Though every organ in a living being’s physical structure holds its specific importance, the liver is the most substantive. The Liver is not tangible as it is protected by rib cage. It lies on the right side of the belly and weighs about 3 pounds. The Liver is a large muscular organ which is reddish – brown. It consists of two sections namely the right and the lobes. Under the liver lies gall bladder along with parts of the pancreas and intestines. These three organs together perform the function of digestion, absorption and processing of food.
Functions performed by the liver are as follows-
- The main function of the liver is to filter the blood that comes from the digestive tract and then passing the filtered blood to the rest of the body.
- The functions of detoxification of chemicals and metabolism of drugs are also performed by the liver.
- It secretes fluid named bile which is stored in the gallbladder.
- It processes proteins that are essential for the blood clotting and a lot more functions also.
What happens when the liver does not function properly?
Any incompetence in any of the functions performed by the liver may result in serious problems in a living being. Several diseases like Cirrhosis, Hepatitis A, B and C, gallstones, liver cancer and liver failure can happen in case the liver is posing problems.
Initially, symptoms that can lead to problems in the liver can be nausea, fatigue, diarrhoea and loss of appetite. Other symptoms may include:
- Abdominal pain or swelling
- Jaundice – skin and eyes appear to be yellowish
- Skin itching
- Abnormal stool – pale in colour, bloody or tar – coloured
- Dark urine colour
- Swelling in certain parts of the body like ankles, legs, etc.
These symptoms can have a lot of other causes; it may be hard to state that the liver is failing. But, these symptoms become more severe as liver failure progresses. So, it is a high time to look out for medical help.
Causes of liver disease
There can be so many causes for liver disease. Some of them are listed below-
- Infection – Inflammation in the liver that can reduce liver function is caused by viruses and parasites. These viruses can find their ways into a human body through blood or semen, contaminated food or water or any close contact with the infected person. The most prominent and commonly found liver infection are hepatitis viruses including-
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Hepatitis C
- Abnormal Immune System – Certain autoimmune diseases like autoimmune hepatitis, primary sclerosing cholangitis and primary biliary cirrhosis can cause a serious impact on the functioning of our liver.
- Genetic disorder – An infected inherited gene from any of the parent can cause problems in building up your liver, which can cause liver damage. Some genetic liver diseases include-
- Hyperoxaluria and oxalosis
- Wilson’s disease
- Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency
- Other chronic diseases- Some chronic diseases like liver cancer, bile duct cancer and liver adenoma can cause complete liver damage. In other cases, chronic alcohol abuse or accumulation of fat in the liver, commonly known as non – alcoholic fatty liver diseases, can lead to liver failure too.
What are the risk factors in liver damage ?
A variety of factors that can increase risks to liver diseases exist. This is why doctors suggest everyone have regular checkups and to completely take care of their body especially liver care. Some of the risk factors are as follows-
- Extreme intake of alcohol
- Drug injection especially through used needles
- Tattoos or piercings
- Unprotected physical contact
- Exposure to an infected person’s blood or body fluids
Chronic alcoholism and liver damage
Chronic Alcoholism, in the simplest of words, means extreme consumption of alcohol by an individual. Though it can cause a lot of serious problems in your body, yet the most damage of it is caused to the liver. Alcohol attacks the functioning of the liver and can cause liver damage and even failure in extreme cases.
One serious disease caused by chronic alcoholism is the accumulation of triglycerides and other fats in the liver cells, causing the problem of fatty liver. Alcoholic liver disease (ALD) is an initial and completely reversible consequence of excessive alcohol intake. The treatment for liver support is done by undertaking to detoxify the liver and complete avoidance of alcohol.
Stages of Liver Damage
According to the American Liver Foundation, there is no difference in the progression of liver disease according to the type of liver disease. Whether the cause of infection is a virus, chemicals or under the attack of one’s immune system, the liver is not likely to function to help you keep alive.
Liver damage is divided into 4 stages-
- Liver Cancer
- Liver failure (in extreme cases)
Diseases like Cirrhosis, liver cancer and liver failure can directly threaten one’s life. In such cases, treatment options also become limited. This is why it is very much important to diagnose the disease in the inflammation or fibrosis stage. Treatments at these stages have maximum chances to turn successful. Hence, the infected liver can recover and heal itself.
Why detoxify the liver and how?
No study proves that liver detoxification can eliminate your risks for liver damage or liver failure. Liver Detox, also known as a Liver flush, can help to remove toxins after alcohol or unhealthy food consumption. Liver detox can help the liver to work better daily and also smoothens its functioning. Early stages of liver damage can also be cured through liver cleansing.
In liver detox, some hepatologists suggest the following specific steps. Consumption of liquids on a large scale is suggested. Then, you might need to consume a restricted diet or even take herbal or dietary supplements. These fasten the process of detoxification.
Liver support herbs which can help in the process of detoxification are milk thistle, beetroot, parsley, marshmallow root, gynostemma and ginger. These herbs enhance liver, gall bladder and pancreas functioning and help to prevent liver diseases.
How to Prevent Liver disease?
Liver disease can be prevented by inculcating a healthy lifestyle, first of all. In today’s polluted environment that we live in, it is necessary to take care of our body. Some preventive measures can be –
- You should always use medications wisely. Take only prescription or non-prescription drugs that too in the recommended dose. Do not mix alcohol and medication. Consult your doctor before mixing prescription or non-prescription drugs and your herbal supplements.
- Heavy consumption of alcohol should be avoided for liver care. For a normal adult, more than 7-8 drinks a day are considered high-risk drinking. The liver is most affected by alcohol so this is the most important preventive measure to follow.
- Be picky while you choose to have tattoos or piercings about cleanliness and safety for liver care. Do not share needles while injecting drugs. Use protection while doing sex.
- Try to maintain a healthy weight. Obesity can cause accumulation of fats in the liver most commonly called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
So, seek medical help in case you have any abnormal functioning of the liver. Liver care should be a priority. A healthy lifestyle is important for a healthy liver as it is our body in which we live.