Liver Health | Narayana Health

The liver is the second largest organ in our body after the skin. It is the largest solid organ and the largest gland in our body. The liver is located on the right side of the upper abdomen below the lungs. The liver is an important organ in our body. It acts as a motor of the digestive system by efficiently controlling metabolic processes.

Do you know that the liver is the only organ in the body that has the ability to regenerate? It can regenerate completely without any functional loss, as long as there is at least 25% of healthy liver tissue left.

Functions of the liver

The liver is a metabolically very active organ. It performs many vital functions to effortlessly maintain our circulatory system. The liver synthesizes many essential proteins, filters the blood, maintains blood sugar levels and stores many vitamins and minerals. Whatever we eat or drink is cleaned by the liver. It performs hundreds of tasks to maintain the functionality of our body. Some functions of the liver are:

  • The liver produces and secretes bile. Bile aids in the breakdown and absorption of fats, cholesterol and some vitamins present in food in the small intestine.
  • The liver synthesizes plasma proteins such as albumin and clotting factors.
  • The liver filters all the blood from the stomach and intestines. This is how the liver absorbs all the nutrients from the blood. It also ensures that all waste, harmful products are absorbed from the blood.
  • The bile from the liver aids in the absorption of vitamin K. Vitamin K is necessary for blood clotting and bone building.
  • The liver is a storehouse of many vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, D, E, K, B12, iron, copper and zinc.
  • The liver takes excess glucose from food from the blood and stores it as glycogen in our body. In need, the liver also converts this stored glycogen back into glucose.
  • The liver’s phagocytic cells, also called Kupffer cells, play an important role in the immune system by destroying disease-causing pathogens.
  • The liver also filters and metabolizes drugs and alcohol.

Symptoms of poor liver function

In general, liver disease does not show symptoms until it is severe. Symptoms can vary depending on the disease type, but some symptoms are common when the liver is not functioning properly, such as:

  • Jaundice is characterized by yellowish skin and eyes.
  • Pain and swelling in the right side of the upper abdomen
  • Swelling in ankles and legs
  • itch
  • Dark colored urine
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sometimes the color of the stool becomes pale.
  • Decreased or loss of appetite
  • easy bruising

How to improve liver health

As we know, liver diseases worsen our health. Liver disease affects our overall health. Sometimes uncontrolled liver disease can lead to life-threatening conditions. We can prevent liver disease by making some lifestyle changes, such as:

  • Reducing the amount of alcohol consumption is a must for a healthy liver. Alcohol is detrimental to liver health as it is the leading cause of liver cirrhosis.
  • Preventive vaccination against hepatitis A and B reduces the risk of infection with any form of the hepatitis virus.
  • We should avoid excess sugar and fatty foods. Because excess fat leads to fatty liver disease.
  • Healthy eating keeps many problems at bay. Including some fruits and drinks that can improve liver health, such as grapefruits, blueberries, cranberries, pears, grapes, sprouts, broccoli, green vegetables, nuts, fish, green tea, beet juice.
  • Watching our weight is a must to maintain a healthy liver. As we know, being overweight can lead to fatty liver disease.
  • Protection during sex is good to prevent sexually transmitted diseases such as hepatitis C.
  • A light exercise routine is generally beneficial for good health, including liver health.
  • Avoid exposure to toxins such as pesticides, chemical aerosols and smoke. These toxins can damage our liver cells and also endanger our health.
  • We need to reduce the intake of over-the-counter drugs. Because taking unnecessary medicines and mixing some medicines can damage our liver.
  • Taking illegal drugs can damage our liver.
  • We need to manage our other health issues like diabetes and blood pressure because they put extra strain on our liver.
  • We must avoid using contaminated needles. We must ensure that needles are properly sterilized. Needles are not only used in medical practices, but also in tattoos and piercings.
  • We are not allowed to share our personal hygiene items such as razors, toothbrushes and nail clippers. Because these items may contain contaminated blood and bodily fluids that can spread diseases that affect our liver.
  • Proper hand washing with soap after using the bathroom is essential to prevent liver disease.

Dr. Naveen Kumar, Senior Consultant – Medical Gastroenterology, Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Delhi

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