Friday, June 10, 2016

Understanding The Liver and Cholesterol

And come to the liver, one of my favorite organs. Certainly the heart, the brain, and the immune system get more play in the popular imagination than the liver, but that's only because the liver is so misunderstood. Next to the skin, the liver is the largest organ in the body. In many ways, it is the most important organ, and the last to be considered when it comes to health. In addition to being large, the liver is also a complicated organ involved in at least 200 separate functions. Generally speaking, the liver performs a vital role in regulating, synthesizing, storing, secreting, transforming, and breaking down many different substances in the body. In this issue, we explore the anatomy and physiology of the liver in detail from a natural health perspective, and conclude with a discussion of how the body regulates cholesterol and why statin drugs may not be all that doctors promote.

 As I mentioned above, the liver is the heaviest and largest gland inside the body, weighing in at about 3 pounds. Only your skin (also a single functioning organ) is larger. Your liver occupies almost the entire right upper quadrant of the abdominal cavity. (Remember that in virtually all medical diagrams, right and left are reversed.) It nestles up against the diaphragm on the top and against the ribs on the right -- stretching across the body, almost touching ribs on the left. Thus, barring extreme trauma such as bullet wounds and automobile accidents (or if it is not enlarged), it is fully protected -- a testament to how important the body considers the organ.

 Physically, it is divided into four lobes, a large right and a small left lobe. Nestled between those two lobes are two less easily visible lobes, the quadrate lobe sitting on top and the caudate lobe sitting just underneath and extending to the bottom of the liver.

 Obviously, a three pound organ cannot just "hang" in the abdominal cavity. It needs to be secured.  And in fact, it is suspended from the back of the diaphragm by two ligaments, the falciform and the suspensory ligaments. The falciform ligament in particular runs up through the entire liver, dividing the left and right lobes before attaching to the diaphragm. There is one other interesting note about the falciform ligament. The umbilical vein, when you are inside the womb, runs from the umbilical cord up between the left and right lobes of the liver. Within a week of birth, that vein is completely obliterated and replaced by the fibrous cord known as the falciform ligament.

 The liver has a reserve capacity of some 50-80%. That means you can destroy up to 80 percent (and in some cases possibly even more) of the liver's function and have no demonstrable negative symptoms. And as amazing as that is, it's not the most amazing part. As I have mentioned frequently over the years when talking about detoxing the liver, the liver is one of the few human organs that can regenerate itself. It can actually regenerate (in a matter of weeks) up to an 80% loss of tissue. Once regenerated, it will fill the same space it occupied before, and will take roughly the same shape as before. And when it's done regenerating, it stops! Though it grows faster than any cancer known to man, its regeneration does not become malignant, and the liver will stop growth at approximately its normal size. This is particularly useful after trauma such as an automobile accident that has damaged part of the liver. The damaged or diseased tissue can be removed by the surgeon with no loss of liver function, and in a matter of a few weeks, the liver will have regenerated all of its lost tissue. You've gotta love this stuff!