Liver Health & Why It‘s Important

Liver is the second largest organ in the body. It performs multiple (over 500) functions essential for our wellbeing. We describe the main function and how to keep liver healthy and productive.

Filtering function: Liver filters blood and removes compounds from body including medicines, toxins (eg alcohol) and hormones (estrogen, aldosterone). Consumption of large doses of medicines eg paracetamol, alcohol causes liver damage, some causes liver to fail rapidly in a few hours to days.

Nutrient processing: produces bile-yellowish digestive juice that aids in digestion of lipids (fats, cholesterol) from the intestine and subsequently converting these to easily storable forms. This is crucial because, regardless of how healthily one eats, without a healthy liver, the body will not be able to utilise the nutrients from the food being consumed.

Nutrient Storage: Processed nutrients are stored for later use- Iron as ferritin, copper and fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Animal liver is a good source of these nutrients. Liver dysfunction leads to decreased absorption and deficiency of fat soluble vitamins.

Energy: The liver plays a critical part in maintaining blood sugar balance. It extracts and converts sugars into a form that can be stored known as glycogen. When blood sugar levels decrease, e.g during fasting, liver converts stored glycogen to glucose and then releases into blood stream. In liver damage, this process is hampered predisposing the patient to hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar).

Synthetic function: Liver produces proteins and hormones (angiotensin) required for body. Many of proteins involved in blood clotting are produced in the liver, in liver dysfunction blood clots poorly.

Immunologic function: Liver filters blood of pathogens and plays a crucial role in activating body’s responses to bacteria-virus-other pathogens.

How to keep your liver in good shape:

  • Keep a healthy weight.
  • Consume a healthy diet.
  • Workout regularly.
  • Steer clear of alcohol.
  • Prevent adding extra salt and sugar.
Dr. K R Vasudevan
Department of Liver Transplant
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