Last edited, 13 April 2020.
Our Liver is the second largest organ after the Skin. It is however the largest gland in the body and scientists estimated that it has over 500 different functions.
The main functions of liver are:
- to assist in digestion of food. It makes bile which is needed to break down fats in our small intestines.
- make many chemicals important for functions all over the body
- keep blood clean and well-maintained by removing toxins, dead cells and micro-organisms from the bloodstream. It is essentially a filter and cleanser of the bloodstream, thereby helping the body to fight infections and to get rid of poisons.
- regulate fat metabolism
- burn fat. It is a major fat-burning organ in the body
- store carbohydrates in a form that allows a quick release of energy when it is needed. This is why people with liver damage lack energy
- regulate blood sugar
- make plasma proteins needed to help clotting of blood
The liver contains over half of the body’s supply of Kupffer cells and large populations of natural killer cells. The liver’s ability to fight infections, particularly infections arising in the bowel, will be impaired if the liver is damaged in any way.
Example of common liver diseases include
- fatty liver
- cirrhosis (the destruction of the normal liver structure)
- viral hepatitis (liver inflammation caused by viruses)
- liver cancer
Fatty liverThere are two main category of fatty liver diseases:
- alcoholic fatty liver disease
- nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
Defined by the American Liver Foundation, it is the buildup of excess fat in the liver cells; with 5-10% of the liver’s weight is fat.
What may be bad for my liver?
- Vitamin A Supplements – too much can cause liver toxicity, jaundice, cirrhosis and even liver failure
- Iron Supplements – excess iron gathers in the liver causing inflammation and scarring. Too much iron in the liver can cause liver cancer. Our body isn’t good at getting rid of excess iron
- Herbal Supplements – e.g. Kombucha, Chinese Knotweed, Comfrey and Chaparral can lead to liver damage and toxicity.
- Medications – e.g. tranquilizers, such as diazepam, can harm your liver; painkillers, such as paracetamol can cause liver damage, necrosis and acute liver failure.
Foods that are good for my liver
- high in polyphenols, anthocyanins and antioxidant activity
- anthocyanins can help reduce accumulation of fat; protect against oxidative stress and inflammation in the liver
- can help prevent NAFLD in early stages through modulation of fat formation
- contains significant flavonoids that can help protect against fatty liver disease
- flavonoids reduce accumulation of fat in the liver
- prevent liver dysfunction
- good source of antioxidants such as vitamin E (vitamin E is recommended by experts for non-diabetic people with NAFLD
- can reduce blood pressure, improve blood flow, increase antioxidants in your blood
- lower “bad” cholesterol
- prevent coronary artery disease
- helps support healthy gut bacteria which lowers risk of fatty liver disease and cirrhosis
- losing weight can help prevent and treat fatty liver disease