Photo: Getty Images
For most people, the liver doesn’t seem all that important. It is very easy to see and learn what portions of our lifestyles affect the heart and lungs and even our skin, which is our body’s largest organ.
But, for many, the liver is pretty much ignored and we fail to recognize how much it does and how an unhealthy liver can affect so many other systems in our body.
What does the Liver do?
The liver is the second largest solid organ in the human body, and is also classified as a gland since it generates bile, which aids in digestion.
The liver acts as the body’s “detoxifier”. The enzymes it produces break down many toxins and chemicals such as ammonia, which is produced when our bodies digest proteins.
The ammonia is broken down into urea which is a less toxic fluid. The urea is then transferred to the kidneys and is discharged from our bodies as urine. The liver is also responsible for breaking down medications and alcohol.
It serves as one of the storage facilities in our bodies for sugar, which is stored as glycogen (glucose), and releases it into the bloodstream to provide muscles a source of energy when exercising.
The liver also make cholesterol and other fats that our bodies need, which are important in maintaining healthy cells and hormones.
The liver produces proteins that help with blood clotting as well.
The liver is the only organ capable of regenerating itself if parts of it are removed or become diseased. However, too much damage from overuse of alcohol, drugs and medications can lead to permanent damage.
What is Cirrhosis?
“Cirrhosis is the twelfth leading cause of death by disease, accounting for 27,000 deaths each year. The condition affects men slightly more often than women” (National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse – NDDIC). “About 5 percent of people with cirrhosis get liver cancer” (MedlinePlus).
Cirrhosis happens when the liver has deteriorated to the point where scar tissue replaces healthy tissue, partially blocking the flow of blood through the liver and impairing the liver’s ability to heal itself.