The Why’s and How’s of Good Liver Health

It might surprise you to know that the liver, a cone shaped organ, is the second largest solid organ in your body after skin which is considered as the largest organ, weighing a little more than 1 Kg and hold up to almost 450 ml of water or 13% of your blood at any given time. It sits between your diaphragm on top and your stomach below. It can be considered as the Jack of all trades considering the fact the functions it performs right from filtering off toxic or unwanted by products from your blood, stores fuel for energy release when you go into starving mode and makes a liquid called bile which helps you digest the food you eat.

Functions of the Liver :

This wonderful organ actually can act as your fuel tank, by balancing our energy sources. It stores fuel in the form of glucose and takes the amino acids from the food digested by converting them into fatty acids. When in case of an emergency like starvation or lack of available running fuel, the glucose, the liver comes to our rescue by switching gears and converting the fatty acids into another form of energy called ketones. Isn’t that an amazing organ then? It has an amazing power of self healing or even regeneration within a short span, like in case of injuries, even so much that a small part of liver if removed from one’s body for organ donation to someone in need, it can regenerate to the original size soon enough. It has the ability to process the drugs/medicines when required through the enzymes or chemicals to work on our body and at the same time also quickly after the drugs are broken down and used, the liver can also then deactivate the same drugs and help in excreting them from our body through urine or stools. In addition, the liver is the first nutrient processing centre where nutrients like sugars, amino acids, glycerol, salt, vitamins and minerals pass through, and converts them into their useable for, stores most of them like iron, folate, vitamins A,D and B12 to be delivered where ever the body requires. The liver therefore also acts as a detox centre, where the waste by products or toxins after use is filtered out. Besides this, it also filters out those found in alcohol, heavy metals by converting them into harmless waste to be got rid of. The liver also acts as a security gate, due to its ability to filter out all the toxins, and can trap the virus and harmful bacteria and any other unwanted germs which may encroach in via the food we eat. This is because it has the largest army of immune system that destroy or actually eat the germs (also called phagocytes), and can launch an offensive immune reaction when needed.

Can Liver damage be prevented ?

Isn’t it then our great responsibility to protect this vital organ from any external stress, trauma or abuse, so that it can continue to perform nonstop till our last breath? Well of course yes and how can we do that? It’s very simple and easy, provided we maintain certain decorum with this strong yet very vulnerable organ in our body and that is by taking care of it. Apart from certain external infections or pathological conditions, which may be beyond our control, there are many environmental factors which can help keep our liver healthy and happy.


How can we prevent liver damage?

– Avoiding sugars and sweetened beverages:

Sugar in the form of simple pure sugars or as fructose found in fruit juices can make excess fat leading to accumulation of excess fatty acids which can lead to fatty liver. Research also points out that sugar can be as damaging as alcohol for the liver even without consuming alcohol. But the good news is that this fatty liver is completely reversible with removal of sugars from the diet. Hence keeping away from foods containing added sugars, like pastries, cookies, aerated drinks or any foods containing fructose corn syrup, glucose, in any form will keep your liver hale and happy.

– Burden of Excess body weight:

Excessive build up of fat in the liver cells can lead to swelling or an enlarged liver, a condition called non alcoholic fatty liver disease(NAFLD), now also being termed as metabolic associated fatty liver disease (MAFLD). Shedding off those extra kilos or prevention of fat build up works best for good liver health.

– Herbal Supplements:

The term ‘herbal’ may sound to be ‘natural’, but that can e misleading. Some of the herbal preparations even though of plant origin, may contain alkaloids, the type of compounds which when deposited in the liver can cause liver damage leading to hepatitis or blockage of the liver ducts which can be quite complicated.

– Alcohol:

Excessive use of alcohol can lead to increased risk of jaundice, cirrhosis, liver failure and even liver cancer which may become irreversible after appoint. Hence staying away or judicious use in permitted amounts would be a good way to have a healthy liver.

– Vitamin and other Supplements:

Vitamin A is essential for many body functions, however excess dosages in the form of oral supplements may cause liver damage. Therefore resorting to dietary sources or using them if required, under medical supervision is a safer bet.

– Drug Abuse:

Undue and prolonged unsupervised consumption of over the counter drugs like pain killers etc can also damage the liver, since at the end all the toxic by products of the drugs are passed through the liver and if we stretch its capacity beyond a certain point, that can lead to collapse of the liver functions.
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