It is a gland – the largest in the human body – essential for metabolism . It is connected to the digestive system and performs multiple functions not only useful for digestion, but also for the defense of the organism and the elimination of toxic substances . A good state of liver health is therefore indispensable for maintaining good conditions for the whole organism.
What is the liver?
It is a large gland, connected to the digestive system and consisting of four lobes . It is located on the right, in the highest part of the abdominal cavity and is positioned under the diaphragm and close to the transverse colon and stomach . It has an ovoid shape, a weight of about 1-1.5 kg and a length of 24-28 cm. about what make it the largest gland in the human body. It is sprayed with blood that is transported by the hepatic artery , the main arterial vessel of the liver. It develops in the embryonic stage starting from the middle intestine and in the fetus – in the first few months – it is the main producer of red blood cells.
The hepatocytes are liver cells that play almost every organ functions related to its metabolic activity. They represent the main structures of the liver – both in function and number – reaching 80% of its overall volume. Then there are the stellate or Ito cells , which perform a special function: they support its extraordinary ability to regenerate, for example after injuries or surgery, producing thanks to vitamin A , reticulin and collagen, “bricks” that allow you to replenish the damaged areas of tissue.
It is a gland and is therefore part of the endocrine system , that is, that which oversees the production of hormones, essential substances for multiple functions. Specifically, the liver produces bile , which is essential for the digestion of fats. In the organ there is also the most important glycogen deposit , which represents about 6-7% of the total weight of the liver.
It is a very vulnerable organ : abuse of alcohol, smoking, drugs, viral infections, excess fat in food can cause damage and dysfunction. The liver cirrhosis is the effect of chronic inflammation that destroys the liver cells and cause scars that reduce – so even irreversible – organ function. The accumulation of triglycerides leads to hepatic steatosis , also called fatty liver . L ‘ hepatitis , however, is the acute or chronic inflammation caused by several viruses (HCV, HDV, HEV, HAV, HBV, HIV-) including types of hepatitis B and hepatitis Cthey are the most frequent and are transmitted by blood and serum (transfusions, use of infected syringes) and unprotected sexual intercourse. Other direct threats to this organ are cancer and autoimmune diseases.
Many antiviral therapies are proving their effectiveness in treating infections, but unfortunately there is currently no medical remedy when the liver is severely damaged; So one balanced lifestyle – which includes within it a diet low in fat and rich in fruits and vegetables, exercise and the elimination of both alcohol and smoking – is the best prevention against liver diseases.
What is the liver for?
It performs fundamental metabolic functions : it produces bile and supports the transformation of absorbed foods, in particular through the emulsion of fats and the synthesis of cholesterol and triglycerides . The organ also has a significant role in the management and storage of sugars as well as in the metabolism of proteins and in the reduction of their toxic waste.
Its cells, called liver cells (or hepatocytes) , are a real “chemical plant” for the disposal of triglycerides, fats and cholesterol , which is provided by a specific cellular structure, the smooth endoplasmic reticulum, developed especially in the hepatocytes.
The liver produces bile, a dark yellow viscous liquid , mainly consisting of water and bile acids which allows the digestion of fats and vitamins A, D, E, K which dissolve in fats (fat-soluble vitamins). The bile produced by the liver passes in part directly into the duodenum and in part into the gallbladder , which keeps it stored until the moment the fats arrive from the stomach to the intestine. At that point it is poured into the duodenum in order to provide for the synthesis of fats. L ‘ jaundiceit is the condition in which – due to the possible presence of stones – the bile salts remain in the liver. The most obvious symptom is the unnatural yellowish coloring of the epidermis.
Glycogen, iron, copper and vitamin B12 are also stored inside . The glycogen stored in the liver is transformed in a useful way, when the body requests it, into plasma glucose . The liver therefore also plays a role in modulating the blood sugar level (blood sugar) . It also has a role in the preservation of the body’s metabolic balances, through the demolition of insulin and other transformations of proteins for energy purposes. It is also the source of the coagulation factors that allow the blood to remain fluid and avoid the formation of aggregations that hinder circulation.
The liver is a real anti-toxin “filter” and a fundamental location for the entire immune system: its cells have useful characteristics for the neutralization of toxic substances and drug residues ; it also disposes of damaged red blood cells and is home to specialized cells for recognizing pathogens. These are Kupffer cells : the macrophages of the liver are thus defined which – in addition to functioning as “purifiers” of the blood that reaches the hepatocytes and to remove the aged or damaged blood cells, supporting the action of the spleen – have a role of “sentinels”, stimulating the immune system to intervene in the presence of dangers for the body.