Smorgasbord Health Column – Major Organs and Systems of the body – The Digestive System Part Three – The Liver – Largest waste organ inside the body – Sally Cronin

Last week in our exploration of the digestive system we moved through the oesophogus into the stomach Part Two

In the last two posts, I have worked my way through the digestive system from the mouth, down the oesophagus and into the stomach, (not literally of course) but there are some important organs within that system that deserve some personal attention on the way. One of those is the Liver which carries out the important task of ridding our body of toxins and storing essential nutrients for our health.

I remember a teenage client who wondered what all the fuss was about – you could get a transplant couldn’t you? I set him the task of researching the actual operation, first hand accounts of those who had undergone this major operation and the long lasting implications and side effects. Hasten to say he was a lot less cocky about the process on his next appointment.

I have met people who believe that as long as you give up smoking and drinking before you are 40 you will be absolutely fine! Yes, there are individuals who drink like a fish and live to 95 and some of them even smoked too. They also did not have the benefit of our high sugar modern diet and lack of exercise! I also would be tempted to ask them to pick my lottery numbers each week because they are the fortunate ones.

For the rest of us, the earlier we put some thought into the long term care of our major organs the better. I will admit that I was in my late 30’s before I woke up to this fact when given some rather indigestible truths about my prognosis. But better late than never.

Part of that care comes from understanding the how, what and where an organ’s role is in our body and health.

Where is the liver?

Liver in Torso

Surprisingly the liver is the largest of our internal organs and in fact it is the size of a large melon. Mainly in the upper right side of your abdomen it lies beneath the diaphragm just above your stomach. Higher up in the chest than people imagine which is important when determining symptoms such as pain.

What does the liver do?

The liver is a multi-tasking organ, capable of around 500 functions. Before you put rubbish in your mouth, think about the liver as your best friend. Is it going to be happy when this jumbo hotdog, salad cream, on a white bread roll with margarine, onions cooked in lard and the reconstituted chips with lots of salt and large blueberry muffin with a 16oz diet soda hits the system!! Everything you consume including all the preservatives, toxins, lousy fats, drugs, excess sugar will pass through this portal…..


The liver has two essential roles – making or processing chemicals and eliminating toxins and waste. Without this portal system none of the nutrients that we have carefully processed and passed in the intestines could be carried in the blood, through the liver to nourish the body and give us energy.

The liver is the organ but the work horses are the millions and millions of cells it holds.

Specialist cells, hepatocytes deal with the raw materials our body runs on – proteins, carbohydrates and fats. We are made of protein and we need to consume high quality protein to renew our cells and create new ones – in its raw state some proteins are not accepted by the body and the role of the liver’s cells is to change the format so that it is usable. Any waste from the liver cell’s processes is not passed back into the blood stream but stored for elimination. Similarly with carbohydrates, the liver cells will convert the carbs into appropriate fuel that can be easily accessed by the body for energy.

Kuppfer cells

The waste disposal cells in the liver are called Kuppfer cells, after the man who discovered them – they are the Dysons of the cell fraternity, sucking up bacteria and toxins before handing over to the hepacytes for processing. This means that the liver is incredibly important for your immune system. The liver also stores iron as well as other vitamins and minerals you need such as B12 and the organ makes clotting factors that stop bleeding after injury.

One of the key roles of the liver in cholesterol management – In spite of an effort to demonise cholesterol it is very important to appreciate the vital roles that it performs in the body. Cholesterol is vital to our digestive system, in that it forms the base for bile acids that are used to emulsify fat in the small bowel so that fat and fat soluble vitamins like E and K can be absorbed…

I treat my liver as the guardian of my health and if you take care of this organ first you will find that will have a very beneficial effect on the optimum balance of LDL and HDL cholesterol in your blood.

Next time I will be looking at some of the major diseases of the liver.

©sallycronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2019

A little bit about me nutritionally.

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.

If you would like to browse by health books and fiction you can find them here:

As always delighted to get your feedback and questions. This is not intended to take the place of your doctor’s presence in your life. But, certainly in the UK, where you are allocated ten minutes for a consultation and time is of the essence; going in with some understanding of how your body works and is currently functioning can assist in making a correct diagnosis.

Some doctors believe that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. However, I believe that understanding our bodies, how it works, how we can help prevent health problems and knowing the language that doctors speak, makes a difference.  Taking responsibility for our bodies health is the first step to staying well.

Thanks for dropping in and I hope you find useful.. Sally.

25 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Health Column – Major Organs and Systems of the body – The Digestive System Part Three – The Liver – Largest waste organ inside the body – Sally Cronin

  1. Hi Sally, Most interesting to read, particularly as a dear friend of one of my s-i-l’s has recently been told she has cancer of the liver. I was appalled to hear the news as I’m also very fond of the dear woman. You know how some people seem to have the ‘bad health/luck’ cards stacked against them? Well, she is one such person. Her mother died when she was a child. She had no siblings but a good father; a diamond of a husband and two good, grown-up children and grand-children, BUT she has been dogged by health problems. Two early hip replacement ops (one of which went wrong and badly affected one foot, giving her pain and stopped her walking properly) a host of other ailments (and she’s never been over-weight) And now this! I’ve heard of liver transplants, and only hope she can have a successful operation. Have you heard of progress with such ops, Sally? Hugs xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Joy that is very sad news. Unfortunately a person with liver cancer has to be clear for five years before considered for a transplant which is my understanding anyway. These days there are some very effective targeted treatments for the liver and it will depend on at what stage the cancer is or if it has spread from elsewhere in the body. I am sure that she is in the best of hands and wish her success with the treatment. As you say some people seem to have awful luck, but your friend’s seems to be balanced by a loving family…hugsx


  2. Sal, I do appreciate all your health posts as you know. And anything to do with the liver gets my attention no matter how many times I may have read it as you know well my husband suffers with liver disease. ❤ xx

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sally, a terrific story – yes, the liver is my favorite “waste organ!” I have read that coffee reduces the impact of alcohol on your liver by 80%, and there is a a lot of interest in celery juice as a super food for the liver as well…don’t know, but I agree you have to treat it right so it does the same for you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks John.. unfortunately coffee whilst great all rounder is not good for anyone with gallbladder disease or stones as the oil in coffee causes contractions that release too much bile.. but anyone who has not got that problem it certainly is a very beneficial addition to a diet. And celery is also another great all rounder.. funny how both are usually trashed by the pharma giants…it is usually a good indicator that it is effective…

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  4. I used to say that if my (first) husband hadn’t been in catering I probably wouldn’t buy alcohol (we were always skint when the children were growing up) but I suddenly realised a couple ofy ears ago just how much I was drinking. It wasn’t binges… just wine with meals and a couple of Scotch-and-gingers in the evening. But compared to the government guidelines now touted, it was way over. Then a couple of years ago I was waking up with a headach after that my couple (or three or four) Scotches in the evening. It seems that the body gets less efficient at dealing with poisons as you age.
    I took a month off the drink – any alcohol at all . I have to say I didn’t feel noticeably healthier for the abstinence (apart from the headaches disappearing) but I did discover it gets easier after the first day or two.
    It’s probably a bit late in life to be thinking about preserving my liver, but now I have two or three days off alcohol every week and limit my daily intake to a small glass of wine with a meal or maybe a soda spritzer in the evening and a Scotch only at weekends.
    The trouble is, soft drinks and fruit juice are too sweet and, although I know I should drink more water, it is BORING. So far, my best alternative is the fruit juice spritzer


    • I think that most of us used to drink more as we were less aware of the consequences. You are right as we get older we are less able to process alcohol and food for that matter. Unless there is scarring on the liver, it will regenerate so it is never too late to moderate! A diluted fruit juice is less harmful. Apple juice is quite useful as it contains pectin that helps clear the bile duct.. Vascular dementia is always a risk if alcohol has been a major contribution to the diet, plaque builds up in the blood vessels in the brain so that too is a good reason to cut back. It sounds like you have embraced the change Cathy. I too realised that I was drinking more than my body could handle about 20 years ago, today I have the odd glass of Spanish Cava which I discovered living there for 17 years and I love an occasional glass and appreciate it more that drinking a bottle at a time. And you can’t give up everything that you enjoy… hugs

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