Liver disease can take many forms and have many causes.
What are the most common causes of liver disease? You’re probably aware that an excessive intake of alcohol is a primary cause, but others include: viral hepatitis, drug abuse (particularly intravenous), adverse reaction to some pharmaceutical drugs (which include analgesics, anti-inflammatory medications, antibiotics, anti-fungal drugs and immuno-suppressants).
Other less well-known causes of liver disease include: auto-immune diseases such as lupus, and infections such as tuberculosis, malaria and HIV.
Liver disease can also be the result of exposure to occupational and environmental poisons – pesticides, insecticides, solvents, etc. Certain occupations are more prone to higher levels of toxic exposure – these include hairdressers, dry cleaners, pest controllers, agricultural workers, swimming pool workers, shoe manufacturers, furniture and cabinet makers, painters, workers in rubber and plastics plants. Some of the solvents and other chemicals used in these industries have the potential to be carcinogenic., building up in the fatty areas of the body – primarily the liver and brain.
The liver is a remarkable organ. Liver disease can be surprisingly short-lived because of the liver’s amazing ability to repair and regenerate itself, facilitating a full recovery.
However, some forms of liver disease can be far more serious. If the abuse it is suffering is sustained – from alcohol, drugs, medication, toxins, as well as the hepatitis virus – then the chances of a complete recovery lessen. Sustained chronic liver inflammation can cause the liver to become irreparably scarred and distorted. This form of liver disease is known as cirrhosis.
Of course the most insidious form of liver disease is cancer. Cancer often begins in the liver, and many primary cancers from other body organs spread to the liver and eventually destroy the cells of the liver.
It is not surprising that the liver is the organ from where cancer often begins. The liver – which typically weighs 1.2 – 1.5 kgs – bears the brunt of the multitude of chemicals and “plastic foods” we consume. Although it does an amazing job, it does have limits – and liver disease is what occurs when we over-stretch those limits.
Known as the “affluent liver disease”, so called fatty liver is generally the result of the typical western diet – high in saturated fats, refined sugars, refined flours, refined everything else, combined with a general lack of exercise.
Fatty liver is also known as degenerative liver disease – the liver cells are literally choked to death by blobs of fats within them. The liver can no longer metabolize fats, meaning anyone suffering this form of liver disease will be overweight to varying degrees.