Your liver, the biggest organ in the body, performs numerous vital functions that can be taken for granted. From maintaining your metabolism to storing glycogen, vitamins, and essential minerals, your liver performs life-saving tasks everyday. So what is the one habit that can jeopardize your liver? Heavy drinking. Alcoholism is a leading cause of liver malfunction. Here’s why.
The Role of the Liver in Your Body
Your liver is located below the diaphragm near the upper right quadrant of the stomach cavity. The average adult liver weighs 3 pounds.
5 Key Functions of Your Liver
- Bile Production and Excretion
Bile, a yellowishish, brownish or olive green alkaline liquid aids digestion and measures 800 – 1,000 ml. It is stored in the gall bladder. It gathers in ducts and is passed through to the main bile. Ultimately, it is carried to the small intestines by the liver.
Proteins are metabolized to produce energy, carbohydrates or fats. The liver helps blood glucose levels remain stable. After a meal, the liver removes sugar from the blood stream and stores it as glycogen. Of blood sugar levels drop, it transports the glycogen back into the blood stream.
3. Enzyme Activation
Your liver helps with enzyme activity involving proteins and amino acids. However, other substances can facilitate the liver working optimally. Coffee can lower abnormal liver enzymes. Tofu decreases fat buildup. Fish helps with inflammation.
4. Vitamins and Minerals
Along with vitamin K, the liver creates protein necessary for blood clotting. Minerals such as iron and copper are vital for good health. B- complex can be stored in the liver. Vitamin A can help with chronic liver disease.
5.Removal of Toxic Substances
The National Institute of Health reports, “It also takes up toxic substance and converts them into harmless substances…” The liver converts ammonia to urea and passes it out of the body as urine.
Also, blood detoxification happens with the liver, kidneys, and skin. The removal of impurities aid vital processes through elimination of harmful substances.
Liver Damage Now that you understand the liver’s functions, let’s consider the damage that occurs with excessive drinking.
According to the National Liver Foundation (NLF), “Cirrhosis refers to the replacement if normal liver tissue with non-living scar tissue.” Although alcohol is not the only cause, cirrhosis occurs when the body attempts to repair itself after damage. As a result, scar tissue is formed. Over time, the liver is unable to function properly.
The NLF reports that alcohol continues to be the second most common cause of cirrhosis besides hepatitis C virus.
Special Populations and Cirrhosis
Additionally, the Mayo Clinic reports the following population statistics:
– Teenagers (14 – 18 years)- rare
– Young adults (19-40)- common
– Adults (41-60) – common
– Seniors (60+ years) – common
In the U.S., widower over the age of 75 have highest rates of alcoholism.
How to Save Your Liver Experts advise drinking in moderation. For women, one alcoholic beverage per day. For men, two alcoholic beverages per day. If you are addicted to alcohol, do not underestimate the importance of professional alcohol treatment.
Eat healthy foods like green leafy vegetables such as collards, spinach, and kale with nutrients. Beets, apples and carrots help detoxify the liver.
White chicken is lean meat that is low in fat. Beans and lentils are high in fiber. Also, olive oil is healthy and low in calories. Drink 6 – 8 glasses of water daily.
Your liver is irreplaceable. Take care of it by making wise lifestyle choices including exercise, diet and drinking in moderation. Consult with your doctor so you can work together to develop a plan for you.