The liver is a large organ (the second largest organ in the body after the skin) located in the abdomen and could weigh up to 1500g, it is built like a wedge or pyramid and pinkish brown in colour and divided into segments, with each segment having its own blood supply
It carries out quite a lot of functions, you could call it a powerhouse and not be wrong, a jack of all trades and master of some
Here are some functions of the liver:
- Makes proteins
- Making cholesterol
- Stores Vitamins A, D, E K
- Removing harmful chemicals from the body
- Produces Bile, (Bile helps to digest fats)
- Filtering the blood, by removing some hormones from the bloodstream
- Storing carbohydrates, the liver could act as a warehouse and keep energy stored for quick use when needed
The liver is the only organ that can regrow itself, it can do this as long up to 25% of the liver is remaining, for instance in mice, two thirds of their liver was removed and it regrew in 5-7 days, this can happen in humans, it just takes longer, an incredible feat by itself
However, constant damage to the liver can damage it beyond its ability to repair itself and lead to conditions that may impair the function of the liver (liver failure) and sometimes leads to irreversible damage and even cancer of the liver
Here are some of the conditions that may impair the liver,
- Hepatitis: This just means the liver is inflamed and can be caused by anything from viruses including Hepatitis A, B, C, D, E to drugs even and toxins, sometimes the liver heals itself, other times, it doesn’t and can fail
- Cirrhosis: This is when scar tissue starts to replace liver tissue and can be the result of repeated injury to the liver. Taking too much alcohol is the most common cause of this condition.
- Liver Cancer: This can result when the cells of the liver start to grow out of proportion (primary liver cancer) or get some cancer cells or deposits from another organ (secondary liver cancer),
Sometimes, however, the body starts to attack its own tissues, a condition known as an autoimmune disease and this can further affect the liver’s function, why many of these conditions happen, we can tell for now, but we will.
In the industrialized world that we live in today, abusing alcohol has become one of the commonest causes of liver damage
Here are some of the things you can do to prevent liver damage and keep it working for a long time:
- Don’t abuse alcohol: There are several recommendations saying that a man can have up to two drinks in a day, while a woman can have just one drink in a day. It is even better to take no alcohol at all as the risks outweigh the benefits. If you must take, it should be done with extreme moderation
- Vaccination: Hepatitis B is closely linked to numerous cases of liver cancer, vaccination against this disease can be protective against liver cancer, currently, there is no vaccine against Hepatitis C which is another risk factor for developing liver cancer. Vaccination also protects against Hepatitis A also
- Stop sharing sharp objects/ Needles: sharing sharp objects and intravenous drug use has been linked to contracting hepatitis B and C, amongst others which can damage the liver.
- Don’t abuse Medications: Take your prescriptions as prescribed by your doctor, do not overdose on medications as this can cause serious liver damage. More importantly, do not mix alcohol and your meds together.
- Don’t touch other people’s blood: Hepatitis B can survive for up to 7 days outside the human body, and can still cause infection within this period. It is important to dispose of bloody products properly and wash hands after contact with them
- Wear a mask when spraying insecticides: They may contain some harmful substances in those cans that may be toxic to you, wearing masks can prevent this from getting to you in amounts that may cause damage, this also includes painting
- Lose Weight if Obese: being obese can cause a condition known as fatty liver disease, losing weight can prevent this
- Don’t eat old groundnuts: Old or bad groundnuts can contain a substance known as aflatoxin which has been linked to liver cancer, it is important that you store groundnuts properly and make sure that old groundnuts are thrown away.
- Coffee: Coffee has been linked to an increase in the liver enzymes, and people who take more than 2 cups daily have been shown to have lower cases of cirrhosis, it also protects against inflammation, but it is best to seek your doctor’s advice before indulging in coffee especially if you have conditions like hypertension or are allergic to coffee.
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