The liver performs many vital functions to help keep the body free of toxins, aid in digestion, and regulate blood sugar. A healthy liver is necessary for health and well being. Unfortunately, due to the liver’s continuous exposure to toxins, the liver is highly prone to disease and damage.
Essential Liver Functions
One of the most important functions of the liver is the secretion of bile. Bile is produced by hepatocytes in the liver, and then carried through the liver and gallbladder through bile ducts. Most of the bile produced by the liver is stored in the gallbladder until it is needed for digestion. When foods containing fats reach the duodenum, the bile is released to break down the food so that the body can process it.
As blood passes through the liver, the liver monitors the contents of the blood and removes toxic substances before the blood passes through to the rest of the organs of the body. Toxins may be from drugs, foods, or alcohol that has been ingested. The liver may also consider excess amounts of hormones that have been produced toxic, and may filter these hormones out of the blood stream.
After helping to break down food, the liver will store some of the sugars in the form of glycogen. This protects the body from sugar spikes, and can be released as needed when low blood sugar is detected. The liver also processes amino acids and fatty acids and converts these substances to useful energy. The amine groups are removed from the amino acids and converted to ammonia, then to urea, and excreted in the urine.
The immune system presents significant liver importance. Kupffer cells within the liver remove fungi, parasites, fungi, and other debris within the blood stream. Kupffer cells then digest these materials so that the body remains unharmed.
If the liver is not functioning properly, symptoms such as darkened urine or stool or jaundice of the eyes and skin may manifest. Liver malfunction may be caused by disease, infection, cancer, or damage. Damage to the liver is most often caused by excessive consumption of alcohol or drugs. Acetaminophen and certain cancer drugs are known to cause liver damage, and should be avoided by those that are prone to liver damage or consume alcohol regularly.
Maintaining Healthy Liver Function
Healthy lifestyle choices may help to maintain healthy liver function, including:
• Moderating alcohol use
• Avoiding smoking
• Receiving vaccinations to protect against hepatitis
• Practicing safe sex and avoiding blood contact
• Avoiding intravenous drugs
• Limiting use of acetaminophen
• Maintaining a healthy weight
• Taking care of tattoos and piercings
• Limiting fat intake