Liver 101: Everything about this Essential Organ

Liver 101: Everything about this Essential Organ

The liver is a very essential organ in the human body. It is capable of serving multiple functions, such as:

  • making chemicals needed for the body to function normally
  • breaking down and detoxifying substances in the body
  • storing fats, energy, and protein

Let’s see what’s so special about this organ in detail.

What is the liver?

Position of the liver in the human body.

The liver is the human body’s largest solid organ. On average, it weighs around 1.36 kg (3 pounds) in adulthood and is roughly the size of a football. This organ plays a vital role in the body’s detoxification process, metabolic functions, and the immune system. Without a functioning liver, a person cannot be alive.

Structure of the liver

The liver is a large, meaty organ, that is of reddish-brown colour and its tissue is rubbery. You can’t feel it normally, since it is protected by the rib cage.

The liver is located mostly in the upper right portion of the stomach, just below the diaphragm. Also, some portion of the liver goes into the left upper abdomen.

An image illustrating the position of the liver in the body.
Liver’s position in the human body.

It is a half-moon shaped organ that’s fairly straight on the bottom. It’s tilted slightly in the body’s cavity, with the left portion above the stomach and the right portion above the first part of the small intestine.

The liver has two main portions or lobes.

And each lobe is further divided into eight segments.

Each segment has an estimated 1,000 small lobes or lobules.

And finally, each lobule has a small tube (duct) that flows toward the common hepatic duct.

The liver has almost 13% of the body’s blood at any given time. That’s a pretty significant amount, to be honest.

The purpose

The major purpose of the liver lies in the metabolic processes of the body, that includes:

  • making toxins less harmful to the body and removing them from the bloodstream (detoxification)
  • breaking down or converting substances
  • extracting energy

The liver cells, also known as hepatocytes, filter and accept the blood that the organ takes from the digestive system.

What do hepatocytes do?

These hepatocytes decide:

  • what should be eliminated via the stool
  • which nutrients should be processed
  • what substances should go back to the blood
  • what should be stored

The word “hepatocyte” is made of two words, “hepar“, which means liver, and “cyte“, which means cell. They are also responsible for producing proteins (protein synthesis) in the body required for blood clotting and maintain fluid within the circulation system.

Microscopic view of hepatocytes

This essential organ stores vitamins as well as minerals, including copper and iron, releasing them if the body has a need.

It also produces around 800-1000 ml of bile per day. This bile is transported to the small intestine via a bile duct. The small intestine uses the bile to further break down fats. Also, the liver stores fats or release them as energy. And the gallbladder stores any extra bile left.

The liver also breaks down protein. The byproduct that’s produced in this process is ammonia, which can be toxic to the body in excess. Then it turns the ammonia into urea. And the liver releases this into the blood where the kidneys excrete it via the urine. Moreover, this necessary organ also breaks down alcohol and many other medications that you take.

Here are some more important functions:

  • It creates immune system factors that can fight against infection
  • It breaks down old and damaged red blood cells (RBCs)
  • It makes proteins responsible for blood clotting
  • The organ produces carbohydrates and triglycerides
  • It stores extra blood sugar as glycogen

This essentially means that the liver is very crucial for a person’s health.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE THIS: Detox Diets 101: Do They Really Work?

The regenerating abilities

This is an amazing organ with the power to regenerate. I mean the organ’s tissue can grow to a certain extent after a surgery or an injury. The liver starts growing back by the expansion of the existing cells. Then the new cells start to multiply.

If you remove two-thirds or 66.67% of the organ, maybe in like a surgery, it can return to its original weight in just a week. It has the strength to regenerate completely after as many as 12 partial liver removal surgeries.

Below is an illustration of the types of regeneration with different liver removal fractions (PH stands for partial hepatectomy).

Liver diseases and problems

Several diseases can impact the organ and its capabilities. Some diseases can be treated completely while others are incurable. Let’s look at some of the common ailments:

1. Cirrhosis, a fatal liver disease

It is a condition of the organ caused by scarring. The several reasons for cirrhosis include long-term alcohol abuse, Wilson’s disease (a rare genetic disorder), and excessive fat consumption.

2. Biliary atresia

This is a condition that adversely affects a person’s bile flow and bile ducts. This conditions attacks humans as early as infancy. As in cirrhosis, this can also result in scarring of tissue. Luckily, biliary atresia can be treated by medical supervision.

3. Hepatitis

Hepatitis is a viral infection that causes inflammation and damage to the organ, reducing its effectiveness.

Hepatitis A

This is more common in developing countries where there isn’t sufficient and clean drinking water and has poor sanitation systems. Most people can recover from hepatitis A without long-term complications.

Hepatitis B

This is mostly spread in adults by using contaminated needles or by sexual contact. Hepatitis B can result in severe complications of the organ, however, there’s a vaccine against this infection to prevent it.

Hepatitis C

This type of hepatitis can be acute or chronic. It’s commonly spread by the blood containing the hepatitis C virus, like by sharing contaminated needles to inject drugs or apply tattoos. It can also be spread by having unprotected sexual contact with an affected person.

4. Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)

NASH is a form of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease that causes scarring or fibrosis. People with ailments such as obesity and type 2 diabetes are more vulnerable to suffer from NASH. Read more about NASH and other types of fatty liver disease in this detailed article.

5. Hemochromatosis

Hemochromatosis is a condition that increases iron levels in the body that’s more than needed. And too much iron can damage your detox organ.

Here’s a complete guide of the 7 most common liver diseases for you.

Symptoms of liver diseases

Many diseases of the organ begin with flu-like symptoms and progress to severe complications like jaundice and dark-coloured urine. The common symptoms of liver diseases are:

  • abnormal blood vessels on the skin (spider angiomas)
  • stomach discomfort or pain
  • loss of appetite
  • low sex drive
  • nose bleeds
  • itchy skin
  • joint pain
  • weakness
  • fatigue
  • nausea
  • vomiting

The severe ones include:

  • gynecomastia (males start to grow breast tissue)
  • yellow eyes and skin (jaundice)
  • confusion and fuzzy thinking
  • enlarged liver (hepatomegaly)
  • swelling of the legs (oedema)
  • abdominal swelling (ascites)
  • pale-coloured stools
  • dark urine
  • impotence

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, see your doctor immediately.

Perfect lifestyle for a healthy liver

To keep your liver functioning at optimum levels, it’s important to keep yourself away from these diseases and symptoms. If you can take certain precautionary measures and lifestyle changes, they can help in sustaining a healthy liver in the long run:

  • limit your alcohol intake since the organ puts enormous efforts to break down the toxins from alcohol
  • consult your doctor about any medications you’re taking as they may affect the organ
  • avoid sharing your needles or personal care items (like razors and toothbrush)
  • consume a healthy diet full of fatty fishes and fibre
  • get vaccinated for hepatitis types A and B
  • perform safe sex with a condom
  • Do regular exercise.

Bonus tip

I don’t know if you are well-versed with the world of Ayurveda. But whatever the case, it’s my job here to flood you with the knowledge. As we all know, Ayurveda is a boon from India. It is a blessing that we have phenomenal herbs that boost liver function and essentially assist to detoxify your body.

And detoxifying your body regularly is more crucial than ever.

There are not really very genuine and natural Ayurvedic supplements in the market out there, but Total Detox is a gem.

This herbal liver supplement from Loire Wellness can also keep your liver healthy, along with the aforementioned lifestyle changes. The ingredients used in Total Detox are nothing but a combination of 11 Ayurvedic herbs like Haritaki, Curcumin and Milk Thistle. All of these are highly beneficial for the organ, and eventually, detoxification of the body.

So, if you feel this supplement a good one for you, click below to shop now!

Conclusion

So finally this is all about the saviour organ, that is, liver. Again, keeping the liver healthy and proper is key to a healthy body for us. Certain lifestyle habits can help our body stay healthy in the long run.

And lastly, if you reached till here, I highly thank you guys for your time, patience and effort to read this piece. If possible, just spare a few minutes and comment below on how you feel about this and was this helpful to you.

And don’t forget to stay hydrated, informed, aware, and yes, safe from the coronavirus!

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