Your liver is located under your right ribcage and it is one of the largest internal organs in your body. The main function of the liver is to filter blood and remove toxins. Your liver also plays an important role in your digestive system. Liver pain can be caused by disease or infection that makes the liver swell. This can cause pain around the liver in your upper abdomen or the middle of your back.
This article looks at the important functions that the liver has in the body. You will also learn about the main causes of liver pain. Knowing what causes pain in the liver can help you make positive lifestyle choices to protect the health of your liver. At the end of the article, you will find out great natural remedies to strengthen your liver.
Where Your Liver is Located
Your liver is located in the upper right-hand part of your abdomen and is protected by your ribs. The liver sits just above your stomach and below your lungs.
Dr. Matthew Hoffman on WebMD says that your liver weighs about 3 pounds (about 1.3 kilograms) and you can’t usually feel the liver. Your liver sits beside the pancreas, gallbladder, and intestines and these organs perform important functions to help the body digest, absorb, and process food.
What the Liver Does
Your liver helps the body break down and digest food by producing bile. Doctors from Stanford Children’s Health say that bile from the liver breaks down fats from your food so that it can be digested properly and your body absorbs all the necessary nutrients.
One very important function of the liver is to keep your blood clean and free of toxins. The liver also creates nutrients for the body and provides proteins for blood plasma. Good liver health also helps to keep your immune system strong.
Taking into consideration the important work your liver does, it’s important to keep your liver healthy. Before we look at ways to boost the health of your liver and keep it functioning properly, let’s look at the main reasons for liver pain.
The Main Causes of Liver Pain
Although we talk about liver pain, there are actually no nerve endings in the liver. Doctors on MedicineNet say that pain from the liver is caused when the thin layer of tissues surrounding the liver becomes stretched. So, any “liver pain” you feel is caused by either inflammation stretching the tissues around the liver or the liver presses on an organ in your upper abdomen.
For example, hepatitis causes inflammation in the liver which will make you feel pain under your right-hand ribs. Or, inflammation in the bile ducts coming from the liver can cause pain just above your stomach.
Symptoms of liver pain
Usually, liver pain is accompanied by other symptoms which can indicate liver disease. Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that some of the symptoms of liver disease are abdominal pain and swelling, skin with a yellowish appearance, swelling around your ankles, and a tendency to bruise easily.
If these symptoms persist and you have pain in your upper abdomen, then you should visit your doctor who will perform a blood test to check how your liver is functioning.
Fatty liver disease
An accumulation of fat in the liver can lead to fatty liver disease. Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that one of the symptoms of fatty liver disease is pain in the upper right abdomen.
Dr. William Blahd on WebMD says there are two main types of fatty liver disease – nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD). Doctors aren’t sure what causes NAFLD, however being overweight, having high cholesterol, contracting a viral infection, or suffering from an autoimmune disease have been connected with NAFLD.
Alcoholic fatty liver disease is caused by drinking too much alcohol. Dr. Blahd says that even a short period of binge drinking can cause fatty liver disease. You may even feel pain in your liver after an episode of heavy drinking.
For more information on what to do about fatty liver disease, please read my article on how to prevent fatty liver disease naturally.
Cirrhosis of the liver describes damage to the organ that results in permanent scarring. According to doctors from the National Health Service (NHS), the early symptoms of cirrhosis are not noticeable. However, when the liver becomes more damaged, you may feel pain and tenderness around the liver area.
Hepatitis C infections and drinking too much alcohol are the main causes of liver cirrhosis. Doctors from the NHS say that other symptoms of cirrhosis of the liver include weight loss, nausea, tiredness, itchy yellow skin, swelling in the legs and ankles, and a tendency to bleed more easily.
Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver and it can cause liver pain in many cases. The inflammation of the liver is usually caused by a viral infection and there are 5 main types of hepatitis – A, B, C, D, and E. Dr. Melinda Ratini on WebMD says that hepatitis can also be caused by drinking too much alcohol.
Along with the pain in and around your liver area, hepatitis can cause a mild fever, fatigue, and muscle or joint aches. If the infection causing pain in your liver becomes worse, you may also notice that your skin turns yellow, your urine is dark, or you pass light-colored fatty stools.
Another condition that can cause liver pain is infectious mononucleosis (mono). This is a very contagious viral infection that can cause inflammation of the liver and pain.
Dr. Melissa Conrad Stöppler on MedicineNet says that mononucleosis can be detected by a blood test to check the number of white blood cells. The usual symptoms or mono is fever, a sore throat, and swollen lymph nodes. It’s only when the infection gets worse that it will cause liver pain.
Liver cysts can sometimes cause the liver to enlarge and become painful. Liver cysts are small sacs of fluid that develop in the liver. Usually, liver cysts don’t cause any painful symptoms and they can be left alone.
According to doctors from the Cleveland Clinic, liver cysts can cause upper abdominal pain and swelling. A person may feel excruciating pain around the liver area if bleeding occurs around the cyst. The liver pain will ease as the bleeding stops. Usually, if you have signs of liver cysts, doctors will perform a procedure to remove the cysts to stop the pain.
Too much iron (hemochromatosis)
Certain medical conditions can cause too much iron to build up in the liver and cause hemochromatosis. Although iron is important for good health, too much iron is bad for your liver.
Hemochromatosis can be difficult to determine in its early stages. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute says that early signs of too much iron in the blood are stomach pain, joint pain, weakness, and weight loss.
