The Liver is the biggest gland in body, roughly one to 1.2 kg in weight. It is situated in the right upper abdomen. It consists of cells called hepatocytes, which look similar, but functionally are of many types and able to perform varied functions. It
produces bile which helps in digestion and absorption of fats and fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, K.
The Liver is like a chemical factory. It synthesises various proteins, enzymes and many other substances. It can metabolise almost all the nutrients. It can store glycogen, certain vitamins especially A and D, and some minerals like iron. Here, antibiotics are synthetised, which protect the body. It can ever manufacture the red blood cells, when the need occurs. One of the most important functions of the liver is the detoxification of the harmful substances into inactive, harmless substances which can be excreted easily from the body. It also metabolises drugs. Although the liver has immense power to withstand the various adverse circumstances and even when up to 80 per cent of the liver is damaged, it can regenerate itself if the proper environment is present.
In spite of liver's ability to regenerate it can be affected by many diseases. To keep the best of
health we must keep our liver healthy.
Diseases affecting the liver
• Very common diseases which can affect the liver are the viral hepatitis A,B,C,D,E. It is caused by A,B,C,D,E hepatitis viruses. Hepatitis A and E viruses spread through contaminated food, milk, drinks or water. Most of the patients suffering from hepatitis A and E recover in a few weeks.
Hepatitis B,C,D viruses spread by infected blood transfusion, sexual intercourse with an infected partner, by use of infected syringe, needles or instruments or from an infected mother to baby in the womb during delivery. Hepatitis 'B' is usually a long-term disease causing chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis, liver failure or liver cancer after many years.
In our country liver amoebic abscess, and hydatid cyst are also very common diseases. These are spread by the consumption of infected food or water mainly.
• Cirrhosis is a complex disease of liver and occur mainly because of long-term alcohol consumption in large amounts.
Because of scarring of liver cells pressure in vessels increases, leading to enlargement of vessels in the oesophagus, which may burst causing blood vomiting or blocking stools. Cirrhosis triggers off a series of other serious problems like accumulation of fluid in abdomen (asths) swelling in the brain (encephalopathy) and kidney failure. Ultimately liver failure occurs, the patient may become unconscious and death is the only outcome.
• Some drugs, chemicals, pollutants, metals, pesticides, insecticides, etc, can also damage the liver.
• Alcohol, fungi tovins (aflotoxin), hepatitis B and many other factors can cause liver cancer. Cancer cells from other parts of body can come into the liver and can cause secondary liver cancer.
• In our country malnutrition is a very common problem. It can also damage the liver.
How to keep the liver healthy
There are many myths and misconceptions which are associated with liver diseases. Traditionally, loss of weight, appetite, low energy, weakness, diarrhoea, etc, are said to 'weaken the liver'. Although the liver has great potentials to keep itself healthy, it can be affected by various diseases which may have grave consequences and can even cause death. So everyone must try to keep their liver healthy by taking the following measures.
Don't drink alcohol or if unavoidable drink only a limited amount (two small pegs of whiskey or one bottle of bear) occasionally. If anyone has suffered from hepatitis, they should not touch alcohol for at least one year.
• Don't consume contaminated food, water, juice, milk, drinks.
• Don't eat unwashed raw fruits, vegetables, sweets or other food kept open.
• Consume an adequate balanced diet in so that a deficiency or excess of nutrients doesn't occur.
• Consume drugs only on doctor's advice and in dosages prescribed. If any drug that you are consuming is known to cause liver damage, then liver functions should be determined so that, if unwanted effects start the drug can be withdrawn. • Don't use unsterilised syringes, needles, instruments.
• If blood transfusion is needed, donor blood should be checked for hepatitis B and C, before transfusion.
• Avoid sexual contact with an unknown person. One should use condoms properly to protect from hepatitis B,C,D, AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
• Everyone should be vaccinated for hepatitis B which provides protection from hepatitis B and D. Hepatitis A is very common problem in our country. If the risk of hepatitis A infection is present, then hepatitis A vaccination should be done.
• Don't smoke, consume tobacco or gutkha.
• Try to avoid pollution as far as possible.
The above measures can keep the liver healthy. These measures will also provide protection from many other diseases. As the liver is like a chemical factory of the body, when the liver is healthy metabolic detoxification processes run smoothly and body's immunity remains intact, so the likelihood of other diseases decreases. When the liver is healthy, people remain active and energetic too.

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