Liver: Assaults, Abuses and Ailments
After the Heart, Liver is the most important organ in our body. But, it gets little recognition as it performs its immense tasks in the background. By the weight and size, liver is the largest organ in the human body – somewhat larger than the size of a football, weighing 2lb 10oz to 3lb 2oz (1200g to 1400g) in the adult woman and 3lb 2oz to 3lb 5oz (1400g to 1500g) in the adult man.
Structurally, liver is divided into four lobes, a large right and a small left lobe, and, nestled between those two lobes, two less easily visible lobes.
Liver has an amazing regenerative and ‘reserve’ property. Its reserve capacity is 70-80%. That means you can destroy up to 80 percent of the liver’s function and have no demonstrable negative effect. It is one of the few human organs that can regenerate itself. It can actually regenerate (in a matter of weeks) from up to 80% loss of tissue to full size again. It is amazing.
Liver sits quietly under the right-lower ribcage and performs its long list of tasks without even a murmur. The liver is the body’s filter and primary antipollution and detoxification organ. It filters more than a liter of blood per minute and makes sure that everything we need is absorbed, and everything that we don’t need gets dumped.
Liver is a highly complex and sophisticated organ involved in more than 200 separate functions. Listed below are some of its major functions:
- First, and probably foremost, it synthesizes protein from amino acids. It takes amino acids and assembles them as needed into complex proteins. It makes almost all prothrombin and fibrinogen (clotting factors), as well as albumin, the major blood protein. It also converts forms of amino acids from one to the other when needed for specific proteins.
- Detoxifies the body – Filters the blood, removing all kinds of harmful substances. It converts toxic ammonia (from amino acid conversions) into less toxic urea (which is excreted).
- It neutralizes and destroys poisons and metabolizes alcohol.
- The liver also detoxifies drugs and chemicals and virtually any toxin that enters the body. It excretes those toxins in two ways.
- It neutralizes them and releases them into the blood, where they make their way to the kidneys and on out through the urine.
- It dumps the toxins directly into the bile and, thence into the intestines for excretion.
- Creates substances that enhance our immune system and helps the body resist infections by producing immune factors (like gamma globulin). It thus removes bacteria from the bloodstream.
- The liver also excretes bilirubin, the broken-down pigments from dead red blood cells, by metabolizing it with bile salts and excreting it through the feces. Bilirubin is what makes our feces brown. If for some reason, bilirubin is not excreted (as in obstructive jaundice) the feces will turn clay-colored.
- It creates bile, which breaks down fats. The secretion of bile is of great help to the whole digestive and assimilative process. The role of bile is partially that of facilitating fat digestion but also of being a natural laxative, and thus cleansing to the system.
- Converts nutrients derived from food into essential blood components. It uses amino acids and proteins for energy production or storage as fats and carbohydrates.
- Accesses and release the energy as we need from proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.
- Metabolizes, helps utilize, and eliminates excess hormones.
- Stores vitamins, minerals, and sugars.
- Stores extra blood for emergencies.
- Regulates blood clotting.
- Helps maintain our electrolyte and water balance.
- Helps us utilize fat-soluble vitamins (like A, D, E, F, and K).
- And it synthesizes cholesterol from fatty acids and removes excess cholesterol from the bloodstream as required.
Liver acts as body’s main biochemical synthesizer and detoxifying and processing organ. It’s responsible for cleaning toxins and wastes from the blood, and separating out the useful nutrients to synthesize into hundreds of biochemicals that the body needs for daily functioning. It also activates and regulates important hormones.
After the digestive system has broken down the food, the small particles enter the blood from the intestine and are routed to the liver for filtering. There the liver separates the nutrients needed fbyt the body from the waste chemicals that need to be removed from circulation. The liver converts amino acids into proteins to regenerate and build the body – cells, muscle mass and enzymes. It produces bile that squirts back out through the gall bladder into the intestinal tract to digest fatty foods. The liver also stores energy from sugar as glycogen for later release.
Out of the myriad of functions the liver performs, ensuring toxins are safely removed from the blood is one of its most critical jobs. Toxins enter the body when it is exposed to harmful substances like toxins, carcinogens, heavy metals, and pesticides, but they also result from normal digestion. For example, when the body digests protein, ammonia is released and your liver converts it into a less toxic substance, urea that is eliminated through urine. Any wastes that liver cannot use are converted and either carried out by bile into the small intestine or carried by the blood to kidneys.
The liver detoxifies harmful substances in two steps. The first step uses enzymes and oxygen to burn toxins, especially fatty ones, so they are more water soluble, making them easier for the body to eliminate. The second detox step combines partially processed toxins with sulfur or amino acids so they can be removed through bile or urine.
As if all this doesn’t keep your liver busy enough, it also supplies the immune system with antibodies and produces blood-clotting factors and globin, a constituent of hemoglobin, the pigment in blood that carries oxygen to all the body’s cells.
