08:30 PM

Let's learn more about the liver

An indispensable and underappreciated organ that deserves some respect

The liver is a fascinating and largely underrated organ

For the most part, the average person probably doesn’t give a lot of thought to the liver. You could say it works in the background as a silent investor in your health and body business.

However, this hard-working organ is more like the Grand Central Station of the body. It doesn’t have one specific job like many specialized organs of the body – it actually has hundreds! And you will most certainly notice if or when your liver needs to take a vacation because it’s overworked or treated poorly. The liver deserves so much more credit than just being a triangular-shaped, rubbery organ in the abdomen.

The liver holds the title of largest internal organ of the human body (second largest when skin is included in the comparison), weighing in around two to three pounds for an adult person. It is technically classified as a gland with two lobes and is tasked with more than 500 duties to help the body run smoothly. Who knew? And the liver has a superpower: it can regrow with as little as 25 percent of the original tissue when healthy. The liver is also one of the most blood-rich parts of the body with two major sources of blood, unlike most other organs with one supply valve.

What exactly does the liver do?

Well, we won’t list the 500 duties on the job description, but here are some of the more important functions of the liver. Prepare to be amazed!

  • Filters the blood removing excess compounds and toxins including hormones, alcohol and other drugs.
  • Produces bile which helps the body break down and absorb fats, cholesterol and certain vitamins.
  • Metabolizes carbohydrates, proteins, fats and bilirubin. These are very important and vital ingredients for energy, food digestion and iron delivery (bilirubin is needed to make new cells).
  • Defends and guards the immune system in the gut by destroying disease-causing agents that may attempt to enter the bloodstream via the liver or digestive system.
  • Vitamin and mineral storage for A, D, E, K and B12. These vitamins are necessary for healthy living and your liver is a long-range planner; sometimes keeping several years’ worth of these vitamins in a vault for your future use.

Luckily for the people with livers in the Flathead Valley, providers at The Digestive Health Institute of Montana (DHIM) are here to help you look after your liver health. As a department of Kalispell Regional Healthcare, DHIM opened its doors October 1, 2018 and houses new equipment and technology, spacious exam rooms and endoscopy suites, and experienced providers that deliver high-quality gastrointestinal services to our community. Check out photos of the new DHIM facility here.  

FibroScan is a non-invasive technology used to asses liver health

Among the advanced technology and services offered at DHIM is a device that physicians use to evaluate liver health called FibroScan®. This technology is non-invasive diagnostic tool that uses both ultrasound and low-frequency elastic waves to quantify liver fibrosis. To translate into simpler terms, FibroScan® is non-invasive technology to help physicians diagnose liver conditions. This is an important tool for patients because it can be the first line of defense in assessing liver conditions which, in the recent past, were more difficult to diagnose since physical signs and symptoms of liver distress did not appear or were very subtle. Watch this video to learn a little more about FibroScan® technology at The Digestive Health Institute of Montana. Check out all the services available at DHIM at digestivehealthmt.org.