Spire London East Hospital.
Spire London East Hospital will be joining forces with the British Liver Trust to provide free liver checks to the local public in the Spring. If you’d like this free check, and advice from Dr Kooner, complete the below form and we will contact you with updates.