How well do you know your liver?
The liver is the second largest organ in the body after the skin. (1)
In addition to its role in digestion, the liver is responsible for a number of other vital functions.
In fact, everything that enters the blood from the digestive tract passes through the liver and is filtered using active phagocytes to remove bacteria and other foreign materials before it is carried to other regions of the body.
It also acts as a dump site for toxic waste.
Toxins such as insecticides and preservatives may build up and damage the liver.
The liver produces important blood proteins and other molecules, stores iron and various vitamins, eliminates old haemoglobin, detoxifies many drugs and toxins.
It is also the major site for the metabolism of products resulting from the digestion of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. (2)
The liver produces bile, which is essential in the digestion of fats, and the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K.
Bile acids are reabsorbed by the intestine after digestion and recycled in the liver as bile once again. (3)
The liver’s role in maintaining optimal health is undeniable.
Not only does it serve as the body’s internal chemical power plant, it also filters out alcohol and toxic substances from the blood by converting them into substances from the blood by converting them into substances that can be excreted from the body to prevent certain diseases.
In short, the liver is vital for its following functions:
1. Filtering of everyday toxins from the bloodstream.
2. Activation and breaking down of hormones that influence both our physical and emotional well-being.
3. Activation of many vitamins, including some in the B complex family.
4. Metabolism of fats and carbohydrates. (4)
People who need to watch the health of their livers include those who:
- eat fatty foods or have poor health in general
- have poor digestive function
- need to lower their cholesterol levels
- use oral contraceptives, Hormone Replacement Therapy or other hormonal drugs.
- drink alcohol on a regular basis or consume drugs.
- are exposed to pesticides, solvents or other environmental pollutants.
- are trying to reduce body fat. (5)
When watching for signs of a poorly functioning liver, take note of the following:
- Hepatitis A, B and C – swelling of liver
- Cirrhosis or scarring of the liver
- Skin pigmentation
- Dark circles under eyes
- Poor gall bladder function
- Fat intolerance
- Itchy skin
- Feeling nauseous (6)
Milk thistle is a plant native to Europe (7) and is commonly used as a complementary treatment for liver problems, in particular, chronic hepatitis and cirrhosis, and inflammation of the bile ducts.
Research suggests that it may prevent inflammation of the liver, and that the herb is an antioxidant, which keeps the body protected from cell-destroying substances called free radicals.
Additionally, it may reduce inflammation and block the effects of toxins that harm the liver.
Also known as swine snout, endive, lion’s tooth, the roots and leaves of Dandelion are often used to treat liver conditions such as jaundice and hepatitis.
While taking supplements may assist in maintaining a healthy liver, lifestyle and dietary habits are equally important.
Some practices which may keep your liver health in check include:
- Increasing your consumption of high potassium foods, e.g. almonds, bananas, raisins, prunes, wheat bran and seeds.
- Drinking plenty of clean water.
- Avoiding constipating foods to prevent the liver from work overload.
- Avoiding smoking and reducing consumption of alcohol, caffeine, soft drinks, spicy or fried foods. (12)
- Avoiding the consumption of more than 10,000 I.U. of vitamin A daily. (13)
Need more ideas on what to eat to improve your liver health?
1. InnerBody/Tim Taylor. Liver – Anatomy and Function of the Human Liver. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.innerbody.com/image_digeov/card10-new2.html. [Accessed 1 December 2016].
2. National Library of Medicine – PubMed Health. 2016. How does the liver work?. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0072577/. [Accessed 1 December 2016].
3. National Library of Medicine – PubMed Health/Anniek Werner, Folkert Kuipers, and Henkjan J. Verkade.. 2013. Fat Absorption and Lipid Metabolism in Cholestasis. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK6420/. [Accessed 1 December 2016].
4. WebMD/Matthew Hoffman. 2014. The Liver (Human AnatomyLiver Picture, Definition, Function, Conditions, Tests, and Treatments. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/picture-of-the-liver#1. [Accessed 1 December 2016].
5. WebMD/Suz Redfearn. 2013. How Not to Wreck Your Liver. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.webmd.com/hepatitis/features/healthy-liver#2. [Accessed 1 December 2016].
6. Liver Doctor. Symptoms Of Liver Damage. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.liverdoctor.com/liver/symptoms-of-liver-damage/. [Accessed 1 December 2016].
7. WebMD. 2015. Milk Thistle: Benefits and Side Effects. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/milk-thistle-benefits-and-side-effects#1. [Accessed 1 December 2016].
8. Abenavoli L, Capasso R, Milic N, Capasso F, 2010. Milk thistle in liver diseases: past, present, future. Phytotherapy Research, [Online]. 24(10), 1423-32. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20564545 [Accessed 1 December 2016].
9. Milić N, Milosević N, Suvajdzić L, Zarkov M, Abenavoli L, 2013. New therapeutic potentials of milk thistle (Silybum marianum). Natural Product Communications, [Online]. 8(12), 1801-10. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24555302 [Accessed 1 December 2016].
10. WebMD. 2009. DANDELION: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions and Warnings. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-706-dandelion.aspx?activeingredientid=706&. [Accessed 1 December 2016].
11. Botanical.com. 2009. Dandelion. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/d/dandel08.html. [Accessed 1 December 2016].
12. Care2.com/Michelle Schoffro Cook. 15 Ways to Boost Your Liver for Great Health. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/15-ways-to-boost-your-liver-for-great-health.html. [Accessed 1 December 2016].
13. National Institute of Health. 2016. Vitamin A — Health Professional Fact Sheet. [ONLINE] Available at: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminA-HealthProfessional/. [Accessed 1 December 2016].
Published on 1 Dec 2016