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Functions of the Liver

UPMC Content 2

Your liver is a very important “weigh station” in the blood’s journey throughout your body. All of the blood leaving the stomach and intestines passes through the liver.

But why exactly does your liver need the oxygen and nutrients from your blood? What does it do?

Some people think of the liver as the body’s chemical plant and inspection station.

Your Body’s Chemical Plant

Your liver:

  • Processes blood
  • Breaks down the nutrients and chemicals your blood carries into forms that are easier for the rest of your body to use
  • Regulates the levels of most chemicals in your blood

An Inspection Station

The inspection part comes in handy because helpful nutrients are not the only things your blood carries. There are also some waste products, which your liver filters out.

Even though bile is made out of waste products, it certainly doesn’t go to waste. Bile is very useful in helping to break down fats, preparing them for further digestion and absorption.

Once bile is released into your small intestine, it works its magic on the food you’ve eaten.

In fact, there is an entire system in your body (of which your liver is a part) that is responsible for creating, transporting, storing, and releasing bile. This is called the biliary system.

The biliary system is made up of the:

  • Ducts arising in the liver
  • Gallbladder and its duct
  • Common bile duct

Did you know?

  • Bile by-products ultimately leave your body in your feces.
  • Blood by-products are filtered out by the kidneys and leave your body in the form of urine.

Other Common Functions of the Liver

All of this, however, is only the basic version of your liver’s job description. 

The liver actually performs more than 300 separate functions — and perhaps even more that scientists don’t yet fully understand.

Some of the liver's other well-known functions include:

  • Producing certain proteins for blood plasma
  • Producing cholesterol and special proteins to help carry fats through the body
  • Converting excess glucose into glycogen for storage, which can later be converted to glucose for energy
  • Regulating blood levels of amino acids, which form the building blocks of proteins
  • Processing hemoglobin for use of its iron content
  • Converting poisonous ammonia to ure​a, clearing the blood of drugs and other poisonous substances
  • Regulating blood clotting
  • Resisting infections by producing immune factors and removing bacteria from the blood stream