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Sharp Health News

Anatomy 101: your liver (infographic)

Aug. 22, 2017

Your liver is the most metabolically complex organ in your body. Without it, your body would simply break down. We asked Dr. Tarek Hassanein, a board-certified transplant hepatologist affiliated with Sharp Community Medical Group and medical director of the Sharp HealthCare-UC San Diego joint liver transplant program, to explain the workings of this powerful organ.

Anatomy 101: your liver. It’s as big as a football and acts like a factory – performing hundreds of important body functions. Learn how your liver works, and why it deserves your attention. “Your liver is one of the hardest-working organs in your body,” says Dr. Tarek Hassanein, board-certified transplant hepatologist and medical director of the Sharp HealthCare-UC San Diego joint liver transplant program. “Without it, other organs can’t function properly. Take steps to care for your liver, like exercising, eating well and being responsible when taking medications.” What it does. Your liver has a robust resume, but its most important jobs are filtering blood to remove or convert toxins; manufacturing proteins to support blood clotting and stabilize body chemistry; storing sugar, fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals to give the body what it needs; balancing hormones by metabolizing them once they have done their job in the body; and producing bile to digest and absorb fat and other components of food. How it works. Your liver works like an air traffic controller, taking in blood, filtering it and sending it to other organs. Your brain, kidney, heart, lungs, muscles and bones all depend on it. First, blood comes in from the heart and the intestines. Nutrients are sorted, processed and stored. Then, needed nutrients are sent back out to the heart, and toxins are converted into bile, which helps with digestion by breaking down fats. Finally, bile is pushed into the gallbladder, and then trickles into the intestines. Doing your part
If your liver isn’t working properly, your body can’t function. You could experience fatigue, nausea or jaundice. Worse, your liver could fail. Help your liver do its job by limiting alcohol; eating healthy, balanced meals; exercising regularly; not abusing over-the-counter drugs; taking precautions against hepatitis; and avoiding excessive weight gain.

View the printable version of this infographic.

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