Why Your Liver is so Important

Your liver does three main jobs: It filters harmful things from your blood, stores fuel, and makes a liquid called bile that helps you digest food. The average adult liver weighs around 3 pounds and holds 1 pint of your blood at any given time. Cone shaped and colored a deep reddish-brown, it sits between your diaphragm and your stomach. If injury or disease damages your liver, surgeons can sometimes take out as much as 3/4th of it without destroying it. It often grows back to its former size within a few weeks.

Most medications pass through your liver. In some cases, they have to so they'll work the right way. The liver has chemicals that "activate" some drugs so they can work. These chemicals also control how quickly the drugs are broken down, used, then "deactivated" and passed through your body as waste.

The liver uses cholesterol to make a digestive juice called bile. It helps break down fats and certain vitamins so your body can use them. In addition to the toxins in your food, your liver also breaks down the ones found in things like alcohol, pesticides, and heavy metals and changes them into harmless waste that is easy to get rid of. Toxins can also be left over from normal bodily functions, like making hormones.

Along with its ability to filter toxins, your liver can find, catch, and destroy harmful bacteria, viruses, and other germs that get into your body through food. Your liver keeps you thinking straight by getting rid of toxins in your blood. When it doesn't work as it should, these chemicals can build up and change your mood, sleep habits, and the way you act. You may feel down or anxious or have a hard time focusing.

Your liver helps get rid of a waste product called bilirubin that's made when red blood cells break down. If your liver isn't working well, too much bilirubin can build up in your body, a condition called jaundice. It turns your skin and the whites of your eyes yellow. A simple blood test can tell your doctor if you have it and help them figure out why it's happening.