The liver is your largest internal organ, it has a number of vital functions, in fact the liver is said to have 500 functions. Let’s make it easier to understand the role of the liver by breaking these functions down into five categories.

The five major functions of the liver include:

  • Filtration
  • Digestion
  • Metabolism and Detoxification
  • Protein synthesis
  • Storage of vitamins and minerals

Contents



Where is the liver located in the body?


The liver is located above the stomach, under the diaphragm. The largest part of the liver is on the right hand side of the body, but it stretches across the midline .

The liver is the largest internal “solid organ” in the body, it is about the size of a football, and plays a number of vital functions in the body.


What is the function of the liver?


The liver controls most chemicals in the body.

Functions of the liver include:

  1. Filtration
  2. Digestion
  3. Metabolism and Detoxification
  4. Protein synthesis
  5. Storage of vitamins and minerals

Let’s explain and talk through the five major functions of the liver, including how it carries out each of its tasks.


Filtration


Filtration is one of the liver’s most important functions.

The liver filters the blood and breaks down harmful substances. The by-products are excreted into the bile or blood. When harmful substances are broken down into bile, they are incorporated into the stool and leave the body. When harmful substances are broken down and the waste products enter the bloodstream, they are filtered in the kidneys and leave the body in the urine, in the form of urea.


Digestion


Digestion refers to the process of breaking down and absorbing nutrients from food. The liver plays a role in digestion by secreting bile. Bile is a fluid produced in the liver and stored in the gallbladder. The gallbladder is a small sac that sits under the liver and is connected to the intestines, When we eat food, bile is transported from the gallbladder into the intestines to help with the breakdown of fats in the body.


Metabolism and Detoxification


The liver ensures that substances that shouldn’t be in the body, such as drugs, alcohol and even foreign substances are safely removed from the blood before it reaches the digestive tract.

The liver uses enzymes as a mode of detoxification.

The liver also detoxifies the body through changing a foreign or harmful agent to urea or bile and excreting it from the body via stool or urine.

The liver is the most important solid organ in the body when it comes to detoxing the body and maintaining homeostasis through closely monitoring levels of toxicity in the blood. Liver cells convert ammonia to less toxic substance called urea. Urea is transported in the blood to the kidneys, urea makes up a significant component of urine. In severe liver damage, the level of ammonia in the blood can rise and cause many side effects, including confusion, behavioural changes and in extreme cases, coma.

The liver is the primary organ responsible for drug activation and metabolism. Paracetamol (also (also called acetaminophen) is metabolised in the liver and the break-down products are then excreted by the kidneys.


Protein synthesis


Protein synthesis is a vital function carried out by the liver. Protein synthesis is the process whereby the body’s cells make proteins that are necessary for cell structure and function. Liver cells play a role in protein synthesis and amino acid metabolism, and is involved in the production of ammonia. The liver is also involved in the production of clotting factors, which are necessary to prevent bleeding, and a protein called albumin, which helps to keep the correct balance of water in the bloodstream and prevent excess fluid from leaking into the surrounding tissues.



Storage of vitamins & minerals


The liver produces, stores and releases vitamins and minerals into the blood.Vitamins are responsible for pulling out vital elements from the foods we consume. These elements are essential for normal growth, the development of healthy red blood cells, hormones, genetic materials and the nervous system. So while vitamins are not a direct source of energy for us, they are vital to our good health and well-being.

The liver stores certain minerals such as iron and copper, and releases them into the blood if a deficiency exists.

The liver also stores vitamin K which is used in the process of blood clotting, this allows for the body's ability to prevent bleeding and allow the blood to clot. The liver also stores Vitamins A (which you need to maintain healthy vision), B12(which is essential to growth and development in every cell in your body) and D (which you need to absorb calcium and other minerals).


The liver utilizes a number of essential proteins and enzymes to ensure that important physiological functions are successfully carried out. There are a number of signs and symptoms of liver dysfunction that you should look out for.

Hav you ever considered taing a Liver Function Test? With LetsGetChecked, you can take a liver function test from the comfort of your own home and receive your results within one week, with on-going clinical support.

It's good to know.


Written by Hannah Kingston | Medically reviewed by Dr. Susan O' Sullivan