The liver is responsible for 500 bodily functions, ranging from the regulation of fats, sugars and cholesterol to processing all that you breathe, ingest and absorb through your skin. The liver manufactures many kinds of hormones, proteins, blood-clotting factors, enzymes and immune factors. The liver is the largest organ in the body besides the skin (the epidermis) and is as important as the heart and lungs. The liver plays a major role in detoxifying the body and filtering poisons such as drugs and alcohol, heavy metals and infectious organisms. When the liver sustains damage, it is not only the liver that is affected, due to the many functions the liver performs in the body.
Damage to the liver may occur from alcoholism, pill and drug abuse and toxin overload, presenting in several ways, including scarring of the liver (cirrhosis), fibrous liver (fibrosis), and fatty liver (steatosis).
Jaundice or yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes may be present as one of the signs of liver damage. This is due to the liver's inability to process metabolic byproducts leading to a bilirubin overload which causes jaundice, present in the yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes.
Fatigue is a common sign of liver damage and may occur suddenly, making the sufferer want to sleep immediately. Nausea may be frequent and loss of appetite may be present. Weight loss is possible due to loss of appetite.
Heavy damage to the liver, in that it is impossible for the liver to carry out its normal functions, results in decompensated cirrhosis. Scar tissue blocks the blood flow through the liver, causing weakening of the blood vessels in the stomach and the esophagus, and internal bleeding. Ammonia buildup may lead to impaired brain function and eventually coma.
Eating a healthful, balanced diet, free of artificial additives and pesticides, is conducive to good liver health whether you have sustained liver damage or have a healthy liver. Avoiding alcoholic beverages, recreational drugs and caffeine is recommended for one who has sustained liver damage, as is limiting the intake of certain vitamins such as high doses of vitamin A, vitamin D, iron and niacin, which may be toxic to the liver. Advanced cirrhosis patients may additionally be required to limit their protein intake.