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 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"/ Liver diseases
These are fatigue, general malaise, digestive problems, blood sugar regulation disorders (such as hypoglycaemia), high cholesterol, psoriasis, allergies and chemical sensitivities and constipation. Extreme cases of liver problems would be jaundice, hepatitis and cirrhosis.
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In this article, we'll review the most common liver disease - hepatitis and cirrhosis. Then will see what Ayurveda can offer for the protection of this vital organ and survey Ayurvedic treatment of liver disease.
Among the many diseases that can affect the liver the most common is 'viral hepatitis' (Inflammation of liver caused by viral infection). 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.
In modern medicine, the only protection against hepatitis are the HAV and the HBV vaccines. There is nothing available for HCV protection so far. Therefore, limiting our exposure to hepatitis is the best prevention. We have to take the responsibility for prevention of hepatitis ourselves. This means using safe sexual practices, taking precautions when exposed to blood and blood products; avoiding the sharing of IV needles; taking care to eat in restaurants that enforce hand-washing policies among their employees; and avoiding scavenger seafood. These measures can cut your chances of being infected with hepatitis to a minimum.
Cirrhosis of the liver is a chronic, diffuse degenerative liver disease in which the parenchyma (the functional organ tissue) degenerates, the lobules are infiltrated with fat and structurally altered, dense perilobular connective tissue forms, and areas of regeneration often develop.
Cirrhosis is the seventh leading cause of death by disease in the United States. In most cases, though, there is a loss of liver cell function, and an increased resistance to blood flow through the damaged liver tissue (a condition known as portal hypertension) leading to oesophageal varices. Severe cirrhosis leads to ammonia toxicity, hepatic coma, gastrointestinal haemorrhage, and kidney failure. As liver cells are destroyed, they are systematically replaced by scar tissue.
The most common cause of cirrhosis is believed to be alcohol abuse Though it affects many organs, alcohol is especially harmful to the liver, and is a factor in about three-fourths of the cases of liver cirrhosis . Alcohol must be metabolized, and the liver performs most of that job, suffering serious damage in the process. Not only does alcohol destroy liver cells, it also robs them of their ability to regenerate. Such cofactors as hepatitis C virus can increase the risk of cirrhosis
Treatment of liver cirrhosis
More than half of all liver disease could be prevented if we acted on the knowledge we already have. Avoiding or limiting the use of alcoholic beverages. Man-made chemicals also pose an extreme threat to the liver
Once cirrhosis has been diagnosed, sodium and fluids should be restricted, and all alcohol consumption must cease. Antiemetics, diuretics, and supplemental vitamins are prescribed. Patients should avoid exposure to infections and eat small but frequent meals of nutritious foods. The liver is the only organ that can generate healthy, new tissue. It is therefore possible to regenerate a cirrhosis-damaged liver if extraordinary therapies are followed and the underlying cause of the cirrhosis is eliminated.
Interferon-alpha, a powerful antiviral, may reduce the risk of cancer in some cirrhosis patients. In cases of total liver failure, transplantation has been successful.
Ayurvedic Herbs/ Ayurvedic Medicine for Treating Liver Disease Continue >>>>