Editor’s Note: October is Liver Awareness Month.
As metabolic functions go, the liver could be considered the blue-collar organ of the human body. Thought by experts to perform as many as 500 different functions, this “lunch pail” laborer takes part in virtually every physiologic process necessary to sustain life. Yet, beyond commonly known conditions like hepatitis and cirrhosis, most of us know very little about the liver and how it can affect our health.
Here’s a compilation of some facts about your liver that you might find interesting, common liver diseases and how they affect your health, and what you can do to protect your liver and keep it healthy.
The Almighty Liver
- Is the largest internal organ in the body. It is the size of a football and weighs about 3 pounds.
- Can regenerate itself from as little as 25% back to full size and function.
- Is 96% water.
- Stores: vitamins (A, D, K and B12), nutrients, minerals, sugar and fat.
- Regulates blood sugar – it stores it, converts it into fat for long-term storage, and can even create new sugar in times of emergency.
- Filters and detoxifies the blood of toxins, alcohol, drugs and bacteria.
- Supports the immune system by helping to fight infections.
- Processes all of the food we eat.
- Stores iron reserves.
- Manufactures new proteins.
- Produces blood clotting factors.
You Should Be Concerned That…
- Four to 5 million Americans are chronically infected with Hepatitis C Virus (HCV).
- 1.25 million Americans have Hepatitis B (HBV).
- Primary liver cancer is the fastest rising cancer incidence in the United States. It has a 90% mortality rate.
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) affects 30-40 million Americans. Overweight individuals have a much higher risk for developing NAFLD.
- NAFLD is a major risk factor for metabolic syndrome, diabetes and heart disease.
- Almost 30,000 Americans die of chronic liver disease and cirrhosis each year.
- There are currently 17,000 Americans on the liver transplant waiting list.
- Liver transplant surgery costs $200,000 – $300,000, and $12,000 – $20,000 per year in follow-up medical costs.
6 Ways to Protect Your Liver and Your Health
- Eat a diet consisting of fresh whole foods cooked at home.
- Include lots of colorful fruits and vegetables in your diet.
- Minimize or eliminate foods containing sugar and high fructose corn syrup.
- Limit or eliminate alcohol.
- Exercise vigorously 3 to 5 times per week.
- Include a well-designed liver support complex that includes milk thistle and curcumin in your daily nutritional support regimen.
Did You Know?
In Greek mythology, Prometheus was banished by Zeus to Mount Caucasus where he was tortured by an eagle. It ate pieces of his liver each day only to have the liver grow back each night, allowing the torture to continue. He was eventually rescued by Heracles. Some believe that this myth indicates that the ancient Greeks understood the regenerative powers of the liver.