The liver is a large, meaty organ that sits on the right side of the belly. Weighing about 3 pounds, the liver is reddish-brown in color and feels rubbery to the touch. Normally you can’t feel the liver, because it’s protected by the rib cage.
The liver has two large sections, called the right and the left lobes. The gallbladder sits under the liver, along with parts of the pancreas and intestines. The liver and these organs work together to digest, absorb, and process food.
The liver’s main job is to filter the blood coming from the digestive tract, before passing it to the rest of the body. The liver also detoxifies chemicals and metabolizes drugs. As it does so, the liver secretes bile that ends up back in the intestines. The liver also makes proteins important for blood clotting and other functions.
OTHER Functions of the Liver
The liver is an essential organ of the body that performs over 500 vital functions. These include removing waste products and foreign substances from the bloodstream, regulating blood sugar levels, and creating essential nutrients. Here are some of its most important functions:
- Albumin Production: Albumin is a protein that keeps fluids in the bloodstream from leaking into surrounding tissue. It also carries hormones, vitamins, and enzymes through the body.
- Bile Production: Bile is a fluid that is critical to the digestion and absorption of fats in the small intestine.
- Filters Blood: All the blood leaving the stomach and intestines passes through the liver, which removes toxins, byproducts, and other harmful substances.
- Regulates Amino Acids: The production of proteins depend on amino acids. The liver makes sure amino acid levels in the bloodstream remain healthy.
- Regulates Blood Clotting: Blood clotting coagulants are created using vitamin K, which can only be absorbed with the help of bile, a fluid the liver produces.
- Resists Infections: As part of the filtering process, the liver also removes bacteria from the bloodstream.
- Stores Vitamins and Minerals: The liver stores significant amounts of vitamins A, D, E, K, and B12, as well as iron and copper.
- Processes Glucose: The liver removes excess glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream and stores it as glycogen. As needed, it can convert glycogen back into glucose.
Maintaining a Healthy Liver
The best way to avoid liver disease is to take active steps toward a healthy life. The following are some recommendations that will help keep the liver functioning as it should:
- Avoid Illicit Drugs: Illicit drugs are toxins that the liver must filter out. Taking these drugs can cause long-term damage.
- Drink Alcohol Moderately: Alcohol must be broken down by the liver. While the liver can moderate amounts, excessive alcohol use can cause damage.
- Exercise Regularly: A regular exercise routine will help promote general health for every organ, including the liver.
- Eat Healthy Foods: Eating excessive fats can make it difficult for the liver to function and lead to fatty liver disease.
- Practice Safe Sex: Use protection to avoid sexually transmitted diseases such as hepatitis C.
- Vaccinate: Especially when traveling, get appropriate vaccinations against hepatitis A and B, as well as diseases such as malaria and yellow fever, which grow in the liver.