Volume 3 Issue 4

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B esides the skin, the liver is the largest organ in the human body. Nevertheless, it is one of the least appreciated or understood. Unlike many other vitals organs, the liver does its work in silence. For example, we readily note changes in heart beat or digestive function – and we deal with the direct results of kidney activity several times a day. Our senses provide us constant feedback. And while we can't feel brain function, we are aware that our thoughts and behavior are manifestations of what goes on inside our skulls. But the liver is different. Despite its size (it weighs about three pounds and is about the volume of a football) we'd probably never know it was there unless something went wrong with it. It doesn't beat; it doesn't rumble; it doesn't relax or contract; it does secrete various substances, but nothing we'd be immediately aware of. And yet the liver's many complex functions are absolutely essential to good health. e liver's multiple functions fall into three general categories: (1) vascular; (2) secretory; and (3) metabolic (see Table 1). Table 1 Vascular • Storing blood • Regulating blood clotting • Cleansing the blood and discharging waste products into the bile • Aiding immune function by filtering the blood to remove bacteria and by adding immune factors Secretory • Aid digestion by synthesizing and secreting bile • Keeping hormones in balance Metabolic • Manufacturing new proteins • Producing quick energy on demand • Regulating fat storage • Controlling the production and excretion of cholesterol • Storing certain vitamins, minerals, and sugars • Neutralizing, detoxifying, and destroying xenobiotic substances, such as drugs, chemicals, and pollutants • Metabolizing alcohol • Metabolizing carbohydrates, fats, proteins In addition to these vital functions, the liver possesses an amazing ability to regenerate itself if cells become damaged. is is important because, in the everyday process of neutralizing toxins, the liver produces potent free radicals that can and will injure the liver tissue itself. It is essential that the liver has the ability to replace those cells that give up their lives in the cause of detoxifying the blood. Diseases of the liver are almost always serious and can oen be life-threatening. In the United States, more than 25,000,000 people (about 1 person in 10) are afflicted with diseases of the liver or gallbladder (which stores bile produced by the liver), and each year more than 43,000 die from liver- related disorders. e most common liver disorders include: Fatty Liver Fatty liver is an abnormal accumulation of fat, primarily triglycerides, in liver tissue, oen associated with heavy long-term alcohol use. Fatty liver is usually asymptomatic and invisible on standard liver function tests, although it can sometimes manifest as tenderness or pain in the upper right abdominal region. Most cases are diagnosed when the doctor palpitating the area notices the liver enlargement. Diagnosed early enough, most cases of fatty liver can be treated (primarily by stopping alcohol consumption) and reversed. Untreated, fatty liver can progress to fatal liver disease. Hepatitis Hepatitis is an inflammatory condition of the liver tissue usually caused by a virus, either Type A, Type B, or Type C hepatitis virus. Hepatitis can also be caused by alcohol, drugs, or occasionally by other viruses, such as Epstein-Barr, yellow fever, and cytomegalovirus. All types of hepatitis are potentially fatal, although Type A usually has the best prognosis. Type C hepatitis infection has raised alarms in recent years because it seems to be spreading so rapidly. About four million people in the U.S. are thought to be chronically infected with hepatitis C. It is estimated that 30,000 people are becoming infected each year, although 70 to 75% of these are not being diagnosed. Currently, hepatitis C kills about 12,000 people annually, a figure that is expected to triple over the next decade. Hepatitis C is the primary reason people need Liver Disease: The Silent Threat By Lane Lenard, PhD Page 44 | Abby's Magazine -

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