The liver is remarkably resilient.
If you want proof of the liver’s importance, consider that it’s the only visceral organ that will regenerate if injured because there’s only one.
It will grow back to its original size if as little as one quarter of it is intact and functioning properly; the regenerative process is astoundingly fast, at a rate of complete re-growth in eight to fifteen days. (4)
Various illnesses and disease can affect the liver, as well as lifestyle choices such as excessive alcohol consumption.
Cirrhosis is scarring of the liver that occurs over time as repeated injury or illness causes damage that then heals, forming scar tissue. If left unaddressed, cirrhosis can lead to liver failure. It’s possible to arrest the progression of damage caused by cirrhosis if caught early enough, however, full reversal is rare. Alcoholism is the most common cause of cirrhosis but there are other chronic conditions that can severely damage the liver (5):
- chronic viral hepatitis B and C
- non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
- iron accumulation in the body (hemochromatosis)
- cystic fibrosis
- copper accumulation in the liver (Wilson’s disease)
- malformed bile ducts (biliary atresia)
- genetic glucose metabolism disorders (galactosemia or glycogen storage disease)
- genetic digestive disorders (Alagille syndrome)
- autoimmune hepatitis
- destruction of bile ducts (primary biliary cirrhosis)
- hardening and scarring of bile ducts (primary sclerosing cholangitis)
- infections such schistosomiasis
- medications such as methotrexate, ibuprofen, antacids, cholesterol regulators, acetaminophen, and others
- excessive sugar consumption
- exposure to aluminum
- eating wild poisonous mushrooms (6)
- viral or bacterial infection, especially when concurrent with liver disease (7)
Risk Factors for a Compromised Liver
Because of its multiple and varied functions, the liver can sustain damage from seemingly unrelated sources. The liver processes a quart and a half of blood every minute. Virtually anything that makes its way into your body will go through your liver.
Excessive alcohol consumption is probably the best-known risk factor for liver damage and disease.
Other factors that can increase the risk of liver damage include:
- intravenous drug use with shared needles
- tattoos and body piercings
- exposure to others’ blood and body fluids
- unprotected sex (8)
- exposure to certain chemicals and toxins (9)
- diabetes (10)
- poor diet, particularly with a high sugar content
- potassium deficiency (11)
- smoking tobacco
- blood-borne viruses (12)
- metabolic/autoimmune disorders (13, 14)