The liver, an essential gland in the body

The liver is the largest gland in the body, with a respectable weight of 1.5 kg.

Table of Contents

The liver is the largest gland in the body, with a respectable weight of 1.5 kg. This gland carries out important metabolic exchanges and is closely related to the blood and circulation. Here we will talk about two of the main functions of the liver: the production of bile, which is the role of the liver in digestion, and
the function of purification or detoxification of the blood, by the liver cells.

Liver and gallbladder

The liver and gallbladder are intimately linked. The first is responsible for the production of bile (0.5 l every 24 hours), while the second is the place dedicated to its storage. Contractions of the gallbladder during digestion cause the secretion of bile in the intestine, where it can exert its action. Bile is essential for the digestion of fats, because it contains, among other things, emulsifiers that disperse them to form an emulsion easily attacked by digestive enzymes. As we will see shortly, insufficient bile production or gallbladder emptying problems have important consequences on digestion.

Liver and blood circulation

Blood circulation passes much of the blood through the liver. Some important metabolic processes take place in this gland. The composition of the blood is in fact changed by the action of the liver cells (hepatocytes) it passes through. The liver takes glucose nutrients and amino acids from the blood, for example, and stores glucose in the form of glycogen, to return it to the blood when the glucose level drops. The amino acids, on the other hand, are assembled to form various proteins, such as albumin or prothrombin, essential for coagulation.

The liver is inactive and purifies the blood of numerous species, such as waste from the catabolism (degradation) of hemoglobin, or ammonia, a very toxic residue from protein catabolism. It also inactivates some hormones and various drugs.

Liver and alcohol

Everyone knows, more or less, that the liver is important for the breakdown of alcohol and that an excess of alcohol harms this gland (the famous cirrhosis of the liver). The liver actually has a specific function in the elimination of alcohol: it is in this gland that acetic aldehyde, a product of alcohol degradation, is formed and subsequently eliminated.

Liver disease

Liver diseases include hepatitis, mostly of viral origin (hepatitis A, B and C), but which can also be caused by substances such as toxins from poisonous mushrooms, alcohol or certain drugs.

Cirrhosis of the liver, on the other hand, is a chronic liver disease. Chronic hepatitis can progress to cirrhosis, but the most common cause of cirrhosis is alcohol abuse. Consuming 60 g of alcohol per day (about 7 dl of wine) for a prolonged period is believed to cause liver damage. Cirrhosis is a serious disease that can eventually lead to liver failure, hepatic coma and death.

All liver diseases have various consequences on digestion and health in general. Affected people have difficulty digesting fats, because they don’t produce enough bile, and they tolerate alcohol and smoking poorly. Cases of difficult digestion can also be caused by problems with the gallbladder, or by an obstruction of the biliary tract (gallstones). Typical symptoms are flatulence, a feeling of fullness and loss of appetite.

 

Drugs that act on the hepato-biliary system

The therapeutic arsenal for treating liver disease is relatively limited. For viral hepatitis A or B, vaccines are available that effectively protect the population. However, if the disease is already established, practically nothing remains but to propose a support treatment, waiting for the body to overcome it. The body does not always make it and hepatitis can become chronic (in the case of hepatitis B and C). Only some substances synthesized by genetic engineering, such as interferon, can improve the state of people suffering from chronic hepatitis.

Herbal medicine (which cures with medicinal plants) offers remedies to support the deficient functions of the liver and gallbladder. We can mention, for example, the milk thistle, the artichoke, the boldo or the dandelion. These plants act directly on liver cells, which protect against toxins, or activate the production of bile (choleretic properties) or bile secretion in the intestine (cholagogue properties). Medicines based on these plants are recommended both for the treatment of chronic liver diseases, and for the treatment of digestive disorders.

Traditional Indian medicine

In addition to herbal medicine, another sweet medicine, Ayurveda, offers a product that acts specifically on the liver. Ayurveda is traditional Indian medicine, which, for over 3500 years, has been treating according to a therapeutic approach that rests on the harmony between the conscious and physical functions.

