The liver

The second largest organ of the human body
What do you know about your second largest organ?

Out of all your organs, it is only the liver which can regenerate itself. It's a good thing it can too, as it is involved in 500 different functions to keep your body healthy. Regeneration of human livers takes between 8 and 15 days. So make sure to take special care of it if you think it might need some time to recover.

What does the liver do?

As mentioned before, the liver does a lot. Some of its most important functions include detoxifying the blood and purifying it, the production and excretion of bile, and it stores vitamins A, D, E, K and B12. Detoxifying and purifying blood helps the body to deal with excesses of hormones and alcohol. Bile helps to digest and absorb fats, proteins, vitamins and cholesterol.

5 common types of liver disease

There are many different types of liver disease. Some of the most common types of liver diseases include:

Alcohol-related liver disease (ARLD)

The cause of this disease is clear from its name, regularly drinking too much alcohol. But how many glasses is too much? You are considered an excessive drinker if you drink more than 14 glasses of alcohol per week (for women) or more than 21 glasses per week (for men). Heavy drinkers have four glasses or more on at least one day a week for women, or six glasses or more on at least one day a week for men.

Guidelines from the Dutch Health Board recommends an average of less than one glass of alcohol a day, with at least two non-alcoholic days a week.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)

This is a term for a range of conditions caused by a build-up of fat in the liver. It is usually seen in people who are overweight or obese, which is a growing problem in western countries. NAFLD is often harmless, with only a small build-up of fat in the liver cells. However, it can develop into non-alcohol steatohepatitis or NASH, which is more problematic, as it means that the organ has become inflamed.


Any inflammation of the liver is termed as Hepatitis. Aside from describing the state which can follow NASH, it can also be caused by a viral infection or liver damage as a result of too much alcohol. There are several different types of hepatitis, some pass without any serious problems, others can have long term effects and can cause scarring of the liver, loss of liver function and in some cases liver cancer.


This is an inherited condition where iron levels slowly build up over many years. As it takes so many years for the iron to build up, most people only notice the symptoms between the ages of 30 and 60. The iron build up can cause symptoms such as fatigue, weight loss and joint pain, and it can permanently damage the liver and other organs if untreated. Hemochromatosis most often affects people from white northern European backgrounds.

Primary biliary cirrhosis or primary biliary cholangitis

It is not yet clear what causes PBC, though it is thought to be caused by a problem with the immune system. In cases of PBC the immune system mistakenly attacks the bile ducts, through which the bile leaves the liver. This then leads to a build-up of bile in the liver as it cannot leave. This causes further damage, which may lead to cirrhosis or scarring.

Tips to keep the liver healthy

Some types of liver disease can be prevented by changing your own behaviour. For instance, by limiting your alcohol intake and by maintaining a healthy weight. There are also several types of food and drink that can help to protect the liver proactively. As it is an important organ with many essential functions it makes sense to do what you can to keep it from harm.

Coffee and tea are both drinks that can be beneficial for your health. Both increase the antioxidant levels in the liver, while decreasing inflammation. Beetroot juice, too, is high in antioxidants and may protect from oxidative damage and inflammation.

When it comes to food, consider some oatmeal for breakfast. Oatmeal is full of fibre, specifically beta-glucans, which reduce the amount of fat stored in the liver. Cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts, broccoli and mustard greens also have a high fibre contents. Try lightly roasting them with garlic and lemon juice or balsamic vinegar to turn them into a tasty and healthy dish.

Of course it is important to make these items a part of your healthy and balanced diet and to not only consume these.