Different parts of the body have different ways of showing aging – some obvious, and some aren’t. Greying of hair and dry wrinkling of the skin are the apparent changes that occur along with age. Bones become weaker and brittle, muscles become less strong and less flexible. Changes to the heart are common with harden blood vessels, causing the heart to work more forcefully to pump blood all over the body. Aging of the digestive system is also a part of the normal process which includes liver aging. Keep reading to discover exactly what the liver does, its role, and several disorders that impact it.
The liver is the largest solid organ in the body. In adults, it weighs around 3 pounds and is nearly the size of a football. The liver is positioned near the side of the upper torso, beneath the lungs, and occupies most of the available space in the rib cage. This organ is fundamental for the person’s metabolic, detoxifying, and immunological activities. A human cannot exist without a functioning liver.
HOW DOES THE LIVER WORKS?
The liver is a vital organ in our body. Consider it an industrial structure, a manufacturing facility, and a storage facility. And each of these functions is further subdivided into numerous subtasks, without which the liver would cease to operate. It performs nearly 500 crucial functions. It receives blood from two sources, one from the heart and one from the intestines. This double sources delivery method enriches the liver with nutrients; then it has to sort them out and store them with the help of small portions of the liver known as Lobules.
The following are a few of the primary functions of the liver:
- Bile Production. The liver makes about 800 to 1,000 milliliters (ml) of bile each day. Bile aids in the breakdown and absorption of lipids, cholesterol, and certain vitamins via the small intestine. It also helps to carry out toxins and other byproducts from the liver and excrete them out of the body. Bile salts, cholesterol, bilirubin, electrolytes, and water are all components of bile.
- Blood Clotting. Vitamin K is required to produce specific coagulants that aid in blood coagulation. Bile, which is needed for vitamin K absorption and is produced in the liver. Without sufficient bile production by the liver, clotting factors cannot be created.
- Blood Filtration. The blood flowing through the liver isn’t always helpful; it can also contain toxins and extra materials that the body isn’t in need of. The liver is responsible for filtering and eliminating substances from the body, including hormones such as estrogen and aldosterone, as well as molecules from outside the body, such as alcohol. The liver also detoxifies the blood and regulates several drugs.
- The Metabolization of Fat. Bile helps break down lipids and fats and makes them simpler to digest.
- Protein Metabolization. The liver also creates and degrades proteins. The breakdown of amino acid proteins produces ammonia, which can be harmful at excessive levels. The liver converts harmful ammonia into urea. After entering the bloodstream, the kidneys eliminate it via urine.
- Carbohydrates Metabolization. Carbohydrates are stored in the liver, where they are converted to glucose and then released into the circulation to maintain appropriate blood glucose levels and for usage from the body. They are stored in the form of glycogen and released when a burst of energy is required.
- The Bilirubin Absorption and Degradation. The breakdown of hemoglobin results in the formation of bilirubin. Because hemoglobin releases iron, it is stored in the liver or bone marrow, which is utilized to produce the next generation of red blood cells.
- Storage of Minerals and Vitamins. The liver stores vitamins A, D, E, K, and B12. It stores significant amounts of these vitamins. Often, a backup of several years’ worth of vitamins is maintained on hand. The iron produced from hemoglobin is stored in the liver as ferritin, ready to be utilized to form new red blood cells. Additionally, copper is stored and excreted by the liver.
- Immunity-related Functions of the Liver. The liver is considered to be a component of the mononuclear phagocyte system. Many Kupffer cells are seen in this region, which is engaged in immunological activity. These cells are responsible for destroying any disease-causing substances that may enter the liver through the digestive tract.
- Production of Albumin. The liver also helps produce the most abundant protein in the blood, the albumin. It carries fatty acids and steroid hormones to assist in maintaining proper blood pressure and preventing blood vessel leakage.
Relative to the entire body, the liver has a substantial amount of blood running through it – an estimated 13% as per the research of the body’s blood is in the liver at any given time. Extra bile is stored in the gallbladder.
LIVER SIZES AND ITS CHANGES OVER TIME
Men often have a larger liver than women do. This is typically due to men’s bodies being larger. The liver grows in size with age throughout development, reaching an average spread of 5 cm at age 5 and reaching adult size by age 15.
While liver sizes vary slightly, various studies have been conducted to determine the typical liver size by age. Earlier research published in the Journal of Ultrasound in Medicine determined the overall liver diameter of over 2,080 male and female participants aged 18 to 88 years. The study’s findings show the following data for liver aging:
|Age||Average liver diameter|
|18 – 25 years||5.4 in. (13.6 cm)|
|26 – 35 years||5.4 in. (13.7 cm)|
|36 – 45 years||5.5 in. (14.0 cm)|
|46 – 55 years||5.6 in. (14.2 cm)|
|56 – 65 years||5.7 in. (14.4 cm)|
|Greater than 66 years||5.6 in. (14.1 cm)|
The study indicated that the average adult liver size was 5.5 inches (in.) or 14 centimeters (cm).
