Anatomy of the Liver
Your liver sits in the upper right-hand side of your abdominal cavity. It is protected by the rib cage, and sits just in front of the gallbladder. It rests on top of your stomach, just below your diaphragm. It weighs around three pounds, and is a dark red color. Your liver has two lobes, separated by a series of ligaments. In each lobe, the liver contains lobules that connect via a complex duct system, which transports bile produced in the liver to the gallbladder and duodenum.
The liver receives blood and oxygenation from two sources. The hepatic artery brings oxygenated blood to the liver, while the hepatic portal vein delivers nutrient rich blood.
The liver is part of your biliary system with the gallbladder and bile ducts, which creates, transports, and stores bile for digestion. It is also part of the digestive system, which breaks the foods you eat down into smaller, more accessible particles. Other organs that work with the liver in the digestive system are the stomach, pancreas, and intestines.
Your liver performs more than 500 vital functions in your body. While I am not going to list all of them here, I will share some of the most important roles the liver plays.
1. All blood leaving the stomach and intestines passes through the liver.
2. When that blood reaches the liver, it processes it, converting nutrients and medications into more usable forms.
3. The liver contains about 13 percent of the body’s blood at any given time. As the blood passes through the liver, the organ balances the blood’s chemical composition and produces bile from the waste products.
4. Bile carries those waste products away from the liver, allowing it to continuously detoxify the blood.
5. It is your body’s main fat burning organ, regulating fat metabolism and carrying fat out of the body via bile.
6. The liver produces blood proteins necessary for plasma, which is an essential component of blood.
7 The liver produces cholesterol. While many people think this is a bad thing, cholesterol actually plays an important role in the body. It is the precursor for testosterone and estrogen. Cholesterol also supports cell structure and helps maintain healthy neurological function. Note: This is different than foreign cholesterol, which is derived from animal products.
8. The liver further detoxifies by removing bacteria from the blood stream. This is essential for healthy immune function. Additionally, a healthy liver produces immune factors that fight disease.
9. It regulates blood clotting. Inefficient blood clotting can lead to bleeding disorders and anemia, while overabundant blood clotting can lead to an array of health and clotting disorders including embolism and deep vein thrombosis.
10. It detoxifies, removing harmful medications and toxic substances from your blood.
11. The liver stores iron, which it processes from hemoglobin.
12. It converts blood sugar (glucose) to glycogen (stored energy), and then back to glucose (active energy).
13. It regulates amino acids in the blood.
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