If you were to name an important solid organ in your digestive system, it would be the liver. It is mainly a football-sized organ that is situated on the right side of the abdomen. Its primary function is to digest the food you eat and eliminate the toxins from the body.
Certain diseases and lifestyle changes can affect this organ. If these conditions are left untreated, they can become life-threatening. But before we move to the conditions affecting the liver, let us look some of its major functions.
What are the functions of the liver?
Production of albumin
Albumin is a protein produced by the liver. It keeps the fluid in the blood from leaking into other tissues. It is also responsible for carrying vitamins, hormones and enzymes throughout the body.
Production of bile
Bile is a digestive fluid that is stored in the gall bladder. The primary function of the bile is to break down fat into fatty acids so that it can be carried to different parts of the body through the digestive tract.
Clears the blood
The blood from the stomach and intestine passes through the liver. which then removes all the toxins and harmful substances from the blood and filter them. Besides toxins, bacteria present in the blood is also being removed.
Stores excess glucose
Excess sugar or glucose in the blood is removed by the liver and is stored as glycogen. This glycogen can later be converted back to glucose as needed.
What are the conditions affecting the liver?
The proper functioning can be affected by various factors. Some examples include: viral attack, alcohol use, obesity and genetic factors.
Here are some of the conditions:
Hepatitis A is a liver infection caused by the Hepatitis A virus. It causes inflammation in the organ and can affect its normal functioning.
Hepatitis A is found in the stool or blood of an infected individual and is highly contagious. You can get infected when ingesting even very small amounts that is in contaminated food or drinks. In addition, coming into close contact with a person infected with Hepatitis A also increases your risk of contracting this condition.
Hepatitis B is a liver infection caused by the Hepatitis B virus. Severe cases of hepatitis B can result in liver failure or cancer.
Hepatitis B spread from one person to another either through semen, blood or other body fluids. Sharing personal items of an infected person like nail clippers, toothbrush, or razor can also lead to the spread of the disease.
Hepatitis C is a condition caused by the hepatitis C virus. It can cause inflammation of the organ and is a major cause of liver cancer.
Like hepatitis B, hepatitis C also spreads through direct contact with an infected person. For example, sharing personal items like toothbrush and nail clippers, tattooing with unclean equipment, and having unprotected sex with an infected person all can cause hepatitis C.
Fatty liver is a condition in which your body produces excess fat, which is not used correctly. When this happens, fat is stored in the liver. Too much fat can cause inflammation and scarring and can even result in failure of the organ.
There are various causes of fatty liver. In people who are alcoholic, consuming a lot of alcohol can result in it. Obesity and high blood sugar can also make the condition worse.
Cirrhosis is an advanced stage of disease in which the organ is permanently scarred. One of the leading causes of liver cirrhosis is alcohol abuse. Having other liver conditions like viral hepatitis and lifestyle diseases like diabetes can worsen the condition.
What are the symptoms of liver diseases?
The symptoms are not always obvious. It may appear as mild symptoms, and on detailed examination, turn out to be a condition affecting the organ.
Few of the symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain (fatty liver, hepatitis A and hepatitis B)
- Weight loss (fatty liver, cirrhosis)
- Nausea (hepatitis A and C)
- Loss of appetite (hepatitis A and C)
- Yellowing of the eyes (hepatitis B and C)
- Dark urine (hepatitis B)
- Low-grade fever (hepatitis A)
How do I keep liver in good condition?
The best way to keep it in good condition is to maintain a healthy and safe lifestyle. Here are some ways you can maintain a healthy liver:
Eat a balanced diet
A balanced diet rich in all the essential nutrients help to maintain the overall health of the liver. You should cut down on saturated fat, sugar and refined carbohydrate, that can do more harm. Polyunsaturated fat, low-fat dairy products and fruits and vegetables can be included in the diet. Also, remember to drink plenty of water to flush out all the toxins from the body.
Regular exercise helps burn the excess fat in the body, which is a major cause of fatty liver. Exercise can be in any form like walking, jogging, swimming or cycling depending on your overall health.
Exercising regularly also helps maintain a healthy weight which is highly essential to maintain a healthy liver.
Limit exposure to toxins
Regular exposure to environmental toxins like carbon tetrachloride used for cleaning, and trichloroethylene, a degreasing agent can be harmful to the organ. Thus, you should try to limit the exposure as much as possible by wearing mask.
The liver is the largest gland in the human body and plays a very important role in digestion. Thus, keeping it healthy is highly essential. By maintaining a healthy lifestyle and limiting your exposure to toxins, you can prevent liver infections and other ailments to a great extent.