The human body is a beautiful machine with more complex mechanisms than a high-end car. It comprises several systems that are vital for the sustenance of life. The digestive system is one of the most important ones among these systems. The digestive system includes the oral cavity, esophagus, stomach, liver, and pancreas. Of these, the liver is the largest organ and the most important one for the digestion process. Though the digestion process happens in the stomach, the substances required are secreted and stored in the liver. Also, the liver processes the digested food and sends the nutrients into the bloodstream. Thus, the liver plays a significant role in the metabolism process required to generate energy for the body.
Anatomy of the liver
The liver is on the right at the top of the abdominal cavity, diagonally above the stomach, and below the diaphragm. It is a cone-shaped organ, reddish-brown, and weighs up to 3 pounds in an average human.
The liver receives blood supply from 2 sources, viz., the oxygenated blood from the hepatic artery, and the nutrient-rich blood flows in the hepatic portal vein.
The liver holds around 13% of the body’s total blood supply. It comprises two lobes, each having eight segments containing 1000 lobules. These lobules are connected to the tiny ducts that connect to the larger ducts to form the common hepatic duct. This common hepatic duct transports the bile made by the liver cells to the gallbladder and the duodenum via the common bile duct.
Functions of the Liver
The liver’s primary function is to maintain and regulate the chemical levels in the body. The liver secretes a fluid known as bile, which helps eliminate waste from the body. The liver breaks down the macronutrients and makes it easy for the body to absorb these nutrients. It also metabolizes the drugs into a non-toxic form to reduce the impact on the body. It produces specific proteins needed for blood plasma. The liver metabolizes fats and regulates cholesterol levels in the human body. It converts glucose stored in the body to glycogen which is the primary energy source for the body. Most of the immune factors in the body have their origin in the liver. The liver also clears bilirubin from the body. High levels of bilirubin in the blood cells result in jaundice.
Conditions affecting the liver
Several conditions affect the liver causing hindrances to its functions. A few of these conditions include:
- Hepatitis (A-F): This is a viral infection caused by contamination of food and water due to a lack of hygienic measures. Hepatitis C, even when detected at an early stage, cannot be cured, and the medication for it has to be continued till death.
- Fatty Liver Disease: This is a disease where the fats get accumulated on the liver walls, blocking the functioning of the liver. Fatty liver disease is of two types, viz., alcoholic and non-alcoholic. Alcoholic fatty liver is caused because of excessive consumption of alcohol, while poor lifestyle choices cause the non-alcoholic fatty liver.
- Steatohepatitis: Steatohepatitis is an advanced stage of fatty liver disease. This is when the fat deposition on the liver walls causes inflammation and infection of the liver. When ignored, this condition advances to a stage known as steatosis.
- Liver Cirrhosis: Liver cirrhosis is when the liver wall is scarred because of infection. If ignored, it causes irreparable scars on the liver. At that moment, the only option is to replace the liver.
- Liver Cancer: Liver cancer is a condition when the liver cells replicate uncontrollably and hampers the functioning of the normal liver cells.
- Hemochromatosis: Hemochromatosis is a condition in which iron level rises in the body. This causes severe damage to many organs, including the liver.
- Wilson’s disease: This is a condition caused by excessive build-up of copper in the body, resulting in severe damage to the liver.
Measures to ensure a Healthy Liver:
The liver is a very silent organ, and you will be able to detect the presence of any disease only when it progresses to an advanced stage. But by then, the damage has been done to the liver. So the best way to solve liver problems is to prevent infection in the first place.
Some preventive measures are:
- Personal hygiene is the first step to ensure that your liver is healthy. Food and water consumed by individuals must be clean and hygienic.
- Vaccination against Hepatitis is compulsory to avoid the disease. Of the lot, Hepatitis causes maximum damage to the liver.
- Consumption of alcohol must be limited or stopped if possible. Alcoholic fatty liver disease is an issue that can never be treated unless the person quits consuming alcohol.
- Avoid reusing syringes and needles. Used equipment must be disposed of safely.
- It is essential to avoid fat deposition on the body. The only way is to include physical activity to increase the body’s calorie expenditure.
- Consume moderately drugs that might cause damage to the liver. These include anti-depressants, painkillers, and sleeping pills.
- Regularly examine and check your liver function to detect any issues with the liver at an early stage, when it will be easier to reverse the condition and cure.
- Fill out the Healthy Liver Resolution on the website of the Chennai Liver Foundation to get a free liver screening and a complimentary e-book with guidelines to maintain your liver health.
The liver is one of the major organs of the human body. In most cases, it can repair itself as long as the damage caused is minor. But when the damage caused is unknown to us, and we do not take care of the liver properly, the damage progresses to an advanced stage from which the liver cannot heal itself, nor can medical experts. This makes it essential to follow preventive measures to avoid liver disease or damage. Also, getting in touch with the Chennai Liver Foundation helps you know more about the liver. We conduct several awareness programmes and provide support to people who need a liver transplant or any other corrective treatment.