Your liver is extremely important to your health. When healthy, it filters toxins from your body, produces enzymes and hormones essential for digestion, releases bile, makes proteins to help you digest food, and even stores vitamins and minerals to help you when they’re needed. That’s why it’s crucial that you protect your liver every day.

Honestly, many of us don’t really think about our livers. We take it for granted until it has inflammation, is covered in fat, needs a biopsy, or is damaged.

So what is it?

The liver is the largest glandular organ of the body. It weighs about 3 lb (1.36 kg), is reddish brown in color and is divided into four lobes of unequal size and shape. It lies on the right side of the abdominal cavity beneath the diaphragm.

Blood is carried to the liver via two large vessels called the hepatic artery and the portal vein. The heptic artery carries oxygen-rich blood from the aorta (a major vessel in the heart). The portal vein carries blood containing digested food from the small intestine. These blood vessels subdivide in the liver repeatedly, terminating in very small capillaries. Each capillary leads to a lobule. Liver tissue is composed of thousands of lobules, and each lobule is made up of hepatic cells, the basic metabolic cells of the liver.

Major Functions

Some of the functions are:

  • Produce substances that break down fats, convert glucose to glycogen
  • Produce urea (the main substance of urine)
  • Make certain amino acids (the building blocks of proteins)
  • Detoxify harmful substances from the blood (such as alcohol, drugs, and toxins)
  • Produce bile
    • Bile is a the liquid that individuals vomit when they have emptied their stomach.
    • Bile is a greenish-brown alkaline fluid. that is secreted by the liver and stored in the gallbladder.
  • Store vitamins and minerals (vitamins A, D, K and B12)
    • Vitamin A
      • Important for is vital for growth and development, cell recognition, vision, a healthy immune system, and sexual health.
      • Great sources of Vitamin A include in orange plant foods, meat, eggs, and milk.
    • Vitamin D
      • Vitamin D, called the ‘sunshine vitamin’, when you are exposed to sunlight, your skin makes vitamin D from cholesterol.
      • Vitamin D also helps regulate insulin levels and aid diabetes management.
    • Vitamin K
      • Vitamin K is necessary for a body to grow and develop.
      • It helps your body make proteins for healthy bones and tissues.
      • Immediately after birth, newborn babies are given a small dose of Vitamin K.
      • Green leafy vegetables are excellent sources of Vitamin K.
    • Vitamin B12
      • Vitamin B12 is one of the B complex vitamins.
      • It is a necessary component for healthy nerve tissues, optimal brain function, and the production of red blood cells.
      • Vitamin B12 is also called Cobalamin.
  • Destroy old blood cells
  • Maintain a proper level or glucose in the blood
  • Produce cholesterol
    • The liver produces about 80% of the cholesterol in your body.

What Causes Elevated Liver Enzymes?

Elevated liver enzymes are often found during routine blood testing. Elevation could be caused by taking medication for a prolonged period of time. It may indicate inflammation or damaged cells. Inflamed or injured liver cells leak larger amounts of certain chemicals, including enzymes, into the bloodstream, which can result in elevated enzymes on blood tests.

The specific elevated enzymes most commonly found are:

  • Alanine transaminase (ALT)
  • Aspartate transaminase (AST)
  • Alkaline phosphatase (ALP)
  • Gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase (GGT)

Usually, elevated enzymes don’t indicate a chronic or serious problem.

Diseases of the Liver

Several diseases states can affect the liver. Some of the diseases are jaundice, Wilson’s Disease, hepatitis (an inflammation of the liver), liver cancer, and cirrhosis (a chronic inflammation that progresses ultimately to organ failure). Alcohol alters the metabolism of the liver, which can have overall detrimental effects if alcohol is taken over long periods of time. **Many babies are born with jaundice.

When the liver does not preform properly, dialysis might be an option. Dialysis is a process in which a machine performs the detoxification function of the liver.

Liver dialysis is still a relatively new treatment, and it cannot support a person longer than a few years.

How to Improve Liver Function

  • Consume a high fiber diet
    • One of the easiest ways to improve your liver function is to eat a low-sugar, low-toxin diet that’s filled with high-fiber foods. The liver is the main organ for detoxification, since it removes toxins created both inside and outside of your body. Lowering the levels of toxins you put in your body will lesson the amount of work your liver has to do.
  • Reduce alcohol intake
    • Drinking alcohol puts a tremendous strain on your body. Reducing your consumption of alcohol is a great way to improve liver function.
  • Drink powdered matcha green tea
    • Matcha green tea contains catechins that act as powerful antioxidants in the body. Antioxidants combat free radicals within the blood, reducing liver inflammation and lowering the effects of oxidative stress on other organs.

Can liver damage be reversed?

Yes. Fortunately the liver is one of the few human organs that can repair itself. Repairing involves replacing damaged tissues with new cells instead of scar tissue. Scar tissue can not be reversed. Sometimes, the liver is too damaged and can’t repair itself completely.

Foods that cause harm

  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
    • The most common caffeinated beverages are coffee, tea, and some types of drinks.
    • A high intake of caffeine can have a diuretic effect (help rid your body of salt).
  • Packaged goods that contain refined vegetable oils, artificial ingredients, sweeteners and colors.
    • Contrary to popular belief, vegetable oils (soybean, corn, safflower, canola) are bad for you.
    • Vegetable oils typically are highly refined, highly processed, and skew the balance of omega 3 to omega 6 oils.
  • Fruits and vegetables heavily sprayed with chemical pesticides and herbicides (non-organic crops).
    • Ideally, you do not want any pesticides or herbicides in your body. Pesticides are often toxic chemicals. The liver will work harder when it needs to rid the body of pesticides and herbicides.
  • Sugary drinks and snacks
  • Refined grains

Liver biopsy procedure

A liver biopsy is a procedure where a doctor must collect a sample of the liver tissue and analyze to determine why the liver is malfunctioning. During the biposy, a small needle is inserted into the liver to collect a tissue sample. It is usually performed as an office or outpatient procedure or during surgery. After the procedure, the tissue is taken to a lab and analyzed.

Medications that cause harm

Medications have side effects that may harm your liver. Some of the medications that causes damage are: serzone, anti-cancer drugs (tagfur, MTX, and cytoxan), and medications used to treat diabetes.

Serzone is a prescription drug manufactured by Bristol-Myers Squibb for the treatment of depression.

The possible side effects of Serzone® are: agitation, dizziness, clumsiness or unsteadiness, difficulty concentrating, memory problems, confusion, severe nausea, gastroenteritis, abdominal pain, unusually dark urine, difficult or frequent urination, fainting, skin rash or hives yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes (jaundice) or a prolonged loss of weight or loss of appetite.

If you or a family member have suffered serious side effects or a fatal injury after taking Serzone®, you or the family member may be eligible to file a claim against the manufacturer. You should contact an attorney that specializes in class action lawsuits immediately.

To help prevent damage, let your doctor know about your liver condition when being treated for other conditions. Medications come in many forms and it is best to find out what is in them and what it can do to your liver.