Friday, November 19, 2010

A Little Liver Lovin'

The liver...not pretty to look at but quite an amazing organ! The Hepatitis Foundation says it much better than I can...

Sadly, people generally have little knowledge of the complexities and importance of the thousands of vital functions their livers perform nonstop.

The liver is about the size of a football – the largest organ in your body. It plays a vital role in regulating life processes. Before you were born, it served as the main organ of blood formation. Now, its primary functions are to refine and detoxify everything you eat, breathe, and absorb through your skin. It is your body's internal chemical power plant, converting nutrients in the food you eat into muscles, energy, hormones, clotting factors and immune factors.

It stores certain vitamins, minerals (including iron) and sugars, regulates fat stores, and controls the production and excretion of cholesterol. The bile, produced by liver cells, helps you to digest your food and absorb important nutrients. It neutralizes and destroys poisonous substances and metabolizes alcohol. It helps you resist infection and removes bacteria from the blood stream, helping you to stay healthy. Arguably, your liver isn't just your silent partner – it's your best friend.

I am on Methotrexate and I read every scary side effect possible. You know you are in pretty bad shape when the risky side effects sound better than the physical reality you are living in. Even with my strong 'natural and organic' history, I honestly hit a point where I would do or take ANYTHING to feel decent again. Unfortunately, my liver takes a hit with this medication choice. Possible liver side effects with MTX include hepatotoxicity, acute hepatitis, chronic fibrosis and cirrhosis, decrease in serum albumin and liver enzyme elevations.

- We must be diligent with our blood tests! Right now I am getting all of my panels drawn every 6-8 weeks with special attention going to the CBC (complete blood count), creatinine (for kidney function), and liver function panel. Catching problems early means less damage later.
- Avoid excessive alcohol. Overworking an already overworked liver with the use of alcohol can cause liver cells to become permanently damaged, cirrhosis.
- Avoid environmental pollutants such as fumes from paint thinner, bug sprays or aerosol sprays. Use a mask and cover your skin when working in a risky environment.
- Avoid obesity. Watch your calories, especially from proteins and carbohydrates. Excess calories in these forms can cause liver dysfunction and fat deposits in the liver.
- Watch vitamins A and D. Excessive amounts of some vitamins can be an additional source of stress to the liver.

Good news is that the liver has an incredible ability to regenerate. By choosing a healthy lifestyle and proper diet we can help our liver cells that are being damaged by our meds to regenerate, forming new liver cells.

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