How Your Liver Works

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Swedish Liver Center

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The liver is one of the largest and most important organs in the body. It is essential to many processes that keep you alive.

In an adult, the liver weighs nearly three pounds and is about the size of a football. It is located in the upper right portion of the abdomen, behind the ribs, below the diaphragm and above the stomach.

The liver performs thousands of functions that keep your body working properly. For example, the liver

  • Transforms the nutrients from the food digested in your stomach into components that are easier for your body to use
  • Stores vitamins, sugar and iron, which your body needs for energy
  • Produces bile, which helps your body absorb fat and vitamins, and also transfers waste to the intestines