The liver is the largest solid organ in the body and is positioned in the abdominal cavity at the top and to the left of the stomach. It weighs around three pounds. It is reddish-brown in color and consists of a right and left lobe. Over 500 functions have been identified as being facilitated by the liver.  Here are some of its major functions.

The liver makes bile which is secreted into the gallbladder from where it is secreted into the small intestine to help digest fats consumed in the diet. Bile is primarily made from cholesterol. The liver makes around 85% of the body’s cholesterol.  When statin drugs are taken to lower cholesterol levels in the body, they do so by restricting the livers production of this nutrient.   

       The liver converts excess glucose into a stored carbohydrate called glycogen and then converts it back to glucose as the body needs it.  The liver regulates the body’s blood levels of amino acids which are the building blocks of proteins. The liver stores the mineral iron used in the making of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the body's tissues. The liver stores vitamins A, D, E, K, and B12 for use by the body when needed. The liver plays a role in the regulation of blood clotting. 

       The liver is the body’s chief organ of detoxification. When you eat a meal the nutrients from that meal are primarily digested in the stomach and small intestines and from there pass via the portal vein into the liver where nutrients are further processed and substances detrimental to health are filtered out. The liver produces the body’s most powerful antioxidant called glutathione. 

       The liver metabolizes the ingredients of medications you take into forms the body can use.  When the liver breaks down substances harmful to the body, the by-products of these substances are excreted into the bile or the blood. Bile by-products pass into the small intestine and from there travel to the large intestine (the bowel) from where they are excreted as stool.  By-products of liver detoxification that enter the blood are filtered by the kidneys and are excreted via the urine.

       The importance of the liver to the body is seen in it being the only organ that can regenerate itself. Up to 75% of the liver can be destroyed through injury and it can regrow to its previous size and ability provided the required nutrients are present for this process to occur.

       As can be seen, the liver is vital to the health of the body and it is important that you protect it from damage. The Cleveland Clinic recently stated that 25% of Americans have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.  It is called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease because it is caused by factors other than over consumption of alcohol which is a known risk factor in fatty liver disease.  Fatty liver disease is the disposition of too much fat in liver cells which inhibits the liver from properly doing its many jobs.

       An abstract of a recent clinical trial that appeared in the Journal of Nutrition identified a diet high in fat as the culprit in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Too much fructose in the diet can also lead to a fatty liver as fructose easily converts to triglyceride fat in the body.   

       Other recent studies have identified the ingestion of various environment chemicals and drugs as contributing to fatty liver disease as well.  It is well known that various pain killing meds and other medicinal drugs can be rough on the liver.  

Protect Your Liver:

       If you drink alcoholic beverages it is important that you drink in moderation as the liver has to process the alcohol. Over consumption of alcohol can be very destructive to the liver and lead to such series problems as cirrhosis of the liver where the liver becomes hardened and unable to function. Try to limit the use of pain killing and other medicinal drugs as such drugs can overstress the liver. It has been shown that commonly used drugs such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be damaging to the liver. This is especially true if these drugs are combined with drinking alcohol.

        A diet high in fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains appears to be the best protection against developing fatty liver disease.  The fiber in these kinds of foods moves fats through the digestive system and out the stool.  Water soluble fiber from oat bran, flax seed and psyllium husks has been shown to lower cholesterol levels in the body by moving bile into the gallbladder and out the stool.  The gallbladder is the storage organ for the bile made by the liver and the bile is largely made from cholesterol as discussed above. 

       Avoiding environmental chemicals is also a way to curb the development of fatty liver disease. This is often difficult as we are exposed to countless chemicals in our food, water and air and in many of the products we commonly use. This being the case, it is advisable to supplement the diet with products that help to protect the liver from toxic overload.

       One such product is LiverCare (AKA Liv.52) from the company Himalaya. This herbal formula has been used for decades all over the world and has been the subject of several hundred clinical studies showing its efficacy in protecting the liver from damage. Studies have shown LiverCare to be effective in protecting against chemically induced liver injury including protection against alcohol induced injury and damage caused by radiation and chemotherapeutic agents.  I recommend that anyone on a steady regimen of meds or who may overindulge in the drinking of alcoholic beverages take LiverCare as a prophylactic.

       The herb milk thistle has been used for many years as a liver protecting and regenerative agent. This herb contains an ingredient called silymarin which has been shown in clinical trials to promote the regeneration of hepatocytes which are liver cells that facilitate metabolism, detoxification, and protein synthesis.  Hepatocytes make up around 80% of the livers mass. 

       Dandelion root extract has been shown to be protective against liver fibrosis which is the formation of scar tissue in the liver resulting in diminished blood flow throughout the liver. This condition can occur when the liver is stressed beyond its capacity to deal with toxins. 

       The herb andrographis has been shown to improve liver function.  In an animal study reported in a recent issue of the Journal of Medicinal Food, it was found that when andrographis was used in the treatment of induced alcoholic liver disease, it was effective in returning the liver to normal function in a number of areas.

       In addition to the products discussed above, we carry a variety of liver cleansing formulas that help the liver to better do its many functions. We carry Milk Thistle Detox from Irwin Natural’s, Complete Liver