The liver is one of the hardest working organs in the body. Experts believe that the liver performs over 500 essential tasks that support nearly every organ in the body. As the second largest organ (skin is the largest), the liver extends across the entire abdominal cavity. It weighs approximately 3 lbs. and holds up to a pint of blood at any given time.
This vital organ is part of the digestive system and it is also considered a gland. The liver’s main job is to process and metabolize blood after it has passed from the stomach and small intestine. Using a digestive juice called bile, the liver takes the raw materials absorbed during digestion and produces chemicals the body needs to function. This complex process includes metabolizing, filtering and detoxifying everything we ingest into essential substances.
In addition to those critical tasks, perhaps the liver’s most impressive achievement is its ability to completely regenerate within 8-15 days. As long as a minimum 25% of the liver tissue remains in tact, the liver can regrow to its previous size without losing a single function during the growth process. No other internal organ can do that.
While the full list of functions the liver performs is long and remarkable, here are some of the most crucial to our health.
After the stomach and intestines digest what we have consumed, key materials are then absorbed into the blood and passed to the liver. The liver then filters these materials into chemicals or nutrients for the body to use immediately, or store for later. Toxic substances filtered out and eliminated through urine or stool. This process helps the body to build immunity and maintain metabolic function.
Metabolizes and Stores Macronutrients
Bile is produced by the liver and is stored in the gallbladder. Bile’s main function is to break down macronutrients, carbohydrates, proteins and fats, and make them easier to digest. By breaking down carbohydrates into glucose, the liver helps regulate sugar levels in the bloodstream. Fats are converted and stored for energy, and proteins are broken down into amino acids. Amino acids support a number of critical body functions, including growth and development, healing and repair, digestion and energy. The liver is also responsible for the synthesis of cholesterol and the regulation of cholesterol levels.
The liver aids in the absorption and storage of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. These vitamins are released back into the blood when they are needed. For example, bile helps convert vitamin D into its active form so the body can use it for calcium production. The liver also stores minerals such as iron to make new red blood cells which helps build immunity.
Filters and Supports Blood
Together with the spleen, the liver helps to recycle blood by breaking down old or damaged blood cells. It is also responsible for producing most of the coagulation factors in blood including vitamin K, which is necessary for blood clotting. The most widely recognized function of the liver, however, is its role in breaking down and removing toxic compounds in the blood from alcohol, drugs, poison and other waste products. Miraculous as the liver may seem it is not a miracle worker. Alcohol and drug abuse is damaging to the liver and compromises its ability to support digestion, store nutrients, remove toxins and more.
This post only scratches the surface of the many functions our livers perform over the course of 24 hours. Supporting this organ through lifestyle and supplementation, if you chose, is essential for total body health. To take care of your liver we recommend:
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Eating a balanced diet
- Exercising regularly
- Avoiding toxins
- Drinking alcohol responsibly and in moderation
Small and consistent lifestyle edits pay huge dividends over the course of your lifetime. Take care of your liver so it can take care of you.