Doctors use imaging studies to figure out how big your liver is. An X-ray can show an enlarged liver in some cases, mostly in ailments. They employ ultrasound for improved precision.
HOW DOES THE LIVER AGE WITH TIME?
As the liver ages, it undergoes several structural and microscopic modifications. For example, the color of the liver changes from a lighter to a darker brown as a result of this process.
With age, the liver’s ability to process several chemicals decreases. As a result, certain medicines are not inactivated as rapidly in older adults as in younger adults. This means a safe medicine dose in younger adults may have dose-related side effects in older adults. In this way, drugs that are toxic to the liver can do greater harm to elderly persons than they can to younger individuals. In addition, the rate of repair of injured liver cells is slower in elderly persons. The volume of the liver also reduces by 20–40%.
The liver is a particularly remarkable organ in that it has the ability to regenerate itself after being damaged. This indicates that the liver tissue can regenerate to a limited extent following an injury or a surgical procedure to remove tissue. It can regenerate entirely as long as at least 25% of the original tissue remains. The liver begins to regenerate by enlarging the cells that are already there. Then, new liver cells begin to proliferate and multiply. The liver can regain its pre-surgery weight and return to normal function in almost a week. It has been reported that the liver can recover entirely when as many as 12 partial liver removal procedures are performed.
A complicated organ like the liver can develop a variety of issues as the liver ages. A healthy liver is exceptionally efficient in its working but as a liver ages, it can cause few diseases. Examples of common conditions that affect the liver include:
- Hepatitis. Hepatitis is the term used to describe a general infection of the liver that can be caused by viruses, chemicals, or an autoimmune response. It is characterized by an inflammatory state of the liver. Hepatitis virus types are designated by letters such as A, B, C, D, and E. Each has a distinct etiology and severity.
- Cirrhosis. It is a condition in which scar tissue replaces liver cells, resulting in the loss of liver function. A variety of variables, including pollutants, alcohol, and hepatitis, can contribute to the development of this illness. Cirrhosis can eventually result in liver failure due to the destruction of the functioning of the liver cells over time.
- Alcoholic liver disease. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol over an extended period of time might result in liver damage and fast liver aging. According to some reports, cirrhosis does not occur if a person consumes less than 100 kg of undiluted alcohol throughout the course of their life. But it can often develop after drinking 80 grams of ethanol every day for 10 to 20 years, which equates to around one liter of wine, eight regular-sized beers, or one-half pint of hard liquor each day. People who develop cirrhosis frequently consume more than six servings of alcoholic beverages every day. It is the most common cause of cirrhosis in the world, according to the World Health Organization.
- Fatty liver disease. This is the condition in which the liver accumulates fat. Excess fat can cause inflammation in the liver and causes liver aging. This frequently happens in conjunction with obesity or alcohol consumption. If the condition is not caused by alcohol consumption, it is referred to as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Typically, it is caused by genetics, drugs, or a high-sugar diet. In developed countries, it is the most prevalent liver condition and has been linked to insulin resistance.
- Liver cancer. When cancer develops in the liver, it damages liver cells and impairs the liver’s capacity to perform its regular functions. Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), alternatively referred to as hepatoma, is the most frequent kind of liver cancer, accounting for approximately 75% of all liver malignancies and is linked with liver aging.
THE DANGER OF “THE LIVER DETOX”
A liver detox, cleanse, or flush is a treatment that purports to remove toxins from your body, aid in weight loss, or enhance your overall health. The so-called liver detox treatment consists of multiple rounds that include fasting, a limited diet, or several days of consuming certain juices or liquids. It may recommend that you use herbal or nutritional supplements, diuretics, or laxatives to help your system function better.
The majority of individuals believe that a liver detox will aid in the removal of toxins from their liver when they consume excessive amounts of alcohol or eat unhealthy meals. Some people believe it will improve the way their liver functions on a daily basis. Many people feel that a liver detox will aid in the treatment of liver illness. But in the case of liver illness, there are medical therapy options available. According to recent research, liver damage caused by herbal and nutritional supplements are on the rise with liver detox.
The results of a new research reveal that a wide range of herbal treatments and dietary supplements claiming to be a liver detox, can be harmful to the liver. The study also discovered that injuries associated with such supplements are on the rise, with a spike from 7% of all drug-induced liver injuries in 2004 to around 20% of all drug-induced liver injuries in 2014.
There is no evidence that liver detox procedures or supplements can reverse liver aging. And even the evidence does not support their beliefs.
In the instance that you’re considering taking one of these products, consult your doctor first to ensure that it’s appropriate for you. Liver cleanses offer no proven benefits. To protect liver health, people can adopt a more comprehensive, long-term health strategy.
STEPS TO SLOW DOWN LIVER AGING
Without detox methods, lifestyle modifications can help maintain your liver healthy and even help to slow down liver aging. These actions are especially critical if you are at a higher risk of liver disease due to factors such as excessive alcohol use or a family history of liver disease.
