Vim & Vigor - Summer 2018 - University of Virginia - 4

ASK THE EXPERT BY JEN MEDIANO
Stephen
Caldwell, MD
hepatologist
(liver expert)

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KEEPING YOUR LIVER SAFE
Every day, your liver is hard at work, cleansing your
blood, fighting infections, helping you digest food and
even storing energy. Unlike other organs, it has the amazing
capability of growing back when damaged. But for all of its
workhorse tendencies, the liver is vulnerable to irreversible
harm. UVA Health System liver expert Stephen Caldwell, MD,
tells us how to keep it healthy.

Q

4

SU M M ER 2018

are among many other supplements
that are potentially toxic, especially if
they interact with other supplements,
alcohol, grapefruit, prescription drugs
or acetaminophen.

Q

Isn't alcohol the biggest
threat to a person's liver?
People often associate liver disease with excessive alcohol. However,
the quantity of alcohol that leads to alcoholic liver disease (cirrhosis) is not the
same with every person. An alcoholic
may never develop liver problems but
someone else who drinks much less may
develop it. Individual genetics play a role
that's still being examined.
Lifestyle and changing societal norms
also play a part. Binge drinking, which

used to be common only in men, has
left some women in their late 20s and
early 30s with liver damage. Young, professional women are among the largest
growing population with advanced alcoholic liver disease.
Similarly, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease has increased significantly over
the past decades. This is being driven
by obesity, high levels of cholesterol or
triglycerides in the blood, diabetes and
lack of exercise. But we know that a diet
high in fructose (an industrialized form
of sugar) also plays a role.

Q

What are the best ways to
protect the liver?
I don't advocate liver cleanses or
similar remedies. To help your liver do
its important job:
Limit alcohol and highly sweetened
beverages and foods.
Follow recommended dosages for
all medications.
Be aware that supplements can
carry serious risks and tell your doctor about all medications and supplements you're taking. ■

LEFT PHOTO BY GETTY IMAGES

What are common ways
people damage their livers?
Many people unintentionally
overdose on acetaminophen (Tylenol®).
Once or twice a month, someone
comes to us with joint pain or dental
problems and ends up having acute
hepatitis (inflammation of the liver).
Acetaminophen is available over the
counter, so many people think it's benign
and ignore dosage guidelines. They
either take too much all at once or take
it too frequently. Children are especially
vulnerable to liver damage when parents
don't follow dosage guidelines.
I also have patients who were otherwise physically fit and active and ended
up on the liver transplant list from taking
green tea extract. Skullcap and valerian

Get more expert advice from
UVA Health System experts
by subscribing to our Healthy
Balance blog. Go to
blog.uvahealth.com.


http://blog.uvahealth.com

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Vim & Vigor - Summer 2018 - University of Virginia

Contents
Vim & Vigor - Summer 2018 - University of Virginia - Cover1
Vim & Vigor - Summer 2018 - University of Virginia - Cover2
Vim & Vigor - Summer 2018 - University of Virginia - Contents
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Vim & Vigor - Summer 2018 - University of Virginia - Cover3
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