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What is the liver? An overview


The liver is one of the most vital organs in the human body. Though it is essential to hundreds of bodily processes, few individuals have a proper understanding of the liver and its functions.

Human beings cannot survive without their livers; this is how critical the liver is to human health. The organ, which rests on the upper right side of the abdomen, performs a myriad of functions for the body. Though most are familiar with the organ’s ability to process alcohol and other toxins, many are unaware that this organ also synthesizes proteins, sends glucose to the brain, stores nutrients, and aids in the fighting of infections. All in all, the liver is known to perform over 500 functions in the human body!

Averaging a whopping 3 pounds (1.4 kg), the liver is the largest internal organ in the human body. The liver is also known for being the body’s largest gland. As a part of its glandular functions, the liver facilitates digestion, producing bile and other chemicals to aid in the metabolic process. The organ also breaks down red blood cells and produces hormones that affect the rest of the body.

The liver is supplied with blood from two main blood vessels, the portal vein and the hepatic artery. The portal vein is linked to the small intestine and brings digested food as well as blood to the liver for further processing. The hepatic artery links the heart straight to the liver. This artery brings oxygen-saturated blood directly from the aorta to the liver so that the blood can be filtered. The liver filters all of the blood that runs through it, removing toxins from the blood that have been produced by the body or ingested through substances like drugs and alcohol. These toxins are then sent to the kidneys and other organs to be expelled as bodily waste.

Due to its critical role in human health, it is important for individuals to take care of their livers. There are many conditions which can affect the liver, most of which are due to poor health and lifestyle choices. These conditions include:

  • Fatty Liver Disease
  • Hepatitis
  • Fibrosis of the Liver
  • Cirrhosis of the Liver
  • Liver Disease
  • Liver Cancer
  • and more…

Though some conditions, such as fatty liver disease, can be remedied through diet, exercise, and reduced alcohol intake, other liver conditions are more serious. Though liver transplants can be successful, waitlists are often long. Liver dialysis may be a successful technique for short-term care, but it is not a permanent solution to liver problems. As individuals cannot live without properly-functioning livers, it is important to take precautions to protect the liver from irreparable damage. In many cases, a good lifestyle is sufficient for keeping the liver healthy.

Read our other articles to learn more about liver functions, liver conditions, methods for promoting liver health, and more! By educating yourself on the way this organ works, you can ensure that your liver remains healthy for years to come.

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