What Can Go Wrong?

Outside Destructors
One of the main liver diseases is hepatitis—an inflammation of the liver caused primarily by viruses, but also by caused by autoimmune conditions, genetics and some poisons.

Hepatitis A is often in the news from bad food—for instance, a preparer who didn't wash his or her hands properly can poison food with the hepatitis A virus.

Hepatitis B and C can be spread through sexual contact, IV drug use and tattooing, with C being the virus more likely to transition to a chronic infection and cause cirrhosis, which is when scar tissue forms in the liver and replaces dead liver cells. Too much alcohol is a common cause of cirrhosis, but contact with other liver toxins can also kill off liver cells to cause cirrhosis.

Your liver is also susceptible to cancer, although cancer in the liver often occurs when it spreads there from a primary source in another organ, like the colon.

Genetic Disorders
As is the case with moral values and preference for sports teams, you can also get liver problems from your parents. They come in a lot of different forms, and rather than going into detail about all of them, here are brief explanations about a couple of them.

  • Gilbert's Disease
    Pronounced "Gill-beartz," this is a benign disease found in 5 percent of the population when people can't metabolize bilirubin normally. The main symptom—mild jaundice—most often appears after exertion, stress, fasting and infections.
  • Hemochromatosis
    This is a common genetic disorder present in about 1 in 250 of us, and in the partial form in 1 in 25. It causes people to accumulate and overload on iron. Eventually, that iron overload can damage organs such as the pancreas, liver and heart, which can result in diabetes or liver or heart failure. If you suffer from joint disease, severe fatigue, heart disease, impotence or diabetes, it's worth checking what are called your transferrin levels to determine the levels of iron in your blood. That can let you know if you have the disease or may be a carrier.

Detox Dysfunction
If the detox pathways in the liver become overloaded, the risk is that toxins will build up faster than sidewalk snow in a blizzard. And without a biological shovel to clear them away, there's a lot of liver trouble lurking.

Why? Many of these toxins are fat soluble, meaning they wiggle their way into fatty parts of your body, where they may stay for years or for your entire life! And by fatty parts of your body, we don't mean your gut or your butt, but fatty organs like your liver, brain and hormonal glands.

The effect: such niceties as cirrhosis brain dysfunction and hormonal imbalances that can bring about infertility, breast pain, menstrual disturbances, adrenal gland exhaustion and early menopause—not to mention an increased risk of many cancers.