For functional liver disorders, Ayurveda has developed a plant-based drug, with a healing and protective action at the same time. Various clinical studies have highlighted the positive effects of this preparation in inflammatory, acute or chronic liver diseases. It is therefore recommended for the treatment of functional disorders resulting from these diseases, such as the feeling of fullness and flatulence.

Parallel to plant-based and sometimes mineral-based medicines, Ayurveda also seeks to favor the self-regulatory mechanisms of the human body. In Ayurvedic medicine, not only nutrition plays an essential role, but also various types of massages and yoga, Indian gymnastics par excellence.

In conclusion

Like other organs or glands, the liver functions best when it is not overstressed. In this sense, moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages and a healthy and light diet are naturally recommended. Exposure to hepatotoxic substances, whether of synthetic or natural origin, must also be avoided.

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25 Responses

  1. Drinking a glass of warm water and lemon in the morning is considered a natural remedy to cleanse the liver. In addition, this remedy helps intestinal regularity and the expulsion of toxins through the stool. Warm or hot water serves to counteract any astringent effect of the lemon.

  2. If the liver is functioning well, all digestion proceeds smoothly and the body is best able to rid itself of toxins and unwanted substances.

  3. Complications of liver disease vary depending on the cause of the liver problems. Untreated liver disease can develop into liver failure, a life-threatening condition.

  4. If you have a higher risk of contracting hepatitis or if you have already been infected with any form of hepatitis virus, talk to your doctor about how to get vaccines against hepatitis A and hepatitis B.

  5. Dandelion is used as a herbal remedy for liver cleansing. It belongs to the bitter and wild herbs considered useful for promoting the proper functioning of this organ. Dandelion is used for the preparation of herbal teas, in the form of infusions or decoctions.

  6. For the methods of preparing and taking dandelion-based remedies for the liver, you can consult your trusted herbalist.

  7. Milk thistle is used for the preparation of a fluid concentrate with purifying properties and useful for the physiological function of the liver. This preparation exploits the properties of the substances contained in the fruits of milk thistle, such as silymarin.

  8. Artichoke extract is used in herbal medicine to help purify the liver, especially in cases of digestive difficulties, hypercholesterolemia and fatty liver. The hydroalcoholic extract, or mother tincture, is used to preserve and make the best use of the properties of plants. The use of hydroalcoholic extracts such as those of artichoke is recommended in case of acute ailments, to obtain good results in a short time.

  9. Aloe Vera juice is used for the preparation of purifying drinks designed to promote the regularity of intestinal transit, improve digestive function and liver function. Aloe Vera juice, accompanied by a light diet, rich in fruit and vegetables, can therefore be part of a detox program that will benefit the whole body.

  10. Birch sap is an ancient seasonal remedy used especially in spring to purify the body after winter, a period of the year when we tend to consume heavier foods and digestion can be fatigued, with repercussions on the liver. The advice is to take half to two tablespoons of birch sap every morning on an empty stomach for three weeks as a natural purifying remedy.

  11. If you have discovered that you have hepatitis C the most important thing to know is that today hepatitis C is cured and it is possible to recover permanently!

  12. The first thing to do if you have discovered that you are affected by HCV is to contact your family doctor to be directed to a center specialized in the treatment of hepatitis, or alternatively go directly to a center to have a complete diagnosis on the state of the infection or disease and possibly start a course of therapy.

  13. A series of diagnostic tests are usually performed in a specialized center to define the characteristics of the infection and the severity of the liver damage, but also to verify the existence and / or severity of other existing co-pathologies and related pharmacological treatments, which could affect or interfere with the therapies to be taken.

  14. It should be emphasized that the presence of co-infections can cause a faster evolution of liver damage.

  15. It is necessary to immediately rely on a trusted doctor in order to verify and quantify the damage that the liver has suffered over time; there are several direct methods, some indirect, whose combined use allows for much more precise information.

  16. There are tests that allow us to quantify liver damage, i.e. the possible degeneration of some or many liver cells and the contextual scarring of the liver tissue, scientifically defined as a stage of liver fibrosis.

  17. The techniques for the staging of liver damage are divided into invasive (percutaneous liver biopsy, now performed exclusively under ultrasound guidance) and non-invasive (different “ultrasound-like” techniques that evaluate the “hardness” of the liver with the study of waves sound).

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