Chronic Liver Diseases and Ailments
Liver can take a lot of beating – within a limit. It keeps on repairing and healing itself while still performing its duties faithfully. But, when it succumbs to abuses and assaults, it is time to pay attention and look after your lever. The problem with liver impairment is that it’s easy to overlook – until it is too late. After all, how many people think their liver may be involved when they experience headaches, fatigue, irritability, aches, eczema, psoriasis, pains, indigestion, chronic constipation, premenstrual syndrome or hormonal imbalances?
According to the American Liver Foundation, more than 25 million American suffer from liver and gallbladder diseases. At present, there are few treatments available in the conventional medicine that provide an effective change in these conditions, leaving many people to suffer, often, life-threatening complications.
Liver has the capability to completely recover, regenerate, reconstruct, and heal itself. This healing process keeps on going on without we even noticing it. With the ever-increasing intake of pollutants, chemicals and harmful substances, we make the job of liver a lot difficult. When the liver gets overburdened, its resources are diverted on detoxifying and reconstructing itself – this causes a plethora of problems for our body.
But, when the assaults and abuses go beyond its limit and it cannot cope with it, the liver gives up – it degenerates and stops functioning. This is a serious condition that needs urgent medical attention and treatment.
The following are the major ailments of Liver:
There are two main kinds of liver cancer. Heptoma and cholangiocarcinoma. Heptoma is cancer of the hepatocytes. (The main functioning liver cell). Hepatoma is primary liver cancer. Hepatoma usually grows in the liver as a ball-like tumor, invading the normal tissue surrounding it. A history of infection with the hepatitis B virus puts individuals at risk of developing heptoma.
Cholangiocarcinoma is the malignant growth in the ducts that carry bile from the liver to the small intestine. It is a rare form of tumor and occurs in about one to two people per 100,000 and represents approximately 3% of all gastrointestinal cancers.
Liver cirrhosis is a term that refers to a group of chronic diseases of the liver in which normal liver cells are damaged and replaced by scar tissue. It causes the liver to contract in size and become hard and leathery – unable to function normally. There is a significant loss of cells in this condition – it not only injures the liver cells but also kills them. Liver cirrhosis may be caused due to excessive use of alcohol, highly toxic condition of the system and poor nutrition.
Liver cirrhosis does not develop overnight. It takes several years to develop. While liver cirrhosis is developing, there are usually no symptoms. Symptoms usually appear when liver cirrhosis is fully developed. The symptoms will depend on how severe liver cirrhosis is.
The most common symptoms of cirrhosis of the liver are frequent attacks of indigestion, occasional nausea, vomiting, weakness, loss of appetite, weight loss, dark skin color, intense itching, confusion, nose bleeds, breast enlargement in men, fluid retention in the legs and abdomen, include abdominal pain, low fever and foul breath.
The hepatitis C virus ranks with alcohol as a major cause of chronic liver disease and cirrhosis in the United States. Infection with this virus causes inflammation and damage to the liver that over time can lead to cirrhosis.
Hepatitis B and D:
The hepatitis B virus is probably the most common cause of cirrhosis worldwide, but it is less common in the United States and the Western world. Hepatitis B, like hepatitis C, causes liver inflammation and injury that can lead to cirrhosis. Hepatitis D is another virus that infects the liver, but only in people who already have hepatitis B.
This disease appears to be caused by the immune system attacking the liver and causing inflammation, damage, and eventually scarring and cirrhosis.
The bile produced by our liver is stored in the gallbladder, and then excreted into the intestines to break down fats. At any given moment in the US, it is estimated that 20 million people are suffering from gallstones. A great percentage of these people develop stones due to bile stagnation, a bile that has become too thick, or liver damage from drugs, alcohol, birth control pills, and prescription drugs that cause the bile to become stagnated. Stagnant bile results in poor skin tone, acne, poor blood clotting, poor vision, an upset antioxidant system in the body, immune dysfunction, and a liver that holds onto toxic chemicals that would normally be cycled out of the body in the bile.
With proper support, the liver has the capability to completely recover, reconstruct and heal itself. A healthy and well nourished liver can better withstand the invasions of foreign substances, microbes and viruses. It is paramount that that we keep our liver in good health so that it can protect itself. A nourishing diet and natural herbs can play an important role in keeping the liver healthy.
Natural Remedies and Herbal Help for Liver:
The good news is that, with proper support, the liver has the capability to completely recover, reconstruct and heal itself. A healthy and well nourished liver can better withstand the invasions of foreign substances, microbes and viruses. It is paramount that that we keep our liver in good health so that it can protect itself. A nourishing diet and natural herbs can play an important role in keeping the liver healthy.
For natural and herbal remedies to restore the Liver to its natural healthy state, please read Liver Health: Natural Remedies.