Some organs get plenty of press. News stories and resources about the heart, lungs and skin are commonplace. But according to Mehmet Oz, Oprah Winfrey's favorite go-to-doc, the liver is the body's most important organ and it gets little play.
The body's largest internal organ is its gateway, and the liver's detoxification system can be easily overloaded in this chemical age, where foods are treated.
Oz and Michael F. Roizen, co-founder and chairman of RealAge Inc. and a co-author with Oz, explain how the liver operates and how you can keep it working with the right foods and supplements in their book, "You: The Owner's Manual."
Read an excerpt below.
If your organs were celebrities, you'd immediately know how they stacked up in terms of status and fame. The heart and brain reign as biological kings. They're the A-listers, the ones that get all the attention, the glory, the magazine covers, the best tables, and the medical paparazzi detailing every minute of their existence.
Then there are the B-list organs, like the stomach, the lungs, the skin, and the sex organs.
Of course they're on our radar, we know what they do, and we'd surely recognize them if we saw them out and about combing the malls. Lastly, there are the C-listers—those organs that we might know by name but couldn't tell you much about. Yup, they're the organs with serious respectability problems; no matter how much good they do, they can't get a lick of press. Specifically, we're talking about the Rodney Dangerfield of internal organs: the liver. Sure, you know a little something about it (filters your tequila, right?), but that's about it.
The reality is that few of us know much about the liver and its digestive neighbor, the pancreas. If you were to play medical word association (you do, don't you?), most of you would probably answer the same way.
We say liver? You say booze. We say pancreas? You say diabetes. We say liver and pancreas? You say get to the point already.
And you're right: Those two organs are associated primarily with alcohol and obesity. But to stereotype the liver and pancreas in that way would be like saying that your brain's only function is memory or the only thing your private parts are good for is eliminating the morning's coffee.
And that's a shame, considering the biological miracles that the liver performs every day. Consider this: The liver is the only internal organ that can regenerate itself.
In fact, you can lose up to 75 percent of your liver, and the remaining parts can regenerate themselves into a whole liver again. Amazing stuff. ("If only hair workedthe same way," says the bald man ... )
As we continue our look at the digestive process, we need to examine these two organs. So let's peel back that fatty layer of digested mashed potatoes and take a look inside.
Your Liver: Break Down
If you allow us a quick diversion from medicine to mythology, we want to quickly tell the story of Prometheus. This poor fellow gave fire to the humans. His punishment from the Greek god Zeus for committing such a crime: He was chained to a rock, where a vulture would peck out his liver. Amazingly, the liver would regenerate overnight. How did the Greeks know of the liver's power? Maybe it was because they survived injuries to the organ in battle. While the Greeks were onto something, we're pretty certain that they didn't have as much insight into the liver as the scientific world does today.