What does our liver do?
Our livers are really important for us to live a healthy life. Tucked right underneath our ribcage it is a large soft organ that has a rich blood supply. It can recognise and break down or filter any toxic substances that it may find – consequently our blood is quickly cleaned of anything that is not meant to be in our bloodstream.
Toxic substances can get into our body when we eat them, drink them, inhale then or when our doctors inject substances directly into our bloodstream. They can even be part of the daily process that continually renews the tissues that make up our bodies, breaking down proteins and ridding us of any toxic by-products of this process. This is a hugely complex process that we are as yet unable to reproduce artificially – the only way we can replace a badly damaged liver is to replace it with a transplanted donated liver.
What happens if our liver stops working?
Not surprisingly if our livers become dysfunctional our bodies soon start to suffer and there is a long list of illnesses caused by a sick liver. One of the most well-known ways we can damage our livers is to take alcoholic drinks to excess regularly, but we should also be aware that obesity is also a risk to our livers.
Why is this important to aspergillosis patients?
In addition aspergillosis patients should be aware that the medications that they have to take can risk damaging their livers. Doctors closely monitor their patients especially when they first prescribe a mediation that may cause toxicity. They need to watch closely for signs of the liver starting to be distressed by monitoring the signs using blood tests referred to as liver function tests. The purpose of these tests is to detect the very early signs of liver distress so that the doctor can take action to prevent any long term damage.
We know that antifungal medication can cause liver damage in some people, sometimes because the dose of an antifungal is too high and a quick adjustment can prevent further problems, or sometimes the patient is switched to a different drug if dose reduction doesn’t have the desired impact on the liver.
What can I do?
What can you, the patient do to help yourselves when taking an antifungal medication? Firstly, of course, it is very important to have a good working relationship with your medication team and report any new symptoms quickly to your doctor can assess if any action is needed.
You can also help by keeping your liver in the best condition it can be so that it can detoxify your blood quickly and keep you in the best health possible. You may be surprised by some of the things you should and shouldn’t do!
- Smoking is bad. There are hundreds of toxins in cigarette smoke that your liver has to work on to keep you well while it should be working on other toxins
- Coffee is good! Take a few cups a day but ensure you are still taking plenty of water as well
- Alcoholic drinks – stick to medical advice. If you are taking antifungal drugs I am afraid the advice is no alcohol consumption (your liver will love you for it)
- Eat the rainbow – select fruit and veg of every colour to be part of your diet.
- Take care when using acetaminophen – often found in colds & flu remedies. No more than 4000 milligrams per day.
- Weight – keep your Body Mass Index between 18 and 25
- Infection control – wash your hands well after using the toilet and before preparing food
- Exercise as much as you can – see your specialist physio for advice
- Get vaccinated against hepatitis
- Practice safe sex – diseases transmitted by sex can hurt your liver
- Avoid ‘liver detox’ products eg milk thistle, turmeric. Tell your doctor what you are taking.
NOTE: Herbs and supplements cause 25% of the liver damage treated by doctors – especially borage, comfrey, groomwell, coltsfoot but also Atractylis gummifera, celandine, chaparral, germander and pennyroyal oil.
Good foods for your liver (all in moderation)
- Green tea
- Herbs & spices
Foods you should limit
- Fatty foods
- snack foods (usually rich in the above)