How to Avoid Common Liver Problems | Felix Omoko's Blog


The human liver is an organ that carries about 500 roles in the body, like bile production, absorption, metabolism, blood clotting, regeneration and storage of vitamins; and improper diet can cause serious damage to the liver.

Functions of the Liver
The following are the functions of the mammalian liver.

1. Bile production: Bile helps in the breaking down in the small intestine and it absorbs fats, cholesterol, and some vitamins. Bile consists of bile salts, cholesterol, bilirubin, electrolytes, and water.

2. Absorbing and metabolizing bilirubin: The iron released from hemoglobin is stored in the liver or bone marrow and is used to make the next generation of blood cells.

3. Supporting blood clots: Vitamin K is necessary for the creation of certain coagulants that help clot the blood. Bile is essential for vitamin K absorption and is created in the liver. If the liver does not produce enough bile, clotting factors cannot be produced.

4. Metabolizing carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are stored in the liver, where they are broken down into glucose and siphoned into the bloodstream to maintain normal glucose levels. They are stored as glycogen and released whenever a quick burst of energy is needed.

5. Vitamin and mineral storage: The liver stores vitamins A, D, E, K, and B12. It keeps significant amounts of these vitamins stored.

6. It filters the blood: The liver filters and removes compounds from the body, such as hormones: estrogen and aldosterone, and compounds from outside the body, including alcohol and other drugs.

7. Immunological function: These cells destroy any disease-causing agents that might enter the liver through the gut.

8. Production of albumin: This is the most common protein in the blood serum. Albumin  transports fatty acids and steroid hormones to help maintain the correct pressure and prevent the leaking of blood vessels.

Liver Regeneration
Because of the importance of the liver and its functions, evolution has ensured that it can regrow rapidly as long as it is kept healthy. The liver is the only visceral organ that can regenerate.

It can regenerate completely, as long as a minimum of 25 percent of the tissue remains. One of the most impressive aspects of this feat is that the liver can regrow to its previous size and ability without any loss of function during the growth process.

Common Liver Diseases

Some of the diseases that can affect the liver is as result of years of unhealthy lifestyle.
  • Fascioliasis: This is caused by the parasitic invasion of a parasitic worm (liver fluke), which can lie dormant in the liver for a long period. 
  • Cirrhosis: This condition can be caused by a number of factors, including toxins, alcohol, and hepatitis. This can lead to liver failure as the functionality of the liver cells is destroyed.
  • Hepatitis: This is characterized by an inflamed liver. 
  • Alcoholic liver disease: Drinking too much alcohol over long periods of time can cause liver damage. 
  • Fatty liver disease: This usually occurs alongside obesity or alcohol abuse. In fatty liver disease, vacuoles of fat build up in the liver cells. If it is not caused by alcohol abuse, the condition is called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
  • Gilbert’s syndrome: This is a genetic disorder affecting 3 to 12 percent of the population.
  • Liver cancer: The most common types of liver cancer are hepatocellular carcinoma and cholangio carcinoma. The leading causes are alcohol and hepatitis.

How to Keep the Liver Healthy

1. Diet: As the liver is responsible for digesting fats, consuming too many can overwork the organ and disturb it from other tasks. Obesity is also linked to fatty liver disease.

2. Moderate alcohol intake: Avoid consuming more than two drinks at a time. Drinking too much alcohol causes cirrhosis of the liver over time. 

When the liver breaks down alcohol, it produces toxic chemicals, such as acetaldehyde and free radicals. 

For serious damage to occur, it takes the equivalent of a liter of wine every day for 20 years in men. For women, the threshold is less than half of that.

3. Avoiding illicit substances: These can overload the liver with toxins.

4. Caution when mixing medications: Some prescription drugs and natural remedies can interact negatively when mixed. Mixing drugs with alcohol puts significant pressure on the liver. 

Warning: Combining alcohol and acetaminophen can lead to acute liver failure. Be sure to follow the instructions on any medications.

5. Protection against airborne chemicals: When painting or using strong cleaning or gardening chemicals, the area should be well ventilated, or a mask should be worn. Airborne chemicals can cause liver damage because the liver has to process any toxins that enter the body.

6. Travel and vaccinations: Vaccination is essential if you are travelling to an area in which hepatitis A or B might be a concern. 

Malaria grows and multiplies in the liver, and yellow fever can lead to liver failure. Both diseases can be prevented by oral medication and vaccination.

7. Safe sex: There is no vaccination for hepatitis C, so caution is advised in regards to safe sex, tattoos, and piercings.

8. Avoid exposure to blood and germs: Receive medical attention if you are exposed to the blood of another person.