How Your Liver Keeps You Healthy

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Doctor examining liver

You might not think too much about liver function and what your liver does until something goes wrong. However, when it's not working right, your whole body can suffer.

Your liver is one of the largest organs in your body. A healthy liver weighs about three pounds. It differs from most other organs in one key way: Any removed or damaged parts of your liver can grow back. That's important considering how vital it is.

Liver Facts

Your liver has two main functions. It helps digest food and get rid of waste products. In all, though, your liver does about 500 different jobs. Here are some more important liver facts:

  • It cleans your blood. Your liver filters unhealthy substances from your blood. This includes alcohol, bacteria, or other toxins. Your liver supports your immune system in fighting off infections and keeping you healthy.

  • It converts food into energy. This process is your metabolism, and your liver plays a role in it. Your liver helps break down the fats, carbohydrates and protein you eat so your body can make good use of them. Your liver also helps process medications you take.

  • It helps control blood sugar levels. Your liver removes sugar from your blood when levels are high. It releases sugar when they're low.

  • It makes cholesterol. Your body needs cholesterol to make cells. But your liver might make more than your body needs. Too much cholesterol can build up in your arteries and cause heart problems. However, your liver also helps get rid of cholesterol. It excretes it by sending it out of your body along with bile.

  • It manages bilirubin levels. Your liver regulates bilirubin, a substance created from the normal breakdown of red blood cells. Too much bilirubin can make your skin and eyes turn yellow.

  • It manages hormones. Your liver works to maintain a healthy balance of all types of hormones in your body.

  • It plays a role in blood clotting. Your liver creates proteins that help your blood clot if you start bleeding.

  • It produces bile. Your liver creates bile. Your body needs this substance to process the fats in your diet. It also needs bile to remove waste materials, including any harmful substances.

  • It stores important minerals. Your liver banks copper and iron. Then it releases them into your bloodstream when your body needs them.

If your liver isn't working properly, your body can suffer. It can affect your heart, digestion, hormones, and energy level. However, there are things you can do to keep your liver healthy including:

  • Get vaccinated for hepatitis A and B, viruses that can harm your liver

  • Limit the amount of alcohol you drink

  • Maintain a healthy body weight

These steps can help your liver function well. A healthy liver means a healthier you.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 Jun 5

  1. About Cholesterol. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Cholesterol/AboutCholesterol/About-Cholesterol_UCM_001220_A...

  2. Anatomy and Function of the Liver. Lucile Packard Children's Hospital. http://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=anatomy-and-function-of-the-liver-90-P03069

  3. How Does the Liver Work? U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0072577/

  4. How the Liver Works. Canadian Liver Foundation. http://www.liver.ca/liver-health/how-liver-works.aspx

  5. The Liver. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/theliver.htm

  6. Liver Disease. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/liver-problems/basics/definition/con-20025300

  7. Liver Facts. Canadian Liver Foundation. http://www.liver.ca/liver-health/liver-facts.aspx

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