World Liver Day: Understanding the liver and how to keep it Healthy

Liver (transparent)

The World Liver Day is celebrated each year on 19 April. It is a day when health organizations, non-profit organization, doctors and hospitals try to educate people about the importance of keeping their liver healthy. Unfortunately, many people are unaware about the function of the liver and why liver health is importance.

There are many organs in our bodies that are constantly working. You will be able to feel your heart pumping blood through its constant beating and your lungs filling up with air each time you inhale. However, the liver is such an organ that works silently and hence, you do not know how well it is working to keep your body healthy.

Your 3-pound liver is located just behind the lower right part of your ribs. It is an integral part of the digestive system and is connected to your small intestine via the bile duct.

Functions of the Liver

Liver and nearby organs

The liver can teach you a few things about multitasking for sure. It performs a number of functions seamlessly. Nearly all the blood that comes out of your intestines and stomach is sent to the liver for detoxification and processing, as per the American Liver Foundation.

Some of the functions performed by the liver include:

  • Removal of poisons, like alcohol and drugs, from your bloodstream
  • Regulating levels of numerous hormones and blood sugar
  • Storing energy from the food you consume to ensure your muscles have sufficient fuel
  • Making use of cholesterol present in your blood
  • Producing bile, proteins, blood and clotting factors besides thousands of vital enzymes

Common Liver Problems

There are two common problems that afflict the liver and these can prove to be fatal if not treated. One is cirrhosis, which refers to scarring of the liver. It can develop due to alcohol abuse or hepatitis. As the disease progresses, there is less amount of healthy liver and soon the liver fails. Drinking too much alcohol is one of the main reasons for cirrhosis, but chronic hepatitis, certain types of heart disease, certain parasitic infections, prolonged exposure to toxins and disease of the bile duct can also result in cirrhosis.

The other common liver problem is nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Healthy liver has small amounts of fat, but in NAFLD, the liver contains up to 10% fat. As a result, it causes inflammation of the liver, resulting in cirrhosis. Usually, obesity, diabetes and high triglyceride levels can lead to NAFLD.

Other liver problems can occur due to nutritional deficiencies and rapid weight loss. However, the biggest risk to liver health comes from hepatitis, which is caused due to five different viruses – A, B, C, D and E.

It also is prudent to remember, liver health can be adversely affected due to certain medications, such as acetaminophen. Taking high doses of acetaminophen is extremely bad for the health of your liver.

Maintaining Liver Health

Healthy food

You can do your bit for liver health and most of these things are common sense and everyday knowledge.

  • Eat healthy and do regular exercise. This will prevent you from turning obese and causing a liver problem
  • You also should consume alcohol in moderation
  • Do not take high doses of any medication without consulting your doctor
  • Do not take medications for prolonged period of time, especially those that can adversely affect your liver
  • Do not have multiple sexual partners, as this opens you to hepatitis B and C infections
  • During sexual intercourse, always use condoms to protect yourself
  • Do not share toothbrushes or razors
  • If you take illicit drugs, join a rehabilitation program and also do not share or reuse needles and syringes
  • Get yourself vaccinated against hepatitis A and B if you are at a high risk of contracting them. Today, the CDC recommends children being vaccinated against these two diseases while they are having their childhood immunizations

If you are at a high risk of contracting hepatitis B and C infections, get tested regularly. In case you contract hepatitis, get diagnosed and treated early. This will not only ensure your liver sustains minimal damage due to the infection, it also will prevent you from spreading the infection to others.

This World Liver Day let us work together and work towards a healthy liver. Your liver health is important and without a healthy and functional liver, you will not survive. So, let us treat our liver with love and respect.