The Functions of the Liver

The liver has many essential roles in keeping us alive, including:

  • Blood Purification – Before its journey throughout the human body, blood from the stomach and intestines is filtered by the liver. To prevent contaminants from circulating in the bloodstream, the liver removes a plethora of toxic waste from our circulation, such as:
    • Drugs
    • Bacteria
    • Fungi
    • Viruses
    • Parasites
    • Food Additives
    • Pesticides and herbicides
    • Chemicals
    • Fats
    • Alcohol
    • Dead cells
    • Other debris
  • Detoxification – Housing an ingenuous cleaning system, the liver detoxifies infectious organisms, alcohol, heavy metals, drugs, chemicals, toxic byproducts and other poisons from the blood. Without this function, the human body would suffer from a fatal level of pollution.
  • Digestion – The liver produces bile, a substance needed to digest and absorb fats. Bile aids in digestion by helping the body absorb fat and certain vitamins, including Vitamins A, D, E and K. In addition, the liver converts the food we eat into nutrients the body can use.
  • Manufacturing – The liver manufactures a variety of important proteins, including enzymes, hormones, blood proteins, clotting factors and immune factors. The liver also produces cholesterol, which carries energy-supplying fats around the body and is a building-block for hormones to regulate metabolism and growth. Everyone’s health and longevity depend on the liver’s ability to manufacture proteins.
  • Processing – The liver processes almost everything we ingest via our mouth, breathe into our lungs or absorb through our skin. Considered to be the biochemical factory of the body, the liver metabolizes substances in the blood stream.
  • Storage – The cells of the liver also act as a storage facility to house many crucial substances, such as iron, certain vitamins, minerals and glycogen until they are needed. When blood sugar levels drop and the body needs energy quickly, the liver converts the stored glycogen into glucose and releases it into the bloodstream. In this way, the liver supplies us with fast-acting energy.

Because the liver’s ability to function properly impacts almost every system in the body, damage to this organ can be a major problem. With any type of liver disease – whether it is the accumulation of fat, a chronic hepatitis virus or cancer – there is a greater urgency to take care of the liver. A healthy liver is able to regenerate damaged cells and bounce back from occasional damage. (In fact, if someone has two thirds of his or her liver removed through damage or surgery, it can actually regenerate itself in about one month’s time.) However, repeated, heavy scarring of the liver can surpass the liver’s ability to recover. The more damage a liver incurs, the harder it is to fulfill its many responsibilities.

Learn about the Causes of Liver Disease.

About the Author

Stephen Holt, MD, PhD, FACP

Stephen Holt, M.D. is a Distinguished Professor of Medicine NYCPM (Emerite) and a medical practitioner in New York State. He has published many peer-review papers in medicine and he is a best-selling author with more than twenty books in national and international distribution. He has received many awards for teaching and research. Dr. Holt is a frequent lecturer at scientific meetings and healthcare facilities throughout the world. He is a best selling author and the founder of the Holt Institute of Medicine.

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