Masters of Health Magazine August 2022 - Page 87

Liver Basics

The liver is a large-lobed, major organ found only in vertebrates.  In the human body, it is in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen, to the right of the stomach, and below the diaphragm.  The liver divides into two lobes above and four lobes below.

 

An adult’s liver is the heaviest internal organ, weighing approximately 3.3 lbs. (1.5 kg).  With a width of about 6 inches (15 cm), it is also the largest gland in the human body.  The liver connects to two large blood vessels: the hepatic artery, which carries oxygen-rich blood from the aorta via the celiac artery and the portal vein, which carries digested nutrient-rich blood from the gastrointestinal tract, spleen, and pancreas.

 

The liver’s primary function is to process digested food into nutrients for the body.  It also secrets bile for the digestion of fats, synthesizes plasma proteins, stores glycogen, some minerals and vitamins, and neutralizes harmful substances in the blood.  The liver is the only organ capable of regenerating itself.

Some of the biological functions the liver performs include:

•         Synthesis of protein and biochemicals necessary for digestion and growth

•         Storage of vitamins and some minerals

•         Regulation glycogen storage

•         Production of hormones

•         Detoxification of organisms

•         Decomposition of red blood cells

•         Chemical reactions that play a vital role in carbohydrate, protein, amino acid, and lipid metabolism

 

Metabolism converts food energy into energy for cellular processes such as building blocks of proteins, lipids, nucleic acids, some carbohydrates, and metabolic waste elimination.

 

As an accessory digestive organ, the liver produces bile, an alkaline fluid containing cholesterol and bile acids that help break down fat.  Bile passes into the gallbladder, a small pouch that sits just under the liver.  From there, bile moves to the small intestine to help complete digestion. 

Gall stones and gall bladder problems are symptoms of a severe vitamin E and omega-3 essential fatty acid (EFA) deficiency and the consumption of damaged fats and oils.

The liver’s highly specialized hepatocytes regulate a wide variety of high-volume biochemical reactions, including the synthesis and breakdown of small and complex molecules, for at least 500 vital functions in combination with other systems and organs. The liver accounts for about 20% of resting total body oxygen consumption.

by Lady Carla Davis, MPH

Specializing in Nutrition