Smorgasbord Health Column 2023 – The Body our Greatest Asset – The Digestive System Part Three – The Liver by Sally Cronin

I have featured this series over the last ten years on a regular basis for new readers who might have joined the blog. Our bodies are are greatest asset. It has a long road ahead of if from birth, through the teen years, work life, parenthood, middle age and then into our 70s and beyond.

At every stage of our life healthy nutrition is essential to help the body develop and remain as disease free as possible. I appreciate that many of you may have read this series before three years ago, but I hope it will be a reminder of how amazing our bodies are, and simply eating the right foods, exercising moderately and not doing anything too reckless…will go a long way to enjoying later life to the full.

In this next series of posts I am going to be exploring the digestive system and its complex role in extracting the nutrients the body needs to survive.

As we move through the body there is one system which contains a number of major or essential organs.. this is the Digestive System and it is designed to extract the nutrients the body needs from the food we eat… It is a system that we try to second guess frequently, especially when the latest official guidelines are published by the ‘experts’ or the a new fad diet becomes all the rage.

The digestive system is not voiceless…if you get a stomach upset, feel nauseous, get a headache or a rash.. it is your gut brain letting you know it is not happy. It works on the principal that after hundreds of thousands of years evolving, it knows very well what it needs and if it comes in a packet along with additives and artificial sweeteners, colourings and chemically produced nutrients… that is not it.

Over the next few weeks I will be working my way through the system and afterwards perhaps you might review what you are eating that might not agree with your body. This includes some chronic illnesses and life-threatening disease. Part Two can be found Here

The Digestive System Part Three – The Liver

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.

©sally cronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2023

A little bit about me nutritionally. .

About Sally Cronin

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty-four 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 21 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, radio programmes and posts here on Smorgasbord.

You can buy my books from: Amazon US – and: Amazon UK – Follow me :Goodreads – Twitter: @sgc58 – Facebook: Sally Cronin – LinkedIn: Sally Cronin


Thanks reading and I hope you will join me again next week…Sally.


48 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Health Column 2023 – The Body our Greatest Asset – The Digestive System Part Three – The Liver by Sally Cronin

  1. Never thought much about the liver in my younger years, Sally. But as I get older I’m discovering that I really have to pay attention and act accordingly. That said, I’m definitely looking forward to these informative posts. Thanks for sharing . Hugs

    Reblogged on Improvisation – “The Art of Living”

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  2. Great post, Sally. My family has been acquainted with the liver more than we’d like to be. Our daughter was diagnosed with a rare liver disease 11 years ago and she doesn’t drink alcohol: it’s auto-immune. There are so many auto-immune diseases that we’re not even aware of. Anyway, it was daunting back then and she’s had several visits to the ER, but she’s doing well now. We don’t know what the future holds, but she (and we) live for each day. Then 2 years ago, our son was given the same diagnosis but from milder symptoms. So strange, but he’s doing fine also.
    In the meantime, I had pancreatitis years ago from a gallstone stuck in my bile duct. I didn’t know this was possible, but it is if the gallbladder has been removed, which is my case. The pancreatitis could’ve been fatal, but after 2 weeks I was healed. I haven’t had issues since after my amazing doctor performed a certain procedure. But after our son was diagnosed, I began to feel that I was the common denominator in passing the gene to my kids. Nothing conclusive came up in the labs though. My husband’s liver is fine. 🙂
    So sorry for the long comment, but you struck a chord. Abdominal pain, elevated liver labs, and the bile duct. Ugh! The liver should be handled with care as you expressed.
    “The digestive system isn’t voiceless.” So true and agonizing! Fortunately, the kids and I are doing fine. One day at a time.
    Thanks for “listening” and for sharing this vital information. ❤️

    Liked by 6 people

    • Wow Lauren that must have been very scary for you and thank goodness all of you are doing well… Often a condition like this is not passed by the parents but by a previous generation and with records not as accurate as they should be or diagnosis as accurate 50 plus years ago, it could have gone unnoticed or been wrongly diagnosed. It is not anybody’s fault it is sometimes a genetic issue going back generations. We do have access to a much better diet and medical care today and clearly your children have benefitted from that and will continue to thrive. ♥♥

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    • HI Lauren, I wondered what chronic illness your children had and so I read this comment. I am sorry to learn that both your children have this illness. It is very stressful when our children are ill.

