Exploring the Vital Functions of the Liver

Exploring the Vital Functions of the Liver

The liver, located in the upper right section of the abdomen, manages over 50 vital bodily functions, making it a cornerstone of human physiology. Its extensive range of responsibilities includes digestion, detoxification, protein synthesis, and immune support, all of which are essential for overall health. In this comprehensive exploration, we delve into the intricate details of the liver, examining its structure, functions, regenerative capabilities, and its pivotal role in sustaining well-being.

Understanding the Liver’s Structure:

The liver’s triangular form consists of two lobes, with the right lobe leading, and the left supporting. These are separated by the falciform ligament. The liver is shielded by ‘Glisson’s capsule’, a thin layer of fibrous tissue, and is protected by the peritoneum, the lining of the abdominal cavity. The only organ surpassing the liver in size is the skin.

What the Liver Does:

The liver plays an essential role in regulating various chemical levels in the bloodstream and secreting bile—a transparent yellow or orange fluid crucial for fat breakdown, aiding in digestion and absorption. Acting as a central processing unit, it filters all blood from the stomach and intestines, metabolising it to create and balance essential nutrients for bodily functions. Additionally, it transforms medications into more usable forms, among other vital functions such as:

  • Produces bile to facilitate waster removal and fat breakdown in the small intestine during digestion.
  • Synthesises specific proteins for blood plasma.
  • Generates cholesterol and specialised proteins for fat transportation throughout the body.
  • Stores and releases glucose as required.
  • Converts haemoglobin to utilise its iron content, storing excess iron.
  • Converts harmful ammonia into urea, a byproduct of protein metabolism, excreted in urine.
  • Cleanses the blood of toxins and medications.
  • Regulates blood clotting mechanisms.
  • Contributes to immune response by producing immune factors and eliminating bacteria from the blood stream.
  • Eliminates excess bilirubin, preventing yellowing of the skin and eyes.

Once the liver has processed harmful substances, they exit the body either through bile into the intestine or via blood by-products filtered by the kidneys and excreted in urine.

Blood and Cellular Functions:

Distinguished by a dual blood supply, the liver receives nutrient-rich blood from the portal vein and oxygenated blood from the hepatic artery. This process occurs within lobules, the liver’s functional units, housing millions of hepatocytes. Three hepatic veins conclude the process, removing blood and facilitating the liver’s crucial tasks.

The Liver’s Regeneration Capabilities:

The liver has the highest regenerative capability among all organs in the body. This remarkable ability, acknowledged since ancient times and depicted in the myth of Prometheus in Greek mythology, allows the liver to fully restore itself to its original size even after undergoing an extensive removal of up to 90%. However, despite its resilience, the liver is not immune to damage, and various diseases and environmental exposures can inflict harm. In cases where the liver sustains injuries surpassing its regenerative capacity, a liver transplant becomes necessary and is the preferred course of treatment.

Liver Challenges to be Aware About:

Liver disease, whether inherited or acquired, can result from various factors such as viral infections, alcohol consumption, and obesity. Over time, these conditions can lead to liver scarring, known as cirrhosis, which may progress to liver failure, posing a grave threat to life. However, intervention can potentially reverse these negative outcomes.

Liver disease doesn't always come with obvious symptoms, yet when symptoms do arise, they may include:

  • Jaundice, characterised by yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes, which may be less visible on darker skin tones.
  • Abdominal pain and swelling.
  • Swollen legs and ankles.
  • Pruritus (itchy skin).
  • Dark urine.
  • Pale stool.
  • Persistent fatigue.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Easy bruising.

Liver infections:

Can result from parasites and viruses, leading to inflammation characterised by swelling and irritation. This inflammation disrupts the liver's normal functioning. Viruses causing liver damage can spread through various routes, including blood or semen transmission, contaminated food or water, or close contact with infected individuals.

The most prevalent liver infections stem from hepatitis viruses, commonly known as:

  • Hepatitis A.
  • Hepatitis B.
  • Hepatitis C.

Immune System Conditions:

Autoimmune diseases, distinguished by the immune system targeting and attacking specific body parts, can affect the liver. Autoimmune liver diseases can consist of:

  • Autoimmune hepatitis.
  • Primary biliary cholangitis.
  • Primary sclerosing cholangitis.


Inherited genetic which may have changed and are passed down from one or both parents can lead to the accumulation of substances in the liver, causing damage. Genetic liver disorders include:

  • Hemochromatosis.
  • Wilson's disease.
  • Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency.
  • Cancer and Other Growth:
  • Liver cancer, bile duct cancer, and liver adenoma are examples of malignant growths affecting the liver.

Other Factors:

Additional common causes of liver disease include:

  • Chronic alcohol consumption.
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) or metabolic-associated fatty liver disease (MAFLD) resulting from fat accumulation in the liver.
  • Certain prescription medications or other drugs.
  • Specific herbal supplements.
  • Frequent exposure to toxic chemicals.

How to Look After Your Liver:

Although the liver has the capability to regenerate itself when damaged, it remains crucial to prioritise its well-being through a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle.

Some practical suggestions to maintain optimal liver health include;

  • Hydrating wisely: Increase water consumption while moderating alcohol, caffeine, and sugary beverage intake.
  • Embrace fruits and vegetables: Incorporate ample servings of fruits and vegetables, such as broccoli, spinach, and blueberries, into your daily diet for liver health.
  • Curb sugar cravings: Reduce refined sugar intake and opt for natural alternatives like fruits or dark chocolate. 
  • Embrace beneficial fats: Incorporate sources of healthy fats and essential fatty acids like nuts, olive oil, and oily fish into your diet. Avocado is particularly beneficial as it aids in glutathione production, essential for liver detoxification.

Additionally, incorporating a premium-quality blend of herbal ingredients traditionally used in Western herbal medicine can further support the liver's detoxification process. These herbal blends often include ingredients such as milk thistle, dandelion root, artichoke leaf, and turmeric. Milk thistle, for example, contains a compound called silymarin, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may help protect liver cells from damage and aid in regeneration. Dandelion root is known for its diuretic properties, which can help flush toxins from the liver and kidneys. Artichoke leaf has been traditionally used to support liver function by increasing bile production, which aids in digestion and detoxification. Turmeric, with its active compound curcumin, has potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that may benefit liver health by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress. Integrating these herbal ingredients into your wellness routine alongside a balanced diet can provide comprehensive support for liver health and overall well-being.


The liver, with its size, regenerative abilities, and multiple functions, stands as a complex organ within the human body. Understanding its vital role empowers us to make informed choices for its health and longevity. As we uncover the liver’s importance, it’s necessary to maintain a lifestyle to keep it at its best and avoid future complications.

Older post Newer post