Over the holiday season there’s been one hard worker that hasn’t had a day off. The liver, as the largest organ in our body certainly pulls its weight (an impressive 1.5kg) working around the clock to do a range of tasks to keep us going.
Safely tucked in behind your rib cage on the right side of your abdomen the liver is a large triangular shaped wedge and is a bit smaller than a rugby ball.
Over the festive season our liver hasn’t been missing out on the fun; it also gets a taste of all those drinks and treats we consume. It’s no secret that our liver helps to detoxify a large array of toxins.
But this is not the end of the story – it’s called the organ of longevity for a reason. Without it we wouldn’t survive. It’s the only organ that can purify our blood. The liver is also the only organ in your body which can grow back, even when only half remains. It renews itself. So what else does this organ do and how can we help it out?
What does my Liver do?
Cleans and filters the blood
A significant quantity of blood flows through the liver where, like a sieve, it removes dead and unhealthy cells, microorganisms (harmful bacteria etc), chemicals, drugs and other toxins from the bloodstream.
However like other filters, to keep it working optimally the liver also needs to be cleansed from time to time.
Bile is a product which breaks down fats. Our bodies need bile so that we can either digest the fats in our food or absorb them along with vitamin K for use throughout the body.
These proteins work to repair and regenerate cells and tissues in the body.
Thought to be the bad guy, we actually need cholesterol. Our liver works to deliver cholesterol to our cells where it is a necessary component in cell structure, finds a role in bile acid and Vitamin D production and is used for the synthesis of steroid hormones.
Is a major player in metabolism
When it comes to the body’s metabolism the liver has an important role to play, especially in burning fat. At some point, most of what we eat and drink (including drugs) finds itself going through the liver. Like a high-tech science lab, the liver is a place of chemical reactions.
It breaks down carbohydrates, proteins and fats, turning them into useful compounds whilst getting rid of toxins and storing some compounds that the body will need in the future.
Fructose is a fruit sugar (found in honey, table sugar, high-fructose corn syrup and fruit) which is often added to soft drinks and other fast foods instead of sugar as it has a higher relative sweetness. Unlike glucose which can be metabolised anywhere in the body, fructose must be metabolised by the liver.
Stores energy for the body
The liver works to store sugar which is used to fuel the body later. This sugar is called glycogen; it is a source of energy that can be quickly mobilised on demand.
Some very important hormones are manufactured by your liver. Such as hormones that stimulate body growth, bone marrow platelet production and blood pressure regulation.
The liver has our back. It carefully stores away – ready for future release when needed a helpful array of nutrients. These include glucose, copper, Vitamins A, B12, D, E and K, and iron.
Breakdown of components
Our liver also plays a vital role in breaking down all of those no longer useful components. Toxic substances, along with insulin and other hormones, and spent red blood cells.
Given all of these vital functions, we think it’s a good idea not to mess with your liver. So watch this space for the next chapter which will help you determine whether your liver is in need of some tender loving care and will explain how to look after your liver better.