Normal Liver Function
In order to understand how to detoxify the liver it is helpful to understand what normal liver function is and how it operates within the body’s ecosystems. In Chinese medicine,the liver was traditionally regarded as “the general” of the body because of its role in orchestrating so many important activities.
In fact, the liver is probably the most diverse and active organ in the body. It performs many important functions and is the location where most of the major biochemical pathways used for both anabolic (building) or catabolic (breaking down) activity takes place.
The liver also functions as a filter to remove toxins and waste products from the body and it stores nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and iron. In addition, it plays a role in managing levels of certain chemicals in the body, such as cholesterol, hormones and sugars. A healthy liver filters about 1.5 quarts of blood per minute.
The liver weighs about 2.6 lbs. to 3.5 lbs. and has very powerful
regenerative properties. Vital human function can be maintained even
when 2/3 of the liver has been destroyed. If healthy liver tissue
exists, it can normally still regenerate new liver cells.
liver is divided into 4 unequal lobes. The right and left lobe, visible
in the illustration above and the quadrate and caudate lobes, which may
be seen on the visceral surface.
There are 2 main blood
vessels to carry oxygen and metabolites (vitamins and minerals, glucose,
urea, etc.) in and out of the liver. The hepatic artery comes from the
heart and carries blood rich in oxygen and substances that will later be
metabolized by the liver. The portal vein brings the liver blood rich
in nutrients absorbed from the small intestines.
blood vessels eventually branch out into small capillaries throughout
the liver and allow liver cells to intersect with the rest of the body.
The liver helps the body digest food and breakdown toxins by producing a
substance called bile, which is stored in the gall bladder. Other
important functions of the liver include processing hemoglobin (the
iron-containing oxygen-transport protein in the red blood cells) and
The Liver is a Warehouse for
Carbohydrates and Fat
The liver is also centrally involved with carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism. The liver’s role in carbohydrate metabolism is to help the body maintain adequate levels of sugar (glucose) via 3 processes:
- glycogenolysis(the breakdown of converted glucose for storage)
- glycogenesis (formation of glycogen from glucose)
- gluconeogenesis (The process of making glucose (sugar) from its own breakdown products or from the
breakdown products of lipids (fats) or proteins.)
The liver’s role in fat metabolism involves a number of important reactions. First, the liver is very active in oxidizing triglycerides (sugars stored as fat) to produce energy.
The liver is also responsible for the bulk of lipoprotein production and
lipogenesis (the process by which simple sugars such as glucose are
converted to fatty acids) when the body has to convert excess glucose
and proteins into fat.The liver also synthesizes large quantities of
cholesterol and phospholipids.
* It is interesting
to note that low fat diets and products that have been heavily marketed
for years do not actually address the real problem, sugar.
reason why we have so many problems regarding fat accumulation is
because of the excessive amounts of sugar in the typical American diet.
Even many “low fat” foods have lots of sugar added to them,
most of which is in the form of high fructose corn syrup that is almost
entirely converted into fat in the liver.
The Liver Breaks Down Proteins
Finally, the liver is involved in some important aspects of protein metabolism. First,it is active in the breakdown of amino acids and it is because of this that liver “transaminase” enzymes such as ALT are measured to assess liver disease.
Liver cells are also responsible for the synthesis of plasma proteins such as albumin. Albumin and clotting factor are only made in the liver, so tests measuring serum albumin and prothombin time are also excellent for assessing liver function and health.
In addition, the liver plays an important role in the removal of waste products of protein such as ammonia. When the liver fails to function properly, the body fills with excess amounts of ammonia, which can lead to impaired brain function due to advanced liver damage.
At Green Health Acupuncture, we offer a number of diagnostic tests for assessing liver function and we have a complete program that includes a diet and nutrition program especially designed for you and supplements that are specifically designed to support healthy liver function and detoxification.
Normal Gallbladder Function
The gallbladder is a small pear shaped sac located just below the liver and it stores and concentrates bile. It is connected to the liver (which produces the bile) by the hepatic duct. When food that contains fat reaches the small intestine, a hormone is produced by cells in the intestinal wall and carried to the gall bladder via the bloodstream.
The hormone (cholecystokin-for you curious readers) causes the gallbladder to contract,forcing bile into the common bile duct. A valve, which opens only when food is present in the intestine, allows bile to flow from the common bile duct to the duodenum
(located in the upper small intestine) where it functions in the process of fat digestion.
Sometimes substances contained in bile crystallize in the
and this forms gall stones. These small hard objects are more common in
persons over 40, especially in women and the obese.
fact, there is a common expression used by medical students to remember
these risk factors and it is: “fair, female, fat and fertile”.<p>
stones can cause inflammation in the gallbladder, a disorder that
produces symptoms similar to indigestion, and these are often worse
after a fatty meal.
If a stone becomes lodged in the bile duct, it produces severe pain.
Green Health Acupuncture offers specific
diagnostic tests to determine the health of your gallbladder and we have specific dietary and nutritional recommendations for preventing the formation of stones.
Click here to learn
more about herbs and foods used to keep your gallbladder free of stones