The liver is the largest solid organ in the body and is normally located in the upper right side of the abdomen. It performs hundreds of vital functions, including the production of bile and the removal of metabolic waste products from the body.
What Is the Role of the Liver?
The liver plays a key role in maintaining overall health by aiding in several essential bodily processes.
Digestion, Metabolism, and Nutrient Synthesis
The liver helps digest food by producing bile that breaks down fats into molecules that are small enough for absorption. Additionally, the liver processes and metabolizes nutrients from the small intestine, such as carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, and converts them into energy. A part of this process is gluconeogenesis, which involves the liver synthesizing glucose from non-carbohydrate sources such as amino acids and glycerol. It also stores certain vitamins and minerals such as iron, copper, and vitamins A, D, and B12.
Through natural detoxification, the liver neutralizes and eliminates toxins from the body. It does this by performing four key processes:
- Bile waste excretion: As bile moves through the liver, it collects waste products and other toxins from liver cells. This bile is stored in the gallbladder, moves through the intestines, and is eventually eliminated with a bowel movement.
- Biotransformation: The liver uses enzymes to alter the chemical structure of toxins, converting them into a more water-soluble form that can easily exit the body.
- Ammonia Excretion: When protein is metabolized, it produces ammonia as a byproduct. The liver converts ammonia into urea and transports it to the kidneys, where it is excreted in urine.
- Blood Filtration: Blood passes through specialized blood vessels in the liver called sinusoids. Inside are liver cells called hepatocytes, which remove toxins from the blood.
What Are Liver Support Supplements?
Some people may consider supplementation as a way to support healthy liver function. Liver support supplements are available are made from high-quality herbal ingredients, including:
- Olivol®: an olive fruit extract that helps the body maintain blood and fat lipids
- Green Tea Extract: an antioxidant derived from the plant Camellia sinensis that helps limit the production and damaging effects of free radicals.
- Curcumin: A natural compound found in turmeric with anti-inflammatory properties
These supplements also include the active ingredients choline and alpha-lipoic acid. Choline is an essential nutrient found in a variety of foods, including eggs, meat, whole grains, dairy, fish, legumes, and certain cruciferous vegetables. It supports healthy liver function and assists in the body’s natural detoxification. Alpha-lipoic acid is a naturally occurring compound with antioxidant properties that is in broccoli, spinach, yeast, and organ meats.
How Does Lifestyle and Diet Impact Liver Health?
While the liver naturally cleanses and repairs itself, poor lifestyle choices can cause long-term issues:
- A diet high in saturated and trans fats, sugars, and processed foods. Focus on eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthier fats found in avocados, nuts, olive oils, and fish.
- Poor hydration. The standard guideline is to drink eight cups of water a day, but this varies depending on your weight, activity level, and other factors.
- Obesity or being overweight. Being overweight can cause unhealthy fat to be on the liver. Maintain a healthy weight to support optimal liver health.
- An inactive lifestyle. Exercise aids in weight management, improves insulin sensitivity, increases blood lipid levels, and decreases inflammation.
- Excessive alcohol consumption or chronic drug use. Limit or avoid alcohol and illicit drugs to avoid scarring and inflammation of the liver.
- The contraction of certain viral infections. Viral hepatitis is a viral infection that can cause long-term liver damage and is passed through unsafe sex and the sharing of drug needles and other paraphernalia.
- Exposure to environmental chemicals, pollutants, and toxins. Carefully choose cleaning products and avoid exposure to pesticides, chemicals, and other harmful substances.
The liver is a vital organ that helps keep our bodies clean of metabolic waste products, among hundreds of other key functions. To promote a healthy liver that adequately performs natural detoxification and supports digestion and blood filtration, it’s important to make healthy lifestyle choices.