If hemochromatosis isn’t treated early enough, the iron levels in the liver can build up so much that it damages the liver. This can lead to liver pain because the liver swells and becomes damaged and scarred.
Cancer of the liver can be one of the reasons for liver pain on the right side of your ribs. Tumors in the liver can cause it to become enlarged and painful. Of course, liver pain isn’t the only sign of liver cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, the common symptoms of liver cancer are unexplained weight loss, pain in the abdomen or in the right shoulder blade, swelling in the abdomen, or jaundice (yellowing of the skin). You may even be able to feel the swollen liver under your right ribs.
Liver cancer can also cause an enlarged spleen which can cause pain under your left ribs.
How to Strengthen Your Liver
There are many natural ingredients that can help to strengthen your liver health. Many ingredients help to remove toxins from the blood or contain antioxidants that help to rid free radicals from the liver. It’s also important to make healthy lifestyle choices to prevent conditions that lead to liver pain and disease.
Drink plenty of water for liver health
You should drink plenty of water to help flush out toxins from your liver and prevent liver pain. Not drinking enough water can lead to dehydration which has a negative impact on your general health.
According to the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, water is essential for a healthy liver. Scientists have found that drinking enough water detoxifies the liver, promotes good blood circulation and helps the liver produce enough bile to digest food.
Green leafy vegetables
Green leafy vegetables are an excellent source of antioxidants that can keep your liver healthy. They are some of the best foods to cleanse your liver and prevent liver disease.
The journal Lipids in Health and Disease reported on a study proving that green leafy vegetables help reduce the risk of liver disease and cardiovascular disease. Researchers found that consuming green leafy vegetables helps to improve liver fatty acid profiles.
A review published in 2015 reported on the health benefits of cruciferous vegetables (such as cabbage, cauliflower, kohlrabi and broccoli). Various studies have shown that eating plenty of vegetables in your diet helps to prevent various diseases and also reduce the level of toxins in the liver.
You should incorporate more garlic in your diet to help keep your liver healthy and pain-free. Garlic and can help to destroy toxins that damage the liver due to its powerful medicinal properties.
A review of the effect of garlic consumption and liver health found that garlic boosts liver function. For example, studies have found that garlic can help to reduce the effects of liver disease. Garlic can also help to protect the liver against the harmful effects of toxins in the blood.
To find out how to use garlic as a medicine, please read my article about how garlic can be used as an antibiotic.
Limit alcohol consumption
Because the overconsumption of alcohol causes liver damage, you should limit your alcohol intake to avoid liver pain and prevent liver disease. Alcohol puts extra strain on the liver as it tries to flush the toxins from your blood. Therefore limiting alcohol consumption is one of the common habits that damage your liver.
The Journal of Hepatology reported that daily drinking of alcohol increases the risk of developing cirrhosis. The study found that stopping heavy drinking can help to prevent liver disease and cirrhosis. The research article also mentions that “even light drinkers, who consume one to two drinks a day, are at increased risk of alcoholic cirrhosis compared to abstainers.”
According to Dr. Minesh Khatri on WebMD, drinking heavily can cause alcoholic hepatitis resulting in inflammation. The liver pain caused by inflammation could last for a week or two. Even just a bout of binge drinking can cause fatty liver disease.
Drink green tea
To help keep your liver healthy and reduce your risk of liver disease, you should drink more green tea. Green tea has many amazing health benefits and can help to boost your digestion and cleanse toxins from your system.
Researchers have found that liver disease can be reduced by drinking more green tea. Some scientific studies have shown a correlation between increased green tea intake and a reduction in liver disease. So, green tea can help to both boost your liver health and also reduce the risk of liver damage.18
If you have liver pain, you can try to drink more lemon water to help strengthen your liver health. Apart from containing high amounts of vitamin C, lemons have a detoxifying effect on your liver and can help reduce inflammation.
For example, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition found that lemons contain antioxidant compounds. The flavonoids in lemons help to prevent various “lifestyle-related” diseases. Therefore, drinking lemon water can also help the liver to function more effectively.
Enjoy a healthy diet
Your diet has a large impact on the health of your liver. We’ve already seen that a diet that incorporates more vegetables and plant-based foods boosts your liver function. Also, cutting down on alcohol helps to keep your liver working properly. However, a healthy diet in itself is a great way to strengthen your liver and care for your overall health.
The journal Current Opinion in Lipidology reported that the Mediterranean diet can help reverse the effects of nonalcoholic liver disease. This type of healthy diet includes food containing omega-3 like fish and seafood, green leafy vegetables, seeds, legumes, and extra virgin olive oil. These types of food help to reduce obesity naturally and boost metabolism and liver function.
Also, you should cut out sugar from your diet as much as possible to help prevent liver disease and other health complications.
Good oral hygiene
It may surprise you, but cleaning your teeth regularly can actually help reduce the risk of suffering complications from cirrhosis of the liver. Good oral hygiene practices like regular brushing and flossing help to remove bacteria from your mouth and prevent it reaching your liver.
A study published in 2016 found a connection between gum disease and liver disease. The researchers found that patients with liver disease reduced their risk of serious complications of liver scarring if they cared for their oral health to prevent gum disease.
You can take care of your teeth and gums by brushing regularly with a natural toothpaste to remove plaque. You should also avoid some common mistakes when brushing your teeth if you want to have good oral hygiene.