9 Questions You Should Be Able to Answer About Your Liver

The liver is one the most important and heaviest (weighing in at 2% of our body weight) organs. Its health has repercussions across a range of bodily functions which makes it crucial that you know as much as you can.

Only by asking more questions about your liver, can you answer them, when asked by a doctor/caregiver. And only then can you keep your liver in prime health, and avoid or respond rapidly in case of problems/emergencies.

In this article, we answer the 9 most important questions about your liver.

What are the Main Functions of Your Liver?

The liver performs, either directly or in combination with other organs over 500 vital functions. The liver is the primary organ in disposing of waste from our bodies. It produces bile – an alkaline fluid – that helps with the digestion of fats and is stored in the gallbladder.

The liver breaks down any toxic substances in medications or alcohol and gets rid of accumulated bilirubin (a waste product from red blood cells which is yellow in color).

It also converts the extra glucose to glycogen and hemoglobin to iron, both products of which are stored in the liver. The liver also removes blood contaminants, modulates blood clotting, and generates immune factors to kill bacteria and protect the body against infections.

Best Diet for a Healthy Liver?

One of the most common liver problems is non-alcoholic fatty liver disease or NAFLD which is usually present in people with lifestyle disorders like obesity or being overweight, type 2 diabetes, or prediabetes.

Whether you have these lifestyle problems or not, a Mediterranean diet works best for liver health.

Avoid excess sugary snacks and beverages, salt, saturated and trans fats, red meats, and refined carbohydrates. These foods put extra strain on the liver to process fat, and all sugars/refined carbohydrates are finally converted to fatty deposits.

Opt for fiber-rich foods, particularly leafy greens and fruits, oatmeal, nuts, whole grains and legumes, and omega-3 fatty acid-rich fish like salmon, that help break down fat

Is Obesity Linked to Liver Disease?

Obesity is one of the most common factors causing NFLAD. Being overweight is often accompanied by high LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglyceride levels and concurrently fatty liver deposits.

These in turn evolve into scarring which prevents the liver’s performance of key metabolic functions. If ignored over the long term, this silent killer can cause liver disease, the need for a transplant, and possibly death.

Get rid of the extra weight by eating a calorie deficit diet (between 500-1500 calories) and getting in some aerobic exercise for 30 -60 mins/day, 3-4 times weekly.

What are the Symptoms of Liver Problems?

Most liver problems have the following, easily identifiable symptoms. If you observe any of these, contact a physician immediately.

  • Yellowing of the eyes and skin due to excessive bilirubin i.e., jaundice

  • Dark yellow, brownish urine

  • Fatigue

  • Swelling of the abdomen and ankles

  • Weight loss

  • Muscle wasting

  • Spider veins i.e., blood vessels visible on the surface of the skin

  • Fluid retention

  • Itchy skin that isn’t dry and doesn’t respond to lotion.

  • Clay-like stools

  • Internal bleeding; vomiting blood

What Tests Should I Take for Suspected Liver Problems?

There are four major blood tests to detect liver damage. These include −

  • Bilirubin Test – Bilirubin is excreted through the urine, so high levels in the blood or blood in your urine, indicate poor liver clearance of the compound.

  • Liver Enzyme Test- This blood test panel checks for 4 major enzymes, like alkaline phosphatase and alanine transaminase for higher-than-normal counts.

  • Single Lipoprotein Test- This panel for cholesterol and triglyceride levels is taken after fasting.

  • Liver Protein Test- This test measures the levels of prothrombin, albumin, and globulin. If the blood clotting is slow, it shows a malfunction of these proteins

Should I Avoid Alcohol?

Each time you drink alcohol, your liver filters out about 80-90% of the toxins. The more alcohol to process, the more liver cells that die. Moderate drinking in healthy people isn’t usually an issue, because the liver has a great capacity to regenerate itself.

However, chronic and binge drinking can quickly damage large parts of your liver leading to alcoholic hepatitis, cirrhosis, scarring, and liver failure. Alcoholic liver disease can be reversed in the early stages by complete abstinence.

But at advanced stages of any liver disease, complete abstinence is necessary and not a choice, if you want to live.

Cirrhosis: What is the Prognosis and Possible Treatment?

Cirrhosis usually doesn’t have any manifest symptoms like ascites, edema in the legs, nausea, or confusion until it has become quite severe. It can be diagnosed with imaging which shows scarring and stiffness in the liver, or biopsies.

In the early or middle stages, you may be medicated to remove bile or reduce inflammation. With NFLAD, lifestyle changes are the only preventative tool.

With complications of cirrhosis, you may need medication to reduce pressure on the portal vein supplying blood to the liver, or to stop the bleeding of enlarged veins i.e., varices in the stomach or upper esophagus.

Medication is also administered to slow/stop the progression to hepatic encephalopathy - a toxin build-up due to poor liver function that can cause a loss of brain function.

Liver Cancer: What is My Prognosis and Possible Treatment?

Liver cancer can be of different kinds.

  • The most common - HCCs or hepatocellular carcinomas,

  • IHCs or intrahepatic cancers that affect bile ducts account for 10-20% of all cases

  • The rarest are angiosarcomas which affect the linings of the liver blood cells, accounting for 1% of all cases

Your prognosis will depend on the stage of advancement, and how many organs cancer has metastasized to. Detection at an early stage is very difficult without regular preventative check-ups due to a lack of symptoms.

Treatments may include embolization (blocking the blood supply to tumors), ablation (destroying tumors without removing them), or radiation therapy.

Hepatitis C and B: What is My Prognosis and Possible Treatment?

Hepatitis. C and B can hasten the progression of cirrhosis because these viral infections don’t show symptoms during the acute stage (3 months). During this time, for 20% of infected people, the body often copes on its own without external treatment.

But for the remaining 80% the virus lingers, causing chronic inflammation, that over time leads to scarring and cirrhosis. Fortunately, it is curable with a range of antiviral medications.


To ensure your liver is always taken care of, get regular check-ups, which include scans and biopsies, to prevent the progression of an illness that can be life-threatening.

Someswar Pal
Someswar Pal

Studying Mtech/ AI- ML

Updated on: 24-Apr-2023


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