Liver is an important part of the digestive system and is the biggest organ in the body. It is located below the lungs and above the stomach. Liver is classified as a gland as it secretes bile. This important organ executes more than five hundred essential tasks in the body and has regeneration capabilities.
A healthy liver plays a major role in keeping the body’s chemistry steady. It performs many metabolic functions including-
- Production of bile which is stored in the gallbladder. Bile helps in carrying waste and in breaking down fats in the small intestine during the process of digestion.
- Storage of glucose in the form of glycogen which is re-converted back whenever needed.
- Involvement in the metabolism of protein and carbohydrates.
- Storage of vitamins (A, D, K, B12) and minerals (iron, copper and folate).
- Generates proteins called blood clotting factors.
- Responsible for production of cholesterol and special proteins (like albumin) for carrying fats in the body.
- Protects the body from infections by producing immune factors.
- Primary organ responsible for detoxification in the body.
Signs of Liver Damage
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Rise in skin problems like acne and psoriasis
- Increased exhaustion, concentration difficulties and lower energy levels
- Sensation of itchiness and inflammation
- Development of new allergies and sensitivities or worsening of related symptoms
- Irregularities in digestion and bowel habits
- Indigestion problems
- Hormonal imbalances
- Abnormal weight gain and sluggishness/sloppiness
- Extreme yellowing of skin/eyes
Liver Diseases and related Medical Treatment
- Fatty Liver Disease(FLD) or Hepatic Steatosis has fat accumulation in the liver. FLD is categorized as alcohol and non-alcohol related. Fatty Liver treatment involves limiting or avoiding drinking of alcoholic beverages, cholesterol management, decreasing sugar and saturated fat consumption, weight loss and controlling blood sugar. Medications for non-alcoholic FLD include tamoxifen, methotrexate and amiodarone injection or oral tablets.
- Hepatitis where there is inflammation of the liver. It is of three types-
- Hepatitis A which usually resolves on its own. Taking adequate rest and ample fluid intake is beneficial.
- Hepatitis B which normally clears up on its own. However chronic cases need medication and sometimes a liver transplant.
- Hepatitis C which is treated with anti-viral medicines.
- Cirrhosis which is a result of very poor liver function and is usually last stage of chronic liver disease. Treatment involves making healthy lifestyle changes, medications like diuretics for reducing body fluid build-up, antibiotics for infections, endoscopic treatments and surgical shunt placement to restore blood supply in liver. Acute cases need a liver transplant.
- Hepatocellular Carcinoma which is liver cancer that occurs due to heavy alcohol consumption, chronic hepatitis or cirrhosis. Aggressive surgery or liver transplant is done for treating small or slowly growing cancerous tumors if diagnosed early.
- Liver transplantation in India is gaining popularity in medical tourism industry due to its affordable treatment options with its cutting- edge medical technology, advanced research, extraordinary patient care and world-class infrastructure.
Best Foods for Liver
For maintaining a healthy liver, eating regular, balanced meals with grains, proteins, dairy, fruit, vegetables and fats is essential. Best foods include
- High-fiber foods like fresh fruit and vegetables, whole-grain breads, rice and cereals.
- Healthy proteins like dairy products with nil or low fats, lean meats and plant-based sources like beans, legumes, and lentils.
- Healthy fats as found in nuts and seeds, avocados, flaxseed, olive oil and fish oils (or fatty fish).
- Plenty of fluids consumption.
- Certain herbs and fungi like Dandelion root, Licorice root, Milk thistle seed, Poria mushroom, Reishi mushroom, Schisandra berry,Turkey tail mushroom also help in maintaining liver health.
- Processed foods which contain trans-fats
- Consumption of high amounts of salty and sugary foods.
Thus, balanced diet, regular exercise and weight management are the key success factors for maintaining healthy liver.