Some Things About The Human Liver You May Not Know
The liver is a vital component of the human digestive system. There are over 500 identified functions including food metabolism, energy storage, waste removal, detoxification, immune system support and production of chemicals. Humans cannot survive without a functional liver and liver disease is so prevalent it impacts one out of every ten people.
Liver is the largest internal organ inside human body. It is also one of the most important. It processes food into energy and nutrients for the body, and removes harmful substances and poisons from the blood. The liver also produces bile, a yellowish-green liquid that helps in digestions.
The liver is located just beneath the diaphragm in the upper right portion of the abdominal cavity. Positioned near the organs it works closely with the liver is to the right of the stomach just over the gallbladder. The liver consists of two main lobes, both of which are made up of thousands of lobules. The liver is an irregular hemisphere shape and is dark reddish brown in color.
Weighing over 3 pounds, the liver processes so much blood that at any given moment it contains up to one pint of blood (about 13% of the body’s blood supply). Nearly all the blood leaving the stomach and small intestine passes through the liver prior to traveling to the rest of the body. The blood coming from the stomach and small intestine is fresh with nutrients from digestion which are then processed by the liver and used for the liver’s many functions.
Many of the functions of the liver relate to digestion. The liver converts the food we eat into energy and then stores this in the readily accessible form of glycogen. The liver also produces bile, which breaks down fats and helps remove waste products from the body. Detoxification in the form of drug and waste removal takes place in the liver as well as storage of iron, vitamins and minerals. Additional functions of the liver include removal of bacteria, manufacture of the protein albumin, fibrinogin and other substances, processing of hemoglobin and the regulation of chemical levels in the blood.
Your liver plays a vital role in fighting infections, particularly infections arising in the bowel. It does this by mobilizing part of your body’s defense mechanism called the macrophage system. The liver contains over half of the body’s supply of macrophages, known as Kuppfer cells, which literally destroy any bacteria that they come into contact with. If the liver is damaged in any way its ability to fight infections is impaired.
The 5 Most Vital Functions Of The Liver
The liver’s main function is to produce substances that help the body break down fat in the small intestines. The liver manufactures bile that assists in the breakdown and digestion of food.
Glucose and Blood
The liver converts glucose to glycogen (sugar), the body’s main source of energy. When energy is required in an emergency the liver is able to rapidly converts its store of glycogen back into glucose ready for the body to use. It also detoxifies the blood making it clean and pure for use in the body.
The liver stores many vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, D, K and B12. It also produces certain amino acids that are the building blocks of necessary proteins.
The liver converts poisonous ammonia to urea, which is the main component of urine. It helps the body secrete excess waste, ammonia, nitrogen and protein. Urea is an end product of protein metabolism and is excreted in the urine.
About 80 percent of the body’s cholesterol is produced in the liver. The body needs cholesterol for every cell and for balance in hormones, sodium and water. It also produces special proteins to help carry fats through the body.
Other functions include:
- Production of certain proteins for blood plasma
- Regulation of blood levels of amino acids, which form the building blocks of proteins
- Processing of hemoglobin for use of its iron content (the liver stores iron)
- Clearing the blood of drugs and other poisonous substances
- Regulating blood clotting
- Removing bacteria from the bloodstream
- Manufacturing and regulating numerous hormones including sex hormones
- Combating infections in the body
- Producing enzymes and proteins which are responsible for most chemical reactions in the body, for example those involved in blood clotting and repair of damaged tissues
To really love your liver, it helps to know what foods and toxins to avoid. Here are some of the main offenders:
- Illicit drugs
- Large doses of vitamin A
- Some prescription medicines
- Some over-the-counter medications
- Fatty foods
- High levels of saturated fats
- High calorie intake/obesity
- High salt intake