Only heavy drinkers or drug users need to be worried about the health of their livers, right? Not true. In fact, the largest and hardest working internal organ is crucial to the length and quality of our life. Without a liver, you would die within 24 hours.
The liver is a true powerhouse organ performing numerous functions in the body:
Detoxification – The liver detoxifies alcohol, heavy metals, drugs, chemicals, toxic by-products, and other poisons from the blood.
Digestion – The liver produces bile, a substance needed to digest and absorb fats and certain fat-soluble vitamins in the small intestines, including vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Manufacturing – The liver manufactures a variety of important proteins including enzymes, hormones, lipoproteins, blood proteins, clotting factors, and immune factors. The liver also produces cholesterol.
Processing – The liver processes almost everything we ingest via our mouth, breathe into our lungs, or absorb through our skin.
Storage – The cells of the liver also act as a storage facility to house many crucial substances. Iron, certain vitamins, minerals, and glycogen are stored there until they are needed.
Filtration – the liver filters more than a liter (quart) of blood every minute.
Beware the Sluggish Liver
Hepatitis and Cirrhosis are generally known as diseases of the liver, but many other health problems may be related to a congested or “sluggish” liver. Even a slight impairment of the liver can result in negative symptoms such as those in the extensive list below.
Internal symptoms: pale stool, elevated liver enzymes (shown in blood tests), pain on the right side, constipation, metallic taste in the mouth, nausea, blood sugar problems, headaches, chemical sensitivities, PMS, poor tolerance to fatty foods, digestive complaints, high cholesterol, abdominal tenderness
External symptoms: jaundice, abdominal weight gain, skin problems, bruising easily, age spots, discolored whites of the eyes, pain under the right shoulder blade, weak tendons, ligaments, and muscles, difficulty losing weight, excessive itching, or hives
Behavioural symptoms: fatigue, depressed appetite, loss of energy, impaired libido, mood swings, drowsiness after eating, depression
NOTE: The liver can continue functioning when as much as 70% of its capacity is lost. This is why it is especially important to take care of your liver. Sometimes damage can progress too far before a problem with the liver is even detected. See a professional if you have many of the symptoms listed above or suspect liver damage.
With more than 80,000 chemicals currently in use today (and 1,000 more introduced each year), we can no longer deny that we are living in a toxic world. Thankfully, the liver is the body’s in-house detoxification center, filtering waste and toxins from the cells, organs, and bloodstream.
There are two groups of toxins – exotoxins and endotoxins. Exotoxins come from outside sources and are inhaled or ingested. Examples include polluted air and water, cigarette smoke, alcohol, medications, food additives, and household chemicals. Endotoxins are created internally by the body. For example, when undigested food putrefies, it creates toxins that damage cells, tissues, and organs. An accumulation of “bad” bacteria in the intestines will also produce toxins (see Probiotics).
The liver converts harmful toxins into substances that can be safely eliminated from the body. This is accomplished in two ways: by transforming fat-soluble toxins into a water-soluble state for elimination through the urine, or by attaching toxins to bile for elimination through the colon.
If the liver is sluggish due to toxic overload, toxins can build up and cause inflammation [WHERE?]. Excess toxins end up re-circulating and are eventually stored in fatty tissues, including brain cells and the central nervous system. The slow release of toxins into the bloodstream is a major factor in the development of chronic disease.
This article is just a brief outline of the many important functions the liver performs for us. Take care of your liver, and it will take care of you.