The liver is the largest organ in the human body, helping to digest food, store energy and eliminate toxins. It ranks among the glands of the body and is located on the right side of the upper abdomen, rib cage, above the stomach, to the right of the intestines. It is has more than 500 vital functions in the human body.
Liver’s main functions:
One of the most important functions of the liver is to produce the juices necessary for digestion, which allows waste products to be transported and fats to be broken down in the small intestine during digestion. Bile is composed of salts, cholesterol, water, bilirubin and electrolytes. It is considered a biological disinfectant for the body and plays an important role in the elimination of some waste products. It is also involved in vitamin K absorption.
Helps with blood clotting
The liver plays an important role in the blood clotting process, as it produces certain proteins for the blood plasma. The link in this function comes from vitamin K, which is necessary for blood clotting. And in turn, bile which is necessary for the absorption of vitamin K.
Metabolism of fats and carbohydrates
Lymph juice produced by the liver breaks down fats into molecules that are easy to digest and absorb. It is also stores carbohydrates in the form of glycogen. When the body needs energy and vitality, the liver breaks down glycogen into glucose, which passes into the bloodstream.
Stores vitamins and minerals.
The liver stores various vitamins and minerals (iron, copper, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K, etc.). In addition, it can retain certain vitamins for several years and take them out when needed. Moreover, it plays an important role in the storage of iron, as it stores it in the blood in the form of ferritin, which is important in the manufacture of new red blood cells.
The liver works to collect and eliminate toxins from the human body. Toxins can be naturally present in our body, such as ammonia. The elimination process is done by restructuring toxic substances into a safe form (converting toxic ammonia into urea; a non-toxic, water-soluble substance that can be excreted by the kidneys), breaking them down or eliminating them and excreting them through bile.
The main diseases affecting the liver
The liver can be exposed to many health problems and diseases that you should pay attention to avoid. There are many causes of liver disease, the most important of which are: infection, immune system abnormalities, genetic factors, cancer, chronic alcoholism, fat accumulation in the liver, some medications and herbal compounds. The most common liver diseases are as follows:
Hepatitis C is a viral infection that sometimes leads to severe liver damage. It is spread through contaminated blood. It is a curable disease, using medication taken by mouth every day for two to six months. Signs and symptoms include: easy bleeding, tiredness, lack of appetite, dark urine, itchy skin, swelling in both legs, weight loss…
Hepatomegaly is when the liver is enlarged to the point of being larger than normal. This enlargement is usually a sign of a specific problem such as: congestive heart failure or cancer. Liver enlargement may cause no symptoms, but if it is caused by liver disease, it may be accompanied by abdominal pain, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, yellowing of the skin and vomiting (jaundice).
Cirrhosis of the liver arises as a result of infection of the liver with various diseases and conditions, such as hepatitis and chronic alcoholism. Unfortunately, it cannot be cured. But if it is detected early and the cause treated, it can be slowed down and rarely recurs. When signs and symptoms appear, they are often represented as: fatigue, bleeding, easy bruising, nausea, loss of appetite, weight loss, swollen legs…
How to take care of liver health?
As mentioned above, the liver is one of the most important organs in the body, as it performs many important functions, such as cleansing the body of toxins, storing vitamins and minerals and distributing them to the body. Taking care of its health is essential to protect against life-threatening diseases. There are a number of tips that can be helpful in maintaining liver health, here are the most important ones:
Exercise and weight control
You should maintain a healthy weight and exercise regularly to avoid fat accumulation around the waist and in the abdominal area. Fat accumulation in these areas increases the likelihood of insulin resistance, which increases the likelihood of cirrhosis. Exercise reduces the rate of liver stress and increases the level of energy in the body, as well as its importance in reducing obesity and weight gain. Because of its unlimited benefits, the World Health Organization recommends 150 minutes of exercise a week to maintain physical and mental health.
Eating a healthy and balanced diet
Eating a healthy and balanced diet is necessary to maintain human health in general and liver health in particular. What is meant by healthy eating, when talking about the liver, is eating foods that are good for the liver, reducing the intake of sugars, fats and salts. Also, drink plenty of water to keep the body hydrated, as water helps flush toxins from the liver. Foods that are good for its health include: apples, turmeric, green leafy vegetables, avocados, walnuts, olive oil, beetroot, carrots, garlic…
Other things to watch out for
Some factors that can damage the liver and affect its functions: smoking, alcohol, too much salt, some herbal remedies, obesity, vitamin A levels…