The liver is one of the most vital and chemically active of the organs. Liver cells conatain many mitochondria; supplying energy for metbolism and processing. They also contain ribosomes for protein synthesis and many lysosomes and peroxisomes for ‘digesting’, cleaning up and neutralising waste and pathogens.
The main functions of the liver:
- Liver cells (hepatocytes) detoxify various substances eg alcohol
- Hepatocytes secrete 1 pint of bile per day which aids the absorption of fats
- Hepatocytes carry on numerous important steps in the metabolism of the three food groups – proteins, fats and carbohydrates
- liver cells store several substances eg iron and vitamins A, B12, K and D.
- Breaks down hemoglobin as well as insulin and other hormones
- Converts ammonia to urea, which is vital in metabolism
- The liver produces important plasma proteins and serves as a site of hematopoiesis (blood cell production) during foetal development.
The liver is the densest of all the organs and extremely delicate. It can regenerate itself given the right conditions. The liver is in fact a gland – the largest gland in the body. Made up of many tiny hepatic lobules which are hexagonal or pentagonal cylinders all with blood vessels and bile ducts flowing through them. All of the body’s systemic blood flows through the liver.
Blood from the digestive organs (the spleen, stomach, pancreas, gall bladder, small and large intestine) is sent to the liver via the hepatic portal vein. It is laden with nutrients and also potential toxins – for the liver to process.
Also flowing along the upperside of the hepatic portal vein is the hepatic artery– supplying the liver with oxygenated blood from the heart, so that it can oxidise (burn glucose) to produce energy to perform its functions. Both flow into the liver’s lobules for processing.
Hepatic veins receive the processed blood, these then flow into the vena cava which returns the blood to the heart.
Hepatic lobules are comprised of millions of liver cells – hepatocytes. AT the bottom of each lobule are three blood vessels:
Interlobular portal vein which supplies blood and nutrients. This branches off to become the:
Sinusoids. These contain phagocytic cells that remove bacteria and worn red blood cells. Nutrients are moved to the liver to be stored or metabolised. Dissolved toxins can be processed in the liver cells. Secretions from the highly active liver cells are carried out of the lobules and into the hepatic veins. These in turn empty blood and contents into the inferior vena cava.
The Hepatic Artery follows a similar route within the first outer part of the lobule./ It joins with the sinusoids to supply oxygenated blood to the liver cells.
This is the only place where an artery empties into a so called ‘vein’. This only happens because the hepatic portl vein is neither an artery or a vein in the classic descriptive sense. As a rule veins (except the pulmonary veins) carry de-oxygenated blood to the heart. True arteries (except the pulmonary arteries) carry oxygenated blood away from the heart to the tissues. The hepatic portal vein has the structure of a vein but its purpose is to transport nutrients in the blood to the liver. It is necessary for an artery to empty into it to supply it with oxygen.
Bile Another function of the liver is to make bile. It can secrete about 1 pint per day. the bile canals flow in the opposite direction to the hepatic arteries and veins. The function of the bile canals is to collect bile from the hepatic cells and drain it from the centre out into an interlobular bile duct. They continue to join into larger bile ducts until the bile reaches the gallbladder for collection.
The Gallbladder concentrates this bile. It continues down to the duodenum where it is secreted to add to the .digestion of lipids and to stimulate peristalsis.
A note on Vitamin C in the liver:
It is the salt of vitamin C that is important for the liver – Sodium ascorbate. It helps with the metabolism of a certain liver enzyme.
If someone had liver cancer or hepatitis or another liver disease, or were recovering from liver cancer surgery, liposomal glutathione is the logical first line nutrient to consider to improve liver health.
One animal study showed that when a liver cancer-causing agent was introduced to the animals, IV glutathione administration caused regression of the tumors, resulting in the animals surviving.
Another such study showed that increasing glutathione reversed lethal acetaminophen (Tylenol) liver toxicity.
While liposomal vitamin C is likely the first line nutrient when cancer is addressed, liposomal glutathione might also be enlisted.