Understanding Your Liver

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In the United States, more than 25 million people have a liver related disease.

Protected by the rib cage, the liver is located on the right side of the body. The liver weighs nearly three pounds, which makes it the largest glandular organ in the body. It plays a huge role in maintaining digestive system health. The liver can hold over 10 percent of all the blood in the body at one time. It’s comprised of two areas called the right and left lobes. Blood flows in to and back out of the liver through capillaries, metabolic cells and blood vessels.

Liver Function: The liver helps keep the body balanced and regulated for optimal health and wellness. Over one hundred duties are performed by the liver.

Additionally, the liver produces proteins which are responsible for assisting in blood clotting and the regulation of blood volume. The liver helps to break down or flush out environmental or ingested toxins from the body.

Blood flows to the liver via two large vessels, the hepatic artery, which carries oxygen rich blood away from the aorta, and the portal vein which carries blood with digested food to the small intestine. The gallbladder and the intestines are located right behind it, making transportation of bile from the gallbladder to the liver for digestive help easier.

Could you have a liver problem?

Facts you can’t control:

Genetics: Children are often diagnosed with liver problems that they have inherited from their family members. Some of the most common of these include, Wilson’s disease, Alpha-1-antitrypsin and hereditary hemochromatosis. One of the most common genetic disorders in those of Northern European decent is hemochromatosis. Genetic liver problems can be passed on without the parents displaying any immediate symptoms. There are more than 100 of these types of illnesses. Conversely, not everyone who is a carrier will pass the disease on to their children.

Gender: In many cases, men are more at risk for liver problems than women. Hemochromatosis, a condition where the body builds up too much iron, is one example of this. Women are not typically affected since they lose iron through menstrual blood regularly and also through pregnancy. Liver cancer is another example of a condition affecting more men than women.

Race: In the United States, the two groups most frequently diagnosed with liver cancer are Pacific Islanders and Asian Americans.

History of Diabetes: People with diabetes, a condition marked by the inability of the body to regulate blood sugar, can also cause long-term damage to the liver while increases the risk of developing cancer. People with diabetes are also more likely to develop a fatty liver, yet another reason why diabetics are more likely to develop cirrhosis and liver cancer.

Age: Research has shown that adults above the age of 60 are more likely to develop liver cancer.

Controllable Factors:

Alcohol intake: One of the most common liver conditions among those who drink large quantities of alcohol is cirrhosis. When the liver continuously must filter out alcohol, permanent damage can result.

Unprotected sex: Viral hepatitis can be spread through direct sexual contact and inflames and infects the liver. In addition to increasing your hepatitis risk, having unsafe sex opens you up to a wide variety of other sexually transmitted diseases and infections.

Sharing needles: Drug users frequently share needles and can spread hepatitis infections and other various diseases. Even if you are not intentionally sharing needles, getting a tattoo or piercing with instruments that have not been thoroughly cleaned can also result in infection.

Obesity: This is another controllable factor (for most people) that can lead to liver damage. Understandably, there are health conditions that often lead to obesity. If there is any way to work with a doctor to help reduce fat through exercise and diet, it is often advisable for liver health.

Drug use: People who habitually take drugs cause the liver to work overtime to filter out the toxins and over a period of time will begin to weaken its ability to function properly.

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