The liver is a cone-shaped organ found in the upper right part of the abdominal cavity, atop the intestines, stomach, and right kidney, and underneath the diaphragm. It weighs approximately three pounds and is dark reddish-brown in color; it gets oxygenated blood from the hepatic artery and nutrient-rich blood from the hepatic portal vein. At any time, our liver has about 13 percent of our blood flowing through its two main lobes, each of which contains eight segments with 1,000 small lobules. The liver’s lobules are connected to small ducts which flow into larger ducts and eventually become the common hepatic duct, which moves bile made by the liver cells to the gallbladder and duodenum, which is the beginning of the small intestine through the common bile duct.
The liver’s primary function is to excrete a product known as bile and regulate the levels of most chemicals in our blood. Bile aids in carrying waste products out of the liver, and all the blood that leaves the intestines and stomach passes through the liver as well. The liver then breaks down or detoxifies any nutrients and drugs found in the blood into forms that are easier for the body to make use of.
To date, researchers have found over 500 essential functions the liver is responsible for. Some of the commonly-known functions include:
- Production of some proteins for the blood plasma
- Regulation of blood clotting
- Clearing of drugs and other toxins from the blood
- Production of bile
- Production of cholesterol
- The processing of hemoglobin to use the iron within it
- Conversion of ammonia, which is poisonous, to urea, which is a component of urine
- Regulation of amino acids–the building blocks of proteins–in the blood
- Conversion of extra glucose into glycogen for storage
- The resisting of infections by removing bacteria from the bloodstream and forming immune factors
Byproducts from the liver breaking down harmful substances in the body are excreted into the blood or bile. Byproducts in the blood leave our bodies in the form of urine after being filtered out by our kidneys, while byproducts in our bile enter our intestines and leave our bodies through our feces.