The Crucial Role of the Liver

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The liver is the largest organ in the human body and one that performs a multitude of important functions, both alone and in concert with other organs. The typical weight of a healthy liver will range from 2 lb to 4 lb (1 kg to 2 kg).

The liver is situated in the upper portion of the abdominal cavity, below the diaphragm, and it forms a part of the biliary system of the body, which is the network that includes a series of ducts, the gall bladder, the bile duct, and the liver. The kidneys are positioned next to the liver. The liver is surrounded by a dense network of connective tissues and blood vessels; the liver is brought into contact with a large amount of the blood present in the cardiovascular system at any time. The liver contains at any given moment over 10%s entire blood supply (approximately 15 oz, or 0.5 l).

The main function of the liver is to process nutrients from food, make bile, remove toxins from the body and build proteins.

It’s easy to see how inflammation of the liver, or hepatitis, interferes with these important functions and can lead to poor health. Fortunately, the liver is extremely resilient and most cases of liver inflammation don’t even come to medical attention, but in cases of severe liver disease, there can be serious interruption of these essential liver functions. Let’s look at each of these functions a little closer.

Processing Nutrients from Food

The digestive system immediately begins to break down the food that we eat into smaller and smaller pieces. Eventually these nutrients will enter the blood and travel to the liver through the hepatic portal system, the major pathway that blood takes from the digestive system to the liver. The liver will then process these nutrients in different ways, depending on the body’s needs. It usually stores some of the nutrients in a form that the body can use for quick energy. The rest will be used to make other important chemicals the body needs. When the liver is severely damaged, such as in liver failure, it can’t continue to process nutrients from the blood that the body must have. Without aggressive medical care, the absence of these essential liver functions can result in signs of serious illness like brain damage and coma.

Making Bile

Bile is a thick, green-yellow fluid that the liver produces to help digest food, especially fat, as it passes from the stomach to the intestines. This fluid is made in the liver, but is stored in a nearby sac called the gallbladder. When a person eats a meal heavy in fat, the body will use its store of bile to help break down the fats for digestion.

Removing Toxins from the Blood

All of the blood in the body will eventually pass through the liver. This is important because the liver needs to pull out any bad things in the blood, such as toxins, and remove them from the body. Some of these toxins are drugs, like penicillin, and other toxins are things that the body needs but is done with, like damaged cells, proteins and old hormones. The liver prepares all of these types of toxins to be removed from the body. However, when the liver is damaged, these toxins can’t be removed and they start to accumulate creating problems.

Building Proteins

A protein is a complex chemical that is essential to living things, like plants, animals and people. Proteins are everywhere in the body, and need to be constantly produced. The liver is in charge of building many kinds of proteins that the body uses every day. For instance, there are many proteins produced by the liver that are responsible for blood clotting. When the liver is damaged, sometimes the body isn’t able to clot blood effectively. In mild cases, it just takes a longer time for bleeding to stop. However, in severe cases the blood wouldn’t be able to clot. A simple cut on the skin would lead to continued bleeding (though not necessarily a dangerous amount), and possibly bruises.

Important tips to take care of our liver

Don’t drown the liver in beer, alcohol or wine!

Even one drink is too much for people and could scare it for life.

Increase fruits, vegetables and other liver health boosting foods in your diet

On the flipside, you can also use your diet strategically to support your liver health by eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, which are naturally detoxifying.

Specifically, sulfur-rich foods, such as onions, garlic and vegetables like broccoli, kale, collard greens, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, etc. are known to help your liver detoxify environmental toxins, including prescription drugs and pesticides. Vegetables are also an excellent source of fiber, which helps toxins to move through your digestive tract, reducing stress on your liver. Turmeric, cinnamon and licorice are also known to support healthy liver function.

Clean Water

Replace any soda, juice or coffee you drink with clean water. Getting enough water in your system is very important for detoxification.

Limit fructose, fried foods and processed foods containing trans fats or hydrogenated oils

Two more dietary burdens to your liver are hidden in many processed foods on your supermarket shelves: trans fats and fructose. Trans fats are common in fried foods like French fries and doughnuts and are also found in cookies, crackers and many other processed foods. If the ingredient list contains “hydrogenated”‌ or “partially hydrogenated”‌ oil, it will contain some amount of trans fat. Fructose is also found in numerous processed foods as well as in soda and fruit juice.

Exercise

Exercise is one straightforward way to lower your risk of fatty liver health disease, not only by helping you to maintain a healthy body weight (obesity increases your risk of fatty liver disease) but also by leading to liver health improvements independent of weight loss.

One study published in Hepatology even found that staying active for at least 150 minutes a week improved liver enzymes and other indices of liver health function.

Sweating

Whether through exercise or sauna, sweating allows your body to eliminate toxins through the pores, lowering the detoxification burden on the liver.

Avoid smoking

Smoking may harm your liver’s ability to effectively process and remove toxins from your body.

Watch those drugs!

All drugs are chemicals, and when you mix them up without a doctor’s advice, you could create something poisonous that could damage the liver badly.

The liver scars easily, and those scars, called ”cirrhosis” are permanent.

Medicine is something necessary. But taking pills when they are not necessary is a bad habit. All those chemicals can really hurt a liver.

Be careful with aerosol sprays.

Remember, the liver has to detoxify what you breathe in, too. So when you are cleaning with aerosol cleaner, make sure the room is ventilated, or wear a mask.

That goes double for bug sprays, mildew sprays, paint sprays and all those other chemical sprays we use. Be careful what you breathe!

Watch what gets on your skin!

Those insecticides we put on trees and shrubs not only kill bugs, they can get to the liver right through your skin and destroy its cells, too. Remember, they are all chemicals.

Cover your skin with gloves, long sleeves, and a hat and mask every time insecticides are in the air or of you are handling them.

Warning:

The liver cannot and will not tell us it is in trouble until it is almost at the end of its rope… and ours. Remember: The liver is a non-complainer. Overloading it with drugs, alcohol and other junk can destroy it! This may be the only warning we will ever get.

Some advice to protect your liver:

1. Check it out with your doctor.

2. Blood screening tests can identify some trouble.

3. If it is soft and smooth, that is good. If it is hard and bumpy, that could mean trouble.

4. If your doctor suspects trouble, ULTRA SOUND and CT scans can look into it.

5.  The liver’s life, and yours, depends on how you treat it.

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