Liver Function – by Naveed

The liver is the hardest working organ in the human body and performs many functions that are vital to life. It plays an important role in digestion (breaking down of nutrients) and assimilation (building up body tissues). It is the storage site for many essential vitamins and minerals such as iron, copper, B12, vitamins A, D, E and K. Red blood cells, which are responsible for carrying oxygen around the body are also produced in the liver as well as Kupffer cells which help to devour harmful micro-organisms in the blood thus helping fight infection.

 

The liver is also one of the most important organs in the body when it comes to detoxifying or getting rid of foreign substances or toxins especially from the gut. The liver detoxifies harmful substances by a complex series of chemical reactions. The role of these various enzymatic activities in the liver is to convert fat soluble toxins into water soluble substances that can be excreted in the urine or the bile depending on the particular characteristics of the end product. This enzymatic process usually occurs in two steps referred to as phase I and phase II.

 

Phase I Detoxification either directly neutralises a toxin or modifies the toxic chemical to form activated intermediates which are then neutralised by one or more of the several phase II enzyme systems.

 

Phase II Detoxification is also called the conjugation pathway whereby the liver cells add another substance (e.g. cysteine, glycine or a sulphur molecule) to a toxic chemical or drug in order to render it less harmful. This makes the toxin or drug water-soluble so that it can then be excreted from the body via watery fluids such as bile or urine.

 

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