The basics on the liver as a “Filtering System, Chemical Factory, and a Warehouse”
The liver is one of the largest organs in the body, consisting of two lobes – The smaller, left lobe and larger, right lobe. Many don’t know that there are eight sections in the liver, each functioning as “little livers” and that the liver can regenerate itself – making it great for sharing! The liver plays an important role in many life processes, including:
- Breaking down food into chemicals our bodies need.
- Producing Bile (needed for digestion).
- Storing and controlling sugar levels, vitamins, and minerals.
- Maintaining hormonal balance
- Removing poisons and toxins from the bloodstream.
- And more…
This is why when the liver goes awry, so many things in your body are affected. Any chronic liver disease can cause cirrhosis – Notice, I said CAN, not WILL. Cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) can be stopped or slowed if the underlying disease or problem is removed. Decades with cirrhosis can cause distortion of the liver and lead to the liver not functioning properly, resulting in the following,
- Splenomegaly (An enlarged spleen)
- Bleeding from Esophageal and gastric varices
- Edema (generalized fluid retention)
- Ascites (fluid retention in the belly): Fluid retention can be controlled or treated with a Low-sodium diet (This is key) the next line of defense is Diuretics and then Paracentesis (removal of fluid with a needle… not as painful as it sounds, but not pleasant, so try hard to stick to the diet) **Make sure to ask your doctor about receiving intravenous albumin after any paracentesis procedure!
- Jaundice: Vitamin B12 reduces jaundice, anorexia, serum bilirubin, and recovery time. (Ricki-tested and recommended)
- Hepatic encephalopathy (Mental changes from mild to coma): Reduce animal proteins in your diet. Lactulose or Neomycin may also be prescribed. Also, get yourself a medic alert bracelet if you are still getting out of the house alone.
- Increased infections and possible Spontaneous Bacterial Peritonitis (infected fluid in the abdomen): Antibiotics may be prescribed.
- Bleeding Tendencies: Folic Acid helps with anemia; vitamin K helps with bleeding tendencies. (again, “Ricki tested” and recommended) In an emergency, fresh frozen plasma may be administered.
- Cachexia (Wasting): This is why I specify for the encephalopathy to lower ANIMAL proteins, not all protein in general… You need your protein.
- Kidney abnormalities: (which can cause the edema and ascites)
- Low or high blood sugars
The more you learn about your liver and the disease that is plaguing it, the more likely you are to be able to slow or stop its advancement. Unfortunately for me, who is a non-responder to treatments for my Hepatitis C (in the past — but new treatments are coming around the corner!) I was able to last almost my first 30 years of life with my original liver, but eventually it began to fail, at that time, a transplant (removing the diseased liver and replacing it with either part of or a complete liver) was necessary. It is scary, but doable! Just remember what you are fighting for… it is worth it!
This article is intended to convey general educational information and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.