The liver and its function

General Healthcare

  6 Minutes

What a fascinating organ the liver is, not the largest of the body, but the largest in the body. It even regenerates and forgives you. Many believe the liver is only there to produce bile and to detoxify the body, yet the liver has over 500 different functions. More than 1,5 liters of blood is filtered through the liver every minute – that is over 2,400 liters in a day! They claim that a liver cell lives for 90 days and then a new cell is born. Makes you consider what you eat and drink and use as this impacts the next cell produced in the body.

Did you know, your body can survive on one third of your liver functioning, provided steps are taken to aid the regeneration of the whole liver? Everything we eat and drink and take as supplements or medication pass through the liver first before it is allowed to enter the rest of the body.

How does the liver work?

The liver has many important functions. One of these is to convert the nutrients in the food we consume into substances that the body can use, store, and supply cells with when required. It also takes toxic substances and converts them into harmless substances or makes sure they are released from the body.

The primary functions of the liver are:

  • Production of bile. This helps carry away waste and break down fats in the small intestine during digestion.
  • Production of certain proteins for blood plasma.
  • Production of cholesterol and special proteins to help carry fats through the body.
  • Conversion of excess glucose into glycogen for storage (this glycogen can later be converted back to glucose for energy).
  • Balancing and production of glucose as needed.
  • Regulation of blood levels of amino acids. These form the building blocks of proteins.
  • Processing of haemoglobin for distribution of its iron content (the liver stores iron).
  • Conversion of poisonous ammonia to urea (urea is one of the end products of protein metabolism that is excreted in the urine).
  • Clearing the blood of drugs and other toxic substances.
  • Regulating blood clotting.
  • Resisting infections by making immune factors and removing certain bacteria from the bloodstream.
  • Clearance of bilirubin. An accumulation of bilirubin will turn the skin and eyes yellow. It is the bilirubin that gives stool the dark brown appearance. If the stool becomes light, the liver is troubled.

Internal anatomy of human liver

The human adult liver weighs about 1.5 kg and is found in the right upper abdomen, below the diaphragm, under the ribs and reaches over to the left side of the abdomen. A larger right lobe and smaller left lobe makes up the liver. Connective tissue anchors the liver to the abdominal cavity. The gallbladder, where bile is stored, is found in a small hollow on the underside of the liver.

Liver tissue is made up of lots of smaller units of liver cells called lobules. It is estimated that each lobule contains 1,000,000 cells and that there are 350,000 lobules in the liver! That is an estimate of 350,000,000,000 cells that make up the liver. The liver is a most forgiving organ as mentioned and yes, unlike the kidneys, the liver does regenerate! When a piece of the liver is removed, it grows back again. When a liver transplant is performed, the lobe that is removed grows back. Many canals carrying blood and bile run between the liver cells. Blood coming from the digestive organs flows through the portal vein to the liver, carrying nutrients, medication, and toxic substances. Once they reach the liver, these substances are processed, stored, altered, detoxified, and passed back into the blood or released in the bowel to be eliminated. In this way the liver can, for example, remove alcohol from your blood and get rid of by-products from the breakdown of medications. With the help of vitamin K, the liver produces proteins that are important in blood clotting. It is also one of the organs that break down old or damaged blood cells.

The liver plays a central role in all metabolic processes in the body. In fat metabolism, the liver cells break down fats and produce energy. They also produce about 800mls to 1 liter of bile per day. This yellow, brownish or olive green liquid is collected in small ducts and then passed on to the main bile duct, which carries the bile to a part of the small intestine called the duodenum. Bile is important for the breakdown and absorption of fats and as a liquid to eliminate waste from the liver. The gallbladder contracts when you eat something oily or fatty, secreting the bile into the digestive system through the common bile duct that connects with the pancreas. When the gallbladder is removed or the bile is too thick, you do not have enough bile for good digestion, causing a nausea feeling and dislike for rich, oily, and fatty foods. The liver makes the bile, and the gallbladder stores the bile. When the gallbladder is removed, the bile from the liver permanently drips into the digestive system and not only when you have eaten something oily or fatty. This too can cause a low-grade nausea feeling.

The liver is the energy hub of the body, storing sugar as glycogen when it is not required and converting it back to sugar when the blood sugar levels drop in the body. In the metabolism of carbohydrates, the liver helps to ensure that the level of sugar in your blood stays constant. If your blood sugar levels increase, for example after a meal, the liver removes sugar from blood supplied by the portal vein and stores it in the form of glycogen. If blood sugar levels are too low, the liver breaks down glycogen and releases sugar into the blood. As well as sugar, the liver also stores vitamins and minerals, for example iron and copper, and releases them into the blood when needed.

The liver also plays an important role in the metabolism of proteins changing amino acids in foods so that they can be used to produce energy, or make carbohydrates or fats. A toxic substance called ammonia is a by-product of this process. The liver cells convert ammonia to a much less toxic substance called urea, which is released into the blood. Urea is then transported to the kidneys and passes out of the body in urine. And so, the liver and kidneys together ensure that the body is constantly detoxed.

Few know that the liver shows signs when burdened.

Typical liver and gallbladder warning signs:

  • Waking between 2 – 3am for no reason
  • Moodiness
  • Tiredness
  • Light headedness
  • High cholesterol
  • Weak resistance to illness
  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Red, itchy eyes
  • Bitter taste in the mouth
  • Excessive thirst
  • Constipation, piles
  • Nausea
  • Irritable bowel syndrome

Unexplained pain in the right side of the body

  • Pain in the head
  • Pain in the shoulder
  • Pain in the elbow
  • Pain in the hip
  • Pain in the knee
  • Pain in the big toe.

Typical liver and gallbladder warning signs

When you have eaten a rich meal and you battle to digest the oils and fats, and hours later you are still uncomfortable and feel you should never have eaten that lamb chop, or piece of cream cake, it is probably due to your liver not being able to digest the food properly, causing this discomfort. Dr Alfred Vogel recommended A.Vogel Boldocynara as extra support for the liver every three or four months for someone that is not on any chronic medication. Should chronic medication be required, then using Boldocynara daily is recommended. Take it at first three times a day and after 90 days reduce the dose to once or twice per day. The liver will be most grateful for the extra support through the four herbs found in this unique remedy.

A story of hope…

A lady in her forties, diagnosed with a liver three times larger than normal, and told that it was caused by alcohol, was sent to a homeopath to help her. The enlarged liver was indeed caused by over exposure to alcohol, yet she never consumed a drop. She inhaled the alcohol in fumes in the factory where she worked where aerosol paint cans were being produced. The doctors had no hope for her and gave pain medication as she was in constant pain throughout her body. The homeopath suggested a radical change to her diet, and she prescribed two products for her. A clean vegan diet needed to be followed, devoid of sugar and fruit for 3 months, and she used A.Vogel Boldocynara and A.Vogel Molkosan. Within two days of starting the diet and products, this lady felt terrible. The detoxing of her liver was intense. Her husband phoned the homeopath who suggested a suppository to help with the pain. Only one was required. Within 48hrs she felt better and slowly over the 3 months her liver healed. Boldocynara supported the liver, and Molkosan is a well-known A Vogel product that aids digestion which further supports the whole digestive system. Following a vegan diet is ideal as animal proteins and dairy products are far more difficult to digest than vegetables and grains and legumes. Her liver needed to rest and recover. And it did!

  Listen to the podcast here: The liver