1. A liver Friendly Diet
A well-balanced diet is the key to good liver health. That corresponds to five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables, as well as fiber from veggies, nuts, seeds, and whole-grain products. Make sure to incorporate protein in your diet so that your body can produce enzymes that aid in natural detoxification. To guarantee that your diet is a long-term benefit to your liver aging and health, consider the following:
- Add Fiber. Fiber is vital for maintaining the proper function of your liver. Fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains, are excellent sources of fiber that should be included in your diet. Learn better food options for dietary fibers in the article. Click here.
- Reduce Fatty/Sugary Meals. It is advised by doctors to limit the sugary fatty and salty foods. as it can have a cumulative effect on liver health. Fried and fast foods can also be destructive to your liver’s functioning.
- Add Variety to Your Food. Whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean protein, dairy, and healthy fats should all be included in your diet. Foods such as grapefruit, blueberries, almonds, and fatty fish, and nuts have long been recognized as having potential liver-health advantages.
A list of healthy food for the liver can be discovered in this article here.
2. Know Your Risk Factors
If you have any of the following risk factors for liver disease, it is essential to seek screening, as chronic liver disease can lie undetected for years as your liver ages with time:
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- A history of liver illness in the family
- Exposure to certain chemicals or toxins
- Injecting drugs using shared needles
3. Drink Coffee
Studies have indicated that drinking coffee can minimize the chance of developing liver disorders such as cirrhosis and liver cancer. It works by inhibiting the formation of fat and collagen, which are both involved in the development of chronic liver disease with liver aging. In a recent 2021 research, involving almost 500,000 participants, it has been proven that all types of coffee are good to prevent chronic liver disease. The benefit to health is applicable to all types of coffee, including caffeinated, decaffeinated, ground, and instant coffee, and consuming 3–4 cups of coffee every day delivers the biggest effect.
4. Reduce Alcohol
Each alcoholic beverage you intake, including wine, beer, and spirits, is processed by your liver. The more alcohol you consume, the harder your liver must work. Excessive drinking can have a detrimental effect over time, damaging liver cells. And as the liver ages with time, the process even becomes more slower and crucial to be performed. Follow the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans’ alcohol guidelines to avoid alcohol-related liver damage. That’s one drink for ladies and two for males every day.
Can’t figure out how to reduce your alcohol intake? We have a complete set of tips for it, click here!
5. Keep a check on the Medication You Use
The liver is the last location for all medicines, regardless of whether they’re over the counter or prescribed by a doctor. Most drugs are safe for your liver if used as prescribed. However, taking excessively, too frequently, the incorrect sort or too many medicines might impair your liver health. According to the FDA drugs that might cause liver damage include the following ones:
- Cancer drugs, such as mercaptopurine, lapatinib, and pazopanib
- Antibiotics, such as amoxicillin and erythromycin
- Antianxiety and antidepressant medications, including duloxetine and nortriptyline
- Acetaminophen, which is an OTC pain and fever reducer
- Immunosuppressants, including cyclosporine and methotrexate
Consult your physician or pharmacist if you have any concerns regarding a medication’s potential impact on your liver aging and function. And if you take a lot of medicines, including supplements, it’s a good idea to discuss your medication list with a doctor to verify you’re not overdosing.
6. Stay Hydrated
A lack of water can have a detrimental effect on the liver. Water is the most effective flushing agent. When taken regularly, it cleanses the liver and kidneys. Consume 8-10 glasses of water every day. Avoid going for a liver detox supplement as it can cause more damage to your liver than good. Add a pinch of lemon drops to your drinking water as a tip, which promotes the production of bile and gallbladder spasms. It also aids in the cleaning of the kidneys during the liver detoxification process, allowing the liver to focus only on metabolizing its waste.
Physical exercise benefits the entire body, not just your musculoskeletal and cardiopulmonary systems. It’s also helpful to your liver aging. The impact of exercise in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which is currently one of the most frequent liver illnesses, was investigated in a study published in 2018. The researchers concluded that both aerobic and resistance activities are beneficial in preventing fat accumulation in the liver.
8. Prevent Hepatitis
Hepatitis causes liver inflammation. Some hepatitis causes acute symptoms (hepatitis A), whereas others induce chronic sickness (hepatitis B and C). Follow basic hygiene such as;
- Keep your toothbrush and razor. Don’t share needles if you take IV medications.
- Hands should be washed often; use hand sanitizer.
- Maintain a more secure sexual relationship and don’t have unprotected sex.
- Vaccination can help prevent the transmission of hepatitis A and B. Currently, there is no vaccination available for hepatitis C.
- Avoid drinking tap water or ice from local sources.
- Avoid unwashed fruit and vegetables.
- Because the liver is responsible for filtering toxins from the blood, exposure to environmental chemicals such as cleaning products, pesticides, and cigarette smoke can cause damage as the liver ages. So it is advised to avoid these substances to the maximum.
The liver is an extremely efficient organ, performing many essential tasks for the body. But to keep this system running smoothly and in moderation, like not loading it with more toxins that the liver can’t handle. Follow the steps mentioned above and it for sure will help to reduce liver aging.