The liver is the largest glandular organ in the body, and has more functions than any other human organ. A person’s entire blood supply passes through the liver several times a day, and at any given time there is about a pint of blood there. The term “liver disease” can apply to many diseases and disorders that cause the liver to function improperly or cease functioning.
The Liver has a pivotal role in human metabolism.
The liver produces and secretes bile (to be stored in the gallbladder until needed) that is used to break down and digest fatty acids.
It also produces prothrombin and fibrinogen, both blood-clotting factors, and heparin, a mucopolysaccharide sulfuric acid ester that helps keep blood from clotting within the circulatory system.
The liver converts sugar into glycogen, which it stores until the muscles need energy and it is secreted into the blood stream as glucose.
The liver synthesises proteins and cholesterol and converts carbohydrates and proteins into fats, which are stored for later use.
It also produces blood protein and hundreds of enzymes needed for digestion and other bodily functions.
The liver also produces urea, while breaking down proteins, which it synthesises from carbon dioxide and ammonia. It is eventually excreted by the kidneys.
The liver also stores critical trace elements such as iron and copper, as well as vitamins A, D, and B12.
The liver is also responsible for detoxifying the body of poisonous substances by transforming and removing toxins and wastes. There are five main sources of body toxins and wastes that the liver deals with: toxins from food (traces of pesticides, preservatives) and alcohol; toxins from outside (drugs, adulterants, and environmental pollutants); internally produced chemicals, such as hormones, that are no longer needed; nitrogen-containing waste left over from protein re-use; and energy production. These toxins and wastes are converted into less harmful substances by the liver and then eliminated from the body.
Because of the significant role the liver plays in maintaining our health, we must do all we can to keep it functioning properly.
Symptoms of a “sluggish liver”
These are fatigue, general malaise, digestive problems, blood sugar regulation disorders (such as hypoglycemia), high cholesterol, psoriasis, allergies and chemical sensitivities and constipation. Extreme cases of liver problems would be jaundice, hepatitis and cirrhosis.
Among the many diseases that can affect the liver the most common is hepatitis (a viral infection of the liver). Hepatitis can be caused by drugs, viruses, bacteria, mushrooms, parasites like amoebas or giardiasis. The most common hepatitis viruses affecting the liver are named for letters of the alphabet: hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, hepatitis D, and hepatitis E.
Hepatitis A – takes 14 to 21 days after infection to cause symptoms. It is transmitted through food.
Once infected with HAV, some symptoms such as dark yellow urine and fatigue will begin to appear within 25 days.
Hepatitis B – is on the increase world-wide. It is transmitted through direct contact with blood, serum, saliva, faeces, urine, and sexual contact.
Hepatitis C – is a truly serious disease with no known effective treatment. It is transmitted through blood and body fluids in transfusions, injections, the sharing of IV needles with drug users, and possibly by sexual contact with exposed partners.
Hepatitis D – only occurs in the presence of Hepatitis B virus.
Hepatitis E – is another common type of hepatitis in developing countries. It occurs in epidemics. The infection route for it is faecal-oral, the same as the route for Hepatitis A virus; therefore, again, you must be very careful in what you eat and drink.
Treatment of Hepatitis
Usually Hepatitis A is self-limiting. Most of the Hepatitis A virus patients will return to normal in between four to six weeks time. The antibodies that the body’s immune system develops kill the infection and also produce immunity to Hepatitis A virus.
But with Hepatitis B virus and Hepatitis C virus, many people will go into a chronic phase that leads to chronic phase. With chronic HBV and HCV, 30% of patients develop cirrhosis of the liver or hepatocellular carcinoma.
Ayurvedic Medicine in Treating Liver Disease
Hepatitis A virus can be taken care of very easily with herbs. Many of the Ayurvedic herbs have shown remarkable results in clinical trials and studies. One of these is Eclipta Alba (Bhringaraj), others are Boerhavia diffusa (Punarnava), and Picrorhiza kurroa (Katuki).
It is recommend that people take these herbs on a prophylactic basis when travelling to parts of the world where hepatitis infection is a risk.
HBV and HCV are more serious infections. We must be careful how we use Ayurvedic herbs for prevention of HBV and HCV. The herbs mentioned earlier have shown a protective action in HBV, and using them on a regular basis may be a good way to prevent HBV.
Ayurvedic medicines play a significant role in protecting the liver from cirrhosis and from liver cancer. Animal and clinical studies done with Phyllanthus Amarus, Phyllanthus Niruri, and Eclipta Alba have proven their ability to reverse HBV infections in approximately 60% to 70% of patients. More significantly, with these herbs we are able to stop the process, which leads to cirrhosis and cancer of the liver.
This means that even if we are not able to make some patients negative for HBV and HCV, we can still protect them from cirrhosis of the liver, in which the liver stops functioning, and liver cancer.
Take very good care of your health. To protect your liver, avoid alcohol and caffeine. Drink green tea, exercise, reduce stress, and use the herbs mentioned above. Give this hard-working and essential part of your body a rest and a tune-up, and you will be rewarded with better health, more energy and higher disease resistance.
Diet and Lifestyle
Eat a balanced diet. You may need to watch how much protein and sugar you eat.
If you drink alcohol, the most important way to help yourself is to stop.
Reduce your activity level to match your energy level. Do not stay in bed; it may slow recovery.
Avoid strenuous exercise.