The liver is a vital organ found below the diaphragm, in the upper right side of the abdomen, that performs several important functions necessary to live.
When we consume nutrients, it converts these into usable substances for the body and stores them until they are needed by cells. It stores vitamins and minerals and releases them when needed.
It is also responsible for dealing with toxins by either turning them into harmless substances or by ridding the body of them. Blood carries these nutrients, toxic substances, and medication to the liver from the digestive organs where they are processed, changed, and stored, then released back into the blood and bowels.
The liver also creates proteins used for blood clotting which is necessary for healing injuries and stopping bleeding.
All metabolic processes involve the liver, as well. Liver cells break down fat to produce usable energy. It produces bile that moves to the small intestine. Bile is needed to break down fat and absorb it.
For carbohydrate metabolic processing, the liver controls blood glucose levels. If levels get too high, it removes excess sugar and stores it as glycogen. If levels get too low, it breaks up glycogen and increases blood sugar.
For protein metabolic processing, liver cells alter amino acids from food, so the body can use them to produce energy. A by-product of this, ammonia, is turned into urea which goes through the kidneys and then is urinated from the body.
It is clear the liver performs many necessary roles and therefore keeping it healthy is of the utmost importance. Liver disease can occur due to genetic and behavioral factors, like our diets and consuming
alcohol. Damage to the liver is called scarring or cirrhosis, which is life threatening, because the liver can no longer perform the above functions effectively.
Some causes of liver disease include infection from viruses like Hepatitis A, B, and C; immune system abnormalities like auto immune disorders; genetics; cancer; chronic and continual alcohol abuse; drug abuse; exposure to infected blood; diabetes; obesity.
Your medical practitioner can detect warning signs of poor liver health, so regular check-ups and appointments are important in addition to taking proper precautions and healthy living. Those suffering from various types of liver disease or those seeking help for preventative measures to lower risk can benefit from elder home health care services and care plans designed for their individual needs. Those with a history of liver problems in their family should talk to their Caregiver about this and collaborate to develop healthy habits.
To lower risk of liver disease:
• Drink in moderation (1 drink a day for women and 2 drinks a day for men)
• Don’t mix prescription drugs and alcohol • Only take medications in proper amounts and when necessary
• Get vaccinated for Hepatitis
• Avoid risky behaviors like sharing needles and having unprotected sex
• Avoid toxic chemicals like aerosols, insecticide, fungicide, and other air-borne, liquid, or solid toxins, and wear protective gear when handling or working with them
• Eat a healthy diet and maintain a healthy weight
Healthy foods for the liver include:
• Coffee • Green or black teas
• Prickly pear
• Cruciferous vegetables (Brussels sprouts, broccoli, mustard greens)
• Vitamin E
• Fatty fish
• Olive oil
Ask your home care professional and your doctor about methods to increase liver health and how to reduce risky behaviors.