A large lobed glandular organ in the abdomen of vertebrates, involved in many metabolic processes, describes the liver. The total number of liver functions vary. Here Dr. Joseph Mercola, Mercola.com, reflects on understanding your liver health:
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“Your liver weighs about 3 pounds and is located on the right side of your abdomen. Reddish brown in color, it's rubbery to the touch and protected by your rib cage.1 Your liver is the largest solid organ and one of the largest glands in your body, carrying out over 500 essential tasks to maintain optimal health.2
One of the main jobs of the organ is to process and purify blood coming from the hepatic artery and the hepatic portal vein. The liver has two main lobes, each of which have eight segments.3 Each segment is made up of approximately 1,000 lobules connected by small ducts that eventually come together to form the common hepatic duct.4
In addition to filtering your blood, the liver regulates many chemical levels and excretes bile your intestines use to help break down fat.5 Your liver also produces cholesterol, stores and releases glucose as needed, and regulates blood clotting. As your liver metabolizes chemicals or breaks down harmful substances, they are released into the bile or blood.
Bile enters your intestines and ultimately leaves your body in stool, while blood by-products are filtered out by your kidneys and leave through your urine. Your body stores vitamins A, D, E, K and B12 in the liver,6 and the liver functions as part of the phagocyte system, a portion of the immunological function of your body.7
In other words, your liver is highly important to your health. It is also the only organ in your body able to regenerate.8 In mice, if two-thirds of the liver is removed, the tissue regrows to its normal size within seven days. In humans, as long as 25 percent of healthy tissue remains, it regrows without any loss of function in approximately 15 days.
What Do Your Liver Enzymes Tell You?
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Although most health practitioners rely on reference ranges provided by a laboratory or defined by their hospital facility, there is an evidence-based set of optimal ranges that more readily predict underlying pathology. Dr. Brian Walsh is a naturopathic physician who has extensive training in molecular biological pathways.
In an interview posted in my previous article, “What Basic Blood Tests Can Tell You About Your Health,” one topic we discussed were two of the tests commonly used to evaluate liver function — the liver enzymes aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and alanine aminotransferase (ALT). The laboratory value ranges for the high end for AST is 40 units per liter (U/L) and 56 U/L for ALT.9
However, Walsh believes the medical literature10 “very clearly show that, a) men and women should have different AST and ALT reference ranges, and b) [the ideal range] is not much above 20 U/L.”
These two specific enzymes are found mainly in your liver. They are elevated when there is a form of liver damage or injury. A sudden acute jump may indicate injury to the liver, while chronically elevated levels may suggest ongoing damage.
Some of the more common diseases triggering elevated ALT and AST are viral hepatitis A, B or C, cirrhosis of the liver, alcoholic fatty liver disease, hemochromatosis (iron overload) or diminished blood flow from shock or heart failure.11
Another measurement important in the prediction of mortality is gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT). This liver enzyme is correlated with iron toxicity, increased disease risk and all-cause mortality.12 In an interview with Gerry Koenig, chairman of the board at the Iron Disorders Institute,13 we discuss the importance of GGT and its involvement in glutathione metabolism and transport of amino acids.
GGT is an important measurement of liver damage, potentially greater than AST or ALT, and may also be used as a biomarker for excess iron and early death. Determining mortality risk is a chief responsibility of insurance underwriters who use laboratory values and biomarkers to assign risk scores.
Liver function tests, particularly GGT, have become a central factor in the life insurance underwriting process.14 GGT is necessary in the production of your body's primary antioxidant, glutathione. When elevated, it breaks glutathione down.15
Researchers have also found variations in enzyme levels are inheritable and may change by age and sex. To examine the genetic architecture, researchers sampled twins, their siblings, parents and spouses, and found the same genes influence liver enzymes, but the relative contribution to the variation differs in males and females.16
The Importance of Monitoring Your Iron Levels for Liver Health
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Another factor associated with liver damage is iron overload. Iron is one of the most common nutritional supplements used today, as you may find it isolated, added to multivitamins and in fortified processed foods. While it's necessary for biological function, too much may do tremendous damage.
In fact, iron overload may be a more common problem, and far more dangerous, than iron deficiency anemia.17 Nearly all adult men and postmenopausal women are at risk for iron overload as there is no clear efficient iron excretion method. In other words, these populations do not lose blood on a regular basis.
Blood loss is the primary way to lower excess iron. If excess iron is left untreated it may contribute to cancer, heart disease, diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases.18 Iron triggers damage by catalyzing a reaction with hydrogen peroxide within the mitochondrial membrane, forming hydroxyl free radicals.
These are among the most damaging free radicals and cause severe mitochondrial dysfunction.19 This in turn is at the heart of many chronic degenerative diseases.
GGT may also be used as a screening marker for excess free iron,20 as it is highly interactive with iron and will tend to raise GGT levels. When your serum ferritin and GGT are high, you have a significantly increased risk of chronic health problems.”
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Read More … Article Source: https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2019/04/08/understanding-your-liver-health.aspx
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