“The liver is not some big mushy organ, it’s a muscle, you have to exercise it.” John Belushi, Animal House.
John may have enjoyed exercising his liver with Jack Daniel’s a little too much in the movie “Animal House,” but in reality the liver is a big mushy organ, one of the biggest in the body. The reason for this is that the liver, as well as the kidneys, are responsible for cleansing the body of all the toxins that we willingly and unwillingly dump into it.
While the kidneys control fluid balance and blood pressure, the liver has three main functions: protein metabolism, carbohydrate metabolism, and lipid metabolism.
Protein metabolism converts amino acids to glucose or lipids via the use of enzymes. Clotting factors are also produced by the liver. That’s why in severe alcoholics when the liver is damaged, they have a tendency to hemorrhage. Bear in mind that there are only three pathways through the liver. That means that the liver can essentially handle only three toxins at a time. So if you drink alcohol, dump a lot of caffeine into it, and take a couple of prescription drugs, you are already exceeding what your liver can handle.
Lipid metabolism is the second function of the liver. If your liver can’t metabolize all of the triglycerides and cholesterol, then that means you have a fatty liver, the first step towards cirrhosis.
The third function is carbohydrate metabolism. The liver helps regulate the amount of sugar in the blood by storing and releasing glycogen, a concentrated form of glucose. When your blood sugar gets low, the live releases a shot of glycogen to stabilize it.
According to the Healthy Planet Magazine, the liver also produces an antihistamine called Yakriton. “Yakriton is a liver substance, which acts in the body like a prehistamine. This circulates and if the body is exposed to a foreign protein yakriton subdues it such that there is no perceptible reaction. When one has “allergies” this is an indication that either the liver is not producing enough of this substance or that there is currently and overwhelming exposure. Either way, the liver needs nutritional support.”
Like all other parts of the body, the secret to maintaining a healthy liver is to eat a diet that is rich in vitamins and minerals and don’t overload it with toxins like alcohol, Tylenol, and other prescription drugs. There are several herbal products on the market that are supposed to help cleanse the liver. These are used in Europe after a bout of heavy drinking. I don’t know if they really work or not, but I haven’t heard that they do any harm either.