What Is the Liver?
The liver is one of the largest solid organs and largest glands in the body. This organ weighs approximately three pounds, has a red-brown color, and is the second-largest organ after the skin.
One of the liver’s primary functions is to filter blood that flows from the digestive tract. The liver filters anything that you consume, including toxins, food, medicine, and alcohol. This filtration process results in bile production and secretion back into the body’s intestines.
The liver is also a vital organ that carries out more than 500 functions in the body, including essential metabolic functions. The liver is a highly sophisticated organ that can identify toxins, which it eliminates from the body through urine or stool. When there are nutrients in the blood, the liver will store them or release them back into the bloodstream.
The liver is about the size of a football and consists of two lobes. The right lobe is larger than the left one. The falciform ligament, which is a band of tissue, separates the two lobes and anchors them to the diaphragm.
Each lobe consists of eight segments, and each section consists of hundreds of small lobes or lobules. Small tubes connect the lobules to a common hepatic duct, which transports the bile that the liver produces to the gallbladder and duodenum, which is the first part of the small intestine.
Where Is the Liver Located?
The liver location is in the upper right-hand part of the abdominal cavity above the right kidney, stomach, and intestines, and underneath the diaphragm. It is not possible to feel the liver with your hand, as its location is inside the rib cage.
Under the liver is the gallbladder and parts of the pancreas and intestines. The liver, pancreas, and gallbladder work together during the absorption, digestion, and processing of food.
On the outside of the liver is a layer of fibrous tissue, named Glisson’s capsule. The peritoneum, a membrane that lines the abdominal cavity, covers Glisson’s capsule. The membrane doesn’t only protect the liver from physical damage, but it also keeps the liver in position.
Liver Blood Supply
Two sources supply blood to the liver. The first is the hepatic artery that supplies the liver with blood rich in oxygen. The second source of blood is the hepatic portal vein that supplies the liver with nutrient-rich blood from the intestines.
At any given moment, the liver holds around one pint of blood, which is around 13% of the body’s blood supply.
What Does the Liver Do?
Primarily, the liver regulates chemical levels in the blood and produces bile, which is a clear, green, or yellow fluid that aids in breaking down the food you eat. The liver also creates, breaks down, and balances nutrients in the body.
In addition to these functions, the liver carries out more than 500 other tasks, including:
-Producing proteins for blood plasma
- Producing cholesterol and proteins for fat distribution throughout the body
- Converting excess glucose into glycogen for energy storage
- Balancing and producing glucose as the body needs it
- Iron storage and processing hemoglobin for iron distribution
- Regulating amino acid blood levels, which are the building blocks of protein
- Converting toxic ammonia to urea, which the body excretes through urine
- Preventing blood clot formation
- Making immune factors and removing bacteria to prevent infections
- Removing bilirubin, which is the cause of eye and skin yellowing
The functions of the liver above are only the most prominent roles that the liver fulfills in the body, but there are many more. After breaking down harmful substances, the liver excretes the by-products into bile or blood. These by-products in bile enter the intestine and leave the body in stool, and the by-products in the blood go through filtration in the kidneys and leave the body in urine.
Types of Liver Diseases
Various factors can affect the liver’s functioning. Since the liver plays a crucial role in maintaining the levels of toxins in the body, liver disease can have serious health consequences beyond the liver.
Below is a list of the most prominent liver diseases.
Hepatitis is liver inflammation. In most cases, viruses, such as hepatitis A, B, and C, cause liver inflammation. Other causes of inflammation include excessive drug or alcohol consumption, allergic reactions, or obesity.
Liver failure is the gradual or sudden loss of liver function. Several things can cause liver failure, including excessive alcohol consumption over a long period, genetic diseases, and infection.
Gallstones are hard crystalline masses that form in the gallbladder or bile ducts from bile pigments, cholesterol, and calcium salt. If gallstones get stuck in the bile duct, this can result in hepatitis and bile duct infection.
Hemochromatosis is the result of iron deposits in the liver, which can cause damage to the liver and deposit iron throughout the body. Patients with hemochromatosis may also suffer from additional health problems associated with iron deposits.