In ancient times, the liver was said to be the seat of courage because early observers noticed it was abundantly filled with blood. Its rich blood supply is actually what gives it its deep, reddish-brown colour, and it was believed that a person who had no blood in their liver was a coward or a betrayer (hence the term “lily-livered”, meaning “pale-livered” - an insult coined by Shakespeare).
Nowadays we know the liver performs hundreds of functions to keep your body healthy. One of its most important roles it has is to remove toxins from your blood to stop them building up in your system. If too many toxins are allowed to build up then you could become very ill. So, ensuring your liver stays as healthy as possible should be a top priority.
But how do you know if your liver is healthy? The only way to know for sure is to take a blood test.
An appropriate blood test can look at how well your liver is functioning and tell you if it’s working as it should. Blood tests such as the Fear Nothing Blood Test and At-Home Health MOT accurately test your liver function by measuring a range of biomarkers in your blood. If any of them are too high or too low, the test can flag them up and alert you so that you can work to improve them.
What does the liver do?
The liver is the biggest solid organ in the human body. It’s roughly the size of a rugby ball and is located in the upper right-hand side of the abdomen, just above the stomach.
Alongside cleaning your blood, the liver also helps you to break down food so that your body can make use of the proteins, fats, and carbohydrates stored in them. But those aren’t the only things your liver can do. It’s a jack-of-all-trades. The liver also:
- Helps to fight infection: the liver contains special bacteria-busting cells called Kupffer cells (also called macrophages). They keep your liver healthy by literally “eating” microorganisms that cause disease, as well as tumour cells and other particles.
- Creates bile: bile is a yellowish-brown liquid that the liver makes to help you digest fats. The liver produces 800-1000ml of bile a day, which is equivalent to 2 pints of beer.
- Aids blood clotting: if you cut yourself, your liver produces specific proteins called coagulation factors to clot the blood and control the bleeding. This prevents you from losing too much blood and helps to protect your organs and tissues.
How do I keep my liver healthy?
There are a number of things you can do to keep your liver healthy and avoid liver disease:
- Don’t drink too much alcohol: miraculously, your liver can regenerate and grow new cells even after it’s been damaged. However, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can impair your liver’s ability to do this and cause long term, permanent damage. Therefore, it’s best to moderate your alcohol intake to minimise the risk of developing liver issues. It’s recommended that you don’t drink more than 14 units (equivalent to 6 pints of average-strength beer or 10 small glasses of low-strength wine) of alcohol a week.
- Have protected sex: STI’s are not the only thing to worry about when having unprotected sex. Hepatitis B (HBV) can also be transmitted via unprotected sex. Hepatitis B is a serious and life-threatening disease that causes the liver to become inflamed. It can be spread through blood, semen, or other body fluids from a person infected with the virus. Wearing a condom during sex can greatly reduce the chance of catching hepatitis B.
- Maintain a balanced diet: to safeguard your overall health, it’s advised that you maintain a healthy, balanced diet. Your liver in particular is likely to benefit from a diet high in fibre, as fibre helps it work at an optimum level. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are excellent sources of fibre as well as vitamins. Drinking plenty of water is also recommended as doing so staves off dehydration and allows your liver to function better.
How can I tell if my liver is working properly?
Liver disease can affect how well your liver is functioning and, as a result, your overall health. However, most types of liver disease don’t cause symptoms in the early stages. Therefore, it’s important to regularly check on the health status of your liver by taking routine blood tests.
You can either organise a blood test via your GP, or book a blood test online to receive a home blood test kit. Home blood test kits make it easy to check up on your health because you don’t have to wait to be seen by a GP and you can take the test from the comfort of your home.
Unlike blood tests at the GP’s - which involve long, sharp needles - a home blood test is a finger prick test that simply requires you to prick your finger and send your blood sample to the lab. That’s it. No needles. No faff.
You can get your blood test results in as little as 3-5 working days after your sample reaches the lab, and then you can use them to understand how well your liver is working. What's more, if you order a blood test with Numan, one of our clinicians will write you a free, personalised review of your results to help you understand them in greater detail. This takes the guesswork out of improving your health so you know exactly which lifestyle changes to adopt for the most beneficial impact.
Symptoms of liver disease
As previously mentioned, signs of liver disease are usually undetectable in the early stages. However, if it’s allowed to progress, liver disease may cause noticeable symptoms such as:
- Feeling very tired and weak all the time.
- Loss of appetite (which may lead to weight loss).
- Loss of sex drive (libido).
- Yellow skin and whites of the eyes (symptoms of a condition called jaundice)
- Itchy skin.
- Feeling or being sick.
If you start to experience the symptoms of liver disease, that means your liver is already damaged and scarred. This can be avoided by taking regular blood tests, as your results will be able to show you if your liver is damaged and help you find the appropriate course of treatment to help it recover.
The bottom line
The liver is an incredible organ that carries out many important processes, including the detoxification of the blood and the metabolic breakdown of food. As it plays such a crucial role in the body, it’s vital that you look after it well. Minimising your alcohol intake, maintaining a balanced diet, and taking regular blood tests are all ways you can keep on top of your liver health to ensure that it functions properly for years to come.
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- Is your liver working properly? Here’s how you can tell
- How do you take an at-home blood test?
- A general health check-up at home: how the Fear Nothing Blood Test works
- Testing for sexual function and fertility with the Fear Nothing Blood Test