How the
American Lifestyle
is Damaging our Liver 

Was it liver involvement?

Recently, a friend of mine died.  He had suffered for several years. He sustained a work-related back injury at some point in his career and things just went south after that. 

In addition to his unresolved back pain from his work injury, he was diagnosed with heart disease.  A heavy smoker who refused to quit, plus a sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy diet, his health continued to deteriorate.  After years of prescription pain medication abuse, overeating, smoking, and daily excessive consumption of soft drinks, on more than one occasion, he underwent a heart catheterization procedure and emerged with stents to keep his coronary vessels patent. 

Years went by, nothing changed, and he became a frequent hospital patient; in and out, several times. 

Finally, his smoking, sedentary lifestyle, eating and drinking (soft drinks) habits, pain medication abuse, and more, took it's toll. 

He was what we nurses refer to as a 'train wreck.'  He was diagnosed with heart failure, hepatic failure, kidney failure - known as multi-organ system failure - in the medical field.  He became confused and disoriented, edematous (swollen) in his extremities and abdomen; he bruised and bled very easily, gained and lost extreme amounts of weight (fluid) during very short periods, was jaundiced, and basically confined to the bed because he lacked the strength to hold his head up.    

Could this be the fatal blow that led to my friend's death? I decided to learn more.

The Liver

Liver Functions

According to one of my older nursing textbooks, Human Anatomy and Physiology (5th ed), the major functions include: 

  • Carbohydrate metabolism
  • Lipid metabolism
  • Protein metabolism
  • Storage of blood, iron, glycogen, B12, and Vitamins A & D
  • Filters and detoxifies the blood
  • Bile secretion

The largest gland in the body, it functions in many important metabolic activities.  The most vital function is protein metabolism in which protein is actually synthesized.   

Damaging Effects of our Lifestyle

Sugar -  too much sugar can cause a fatty buildup that can lead to liver disease; maybe as damaging as alcohol, even if you’re not overweight! 

MSG – a wide spread flavor enhancer. MSG has been shown to cause hepatic disease, inflammation, and even cancer in animals. Research is being conducted to determine if MSG produces the same results in humans.  It is often listed on food labels as ‘hydrolyzed vegetable protein’, or ‘yeast extract, or soy extract.’  Beware.

Obesity – fat can build up in your cells, resulting in fatty-liver disease.  Eventually, healthy tissue can be replaced by hardened scar tissue (cirrhosis).  Those at greatest risk are overweight or obese, middle aged, and have diabetes.   

Vitamin A –  High doses may cause toxicity.  This vitamin is found in many supplements.  Play it safe and never take more than 10,000 IU per day. 

Unsterile Tattoos – tattoos which are applied in the absence of proper sterilization and sanitary conditions increase the risk of contracting Hepatitis C.  There is no cure and no vaccination for this serious infection – which may cause lifelong disease. 

Soft Drinks – researchers are investigating the effects of soft drinks on patients with fatty liver disease.  And, it doesn’t seem to be the sugar the sugar that is harmful since even artificially sweetend soft drinks are harmful.

Certain common OTC and prescriptions are damaging: statins, tetracycline, ibuprofen naproxen, anabolic steroid, ASA, sulamethoxazone, amitriptyline, amiodarone, phenytoin. Take only as directed. 

Illegal Drugs: amphetamines, cocaine, and other recreational drugs.  

Comfrey – a substance found in some pain relieving topical medications. Although the substance can provide pain relief, it can also be harmful.  Use comfrey-containing creams for a maximum of 10 days at a time and in very small amounts.   

TransFats (listed as partially hydrogenated vegetable oil or vegetable shortening); research shows it may actually cause scar tissue.

Common Hepatic Diseases

Visit these sites for more information.



Fatty Liver Disease


After a general review of the functions of the liver and research into the damaging effects of a poor lifestyle, I’ve concluded that my friend most likely died from either Hepatitis or Cirrhosis.   

I’ve also concluded that humans need to consider the effects of their lifestyle.  That means, moderation in all things: 

  • moderate sugar intake
  • moderate alcohol consumption
  • moderate doses of NSAIDS taken only when absolutely necessary
  • healthy weight
  • limit soft drink consumption, and
  • be mindful of the side effects/adverse reactions of certain prescribed drugs and herbal supplements 

The Solution to Permanent Weight Loss

(the inspiration for this website)

by Robin D. George

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