The liver is the largest glandular organ of the body that receives 25% of the blood pumped by the heart, in a beat. If it shuts down, we would be able to survive only for a day or two. However, liver would be able to function, even if 75% of its cells are diseased or removed, as it has the ability to create (regenerate itself) from remaining healthy cells.
The liver is located in the upper quadrant of the abdominal cavity; beneath the diaphragm, and on the top of the stomach, right kidney, and intestine. This organ is cone-shaped, dark reddish-brown, and weighs approximately 3 pounds.
It is divided into two unequal sized lobes (i.e., right and the left lobe). These contain blood capillaries, liver cells, and the bile capillaries that are important for proper functioning of the liver.
Following are some of the functions of this organ:
- This organ regularizes the sugar level of the blood, by transforming all the excess sugar into glycogen. This glycogen is stored in the body, and later it is converted back into glucose, when the sugar level of the body goes down.
- It processes the digested food from the intestine.
- It is responsible for releasing a substance called 'bile', which helps in digesting food and absorbing important nutrients in the body.
- The amino acids which form the building blocks of the proteins are regularized by this organ. It also converts poisonous ammonia to urea (end product of the protein metabolism, which is excreted in the urine).
- It removes pathogens from the bloodstream and resists infections by producing immune factors.
- This organ manufactures the different enzymes and proteins that are important for the various chemical reactions in the body.
- It is responsible for regulating blood clotting, and repairing the damaged tissues.
- It acts as a storage facility for blood. This blood is then used in case of emergency by the body.
- It stores vitamin A, vitamin B12, and vitamin D.
- It breaks down the carbohydrates into glycogen. This glycogen is converted into energy and stored. The stored energy is used by the body when required.
- When the red bloods cells present in our body break down, the iron content present in them is removed and stored by the liver for future use.
- It produces albumin (blood protein), which is needed to maintain a balance of the fluid in the bloodstream and the tissues.
- The toxins that cannot be passed out of the body through the kidneys are eliminated from the blood by the liver. These toxins are later passed on to the bowels through the bile ducts.
- Keeping a check on the bilirubin levels, is also one of the several functions of the liver.
- Our body has an in-built defense mechanism, which is known as the macrophage system or the Kupffer cells. Half of these are present in the liver. They fight the pathogens that enter the intestines or bowels.
- It also produces a lot of heat, which is carried to the rest of the body through the blood. This heat helps activate the regions which are inactive.
Alcohol Abuse and Liver
When alcohol is consumed, it gets absorbed into the bloodstream via the stomach and the intestines. This blood flows through the liver, and alcohol gets accumulated in the liver. Certain enzymes present in the liver break down this alcohol, and transform them into water and carbon dioxide, which is thrown out of the body.
Liver is designed to perform this exercise only for a specified amount of alcohol. So, it is difficult for the liver to perform the same, when alcohol is consumed in excessive amounts. People indulging in excess alcohol consumption are prone to diseases like fatty liver, hepatitis, and liver cirrhosis.
The effects of excess alcohol consumption on this organ are as follows:
- A large number of healthy liver cells are damaged.
- Impaired liver cannot remove the toxins, which would be absorbed in the blood and supplied to different parts of the body. This can prove to be hazardous.
- Impaired liver is unable to remove and store bilirubin from the broken down red blood cells, resulting in the person being affected by jaundice.
- In severe cases, liver cancer or damage to the other organs could be diagnosed.
On a concluding note, it is extremely essential to refrain from consuming large amounts of alcohol, as that can have an adverse effect on the liver function.
Disclaimer: This is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.