      My father also had pancreatitis from a gall stone and he nearly died. The doctor who did the blood tests didn’t come back to us with the results timeously. He became very ill during the night and I had to rush out and drive him to the ER. I was pregnant with Michael at the time and Terence had taken a sleeping tablet so was no use at all. Such a horrible memory. He also recovered fully. He was in hospital for a week as they couldn’t operate until the infection was improved and then they removed the stone and his gall bladder.

      Liked by 4 people

      • Thanks, Robbie, and I’m sorry to hear what your father went through. And also what you have gone through with Michael. I was in ER and after many tests, the doctor told me it was pancreatitis. I thought that was only caused by alcohol. The things we learn…I’m so glad your father recovered, and I’m sure that was beyond scary. The disease is Primary Schlerosing Cholangitis (PSC) -a chronic liver disease in which the bile ducts inside and outside the liver become inflamed and scarred, and eventually narrowed or blocked. When this happens, bile builds up in the liver and causes further liver damage. A liver transplant is the only cure and many patients have died from this disease. By now, our daughter would have needed a transplant according to the information we were given back then. But she’s been stable instead of getting worse, which of course is music to our ears. We have great doctors and even they don’t have all the answers for a disease that is still so rare. Our son’s symptoms aren’t as severe as hers. At this point, they take care of themselves and live their lives. My husband and I do the same but not without worry. As you said, it’s stressful with a feeling of helplessness when our children are ill. And it doesn’t matter how old they are. Our daughter is now 31 and our son is 27. When she was first diagnosed, and then when our son was, the worst thing we could do as parents is imagine the future, a frightening image to say the least, based on the statistics. One night, I hopped on the internet (not recommended) to read about PSC. I wanted to know more, and after reading I sobbed for 90 minutes. I had a twitch on my face from the intense sobbing that lasted a week. What I read was daunting. So, we all live in the here and now and remain grateful for all that is good. A side note: This diagnosis is why all the proceeds of Finding a Balance go to The Kris Klug Foundation in support of organ donation. Kris is a PSC survivor and a pro snowboarder, and after having a liver transplant, he competed in the 2002 Winter Olympics and won a bronze metal. Gives me goosebumps. So, he was an inspiration from the very beginning. ❤️

        Liked by 3 people

      • Thanks for expanding on your family’s experience with liver disease Lauren.. I have an atrophied gallbladder so basically non-existent following several painful episodes that began after I lost my 150lbs extra weight.. Effectively I was on a high fat diet for 18 months, my own fat and this is why one of the side effects of gastric surgery is gallstones and one of the reasons I never recommend it. I have had to adapt my diet as I cannot eat large amounts of fat at once as it causes the liver to flood the system with bile. Mine was self inflicted by doing the right thing and losing weight, but even though I ate healthily it came back to bite me. It does sound like being diagnosed as children brought the necessary awareness and medical treatment that has stabilised the condition. I am sure though you still worry.. ♥♥


  3. I always enjoy learning more about the functions of my body..thank you for such an important post, Sally…the learning never stops and it’s always interesting and informative to read the comments…Scheduled to share today Hugs xx

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  5. Hi Sally, an informative article, as always. My sister has been ill with a colon infection that became a kidney infection (she neglected it a bit) and also high liver enzymes. Certainly the effective functioning of this part of the body is vital to good health.

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  6. Fantastic information Sal. I am well aware of what the liver does and all that can go wrong with it. Sadly, as you know, my husband suffered with elevated liver enzymes and cirrhosis, which I’d thought was kept under control by doctors, meds and healthy behavior, then the pancreatic cancer came, eventually went into his liver and took him. Thanks for spreading the awareness. ❤ xx

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  7. Like Carol says, apart from the invaluable information in the post, the comments add even more. I’m sorry to hear about those who’ve had problems with liver disease, and the thought of Lauren going through all that anxiety about her children is a truly upsetting one. xx

    Liked by 1 person

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  9. I’m always surprised how large our livers are, having imagined when I was a child they were the same size as the slices of lambs’ liver Mum put in the frying pan! But it’s obviously as large as it needs to be for its important tasks.

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