I. Read and discuss the following facts about the liver.
* The liver is the largest organ of the body.
* The liver affects nearly every physiological process of the body and performs over 500 different chemical functions.
* The liver filters over a litre of blood each minute.
* You probably don’t think a lot about it, yet you can’t live without it.
* You can’t feel it working, yet it plays a central role in nearly all body functions.
* It’s your body’s “protector,” and damage to it can result in serious, potentially life-threatening consequences.
* It’s your liver, and even though your overall good health and vitality largely depends on it being healthy, you may not be doing all you can to help protect it.
The liver is the largest and most complex organ in the human body. It detoxifies the blood by filtering out the toxins – air pollutants, pesticides, cigarette smoke, environmental chemicals, alcohol, and prescription and non-prescription drugs – that assault your body on a regular basis. Environmental and chemical toxins are introduced into your bloodstream when you breathe, eat and drink, and even when you need medication. Your liver helps get rid of these toxins by changing them into products that are excreted through urine. But this hard-working organ doesn’t stop there. It also helps with hormonal balance, fat regulation and digestion.
Because of its heavy workload your liver can become over-burdened, causing it to malfunction. Although a malfunctioning liver is seldom painful, it can lead to a number of problems due to the accumulation of toxins that have not been removed from the body. Signs that your liver may not be functioning properly include: intolerance to greasy and spicy foods; weight gain; frequent headaches; indigestion; chronic constipation; skin conditions, such as eczema, psoriasis or skin rashes; bowel problems; sinus and allergy problems.
In severe cases the liver can become scarred, a condition known as cirrhosis, which blocks the flow of blood through the liver and prevents it from working as it should. Liver damage cannot be reversed, and unfortunately, cirrhosis does not always produce symptoms in its early stages. As the disease progresses, and liver function is increasingly diminished, it’s common to experience fatigue, weight loss, exhaustion, nausea, weakness and loss of appetite. In addition to these symptoms, loss of liver function affects the body in other ways, such as: oedema (swelling) in the legs; bruising; jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes); itching, caused by bile products deposited in the skin; gallstones; toxins in the blood or brain, which can lead to dull mental functioning, personality changes, coma, and even death.
Appropriate treatment can sometimes reduce these complications, but ultimately, the liver can become so damaged from cirrhosis that it completely stops functioning. Cirrhosis is the eighth leading cause of death by disease in the US, killing about 25,000 people each year.
Fortunately, you can take steps to protect your liver’s health so it can keep protecting your body. One way to ensure a healthy liver is to reduce your exposure to toxins, especially alcohol. Excessive alcohol consumption can cause a condition called alcoholic hepatitis, which can ultimately lead to cirrhosis. Monitoring your alcohol intake is probably one of the simplest ways to avoid liver damage.
Fried and processed foods can also damage your liver. Hydrogenated fats and the chemicals found in processed foods cause the liver to work harder, so try to limit your intake of junk food. Additionally, learn to recognize when you’re no longer hungry. Overeating is a common cause of liver malfunction because it creates excessive work for the liver, and an overworked liver can’t properly detoxify harmful substances.
High doses of vitamin C (up to 2000 mg) helps protect your liver by boosting the immune function. It acts as an antioxidant by protecting liver cells from free radicals. Herbal Licorice has antiviral properties and helps block the actions of toxins.
The herb Milk Thistle contains silymarin, a component that prohibits toxins from entering the liver. It also soothes inflammation and helps prevent liver cell destruction. It may also assist the production of new liver cells and can be a valuable support to a liver that has been damaged by alcohol or exposure to environmental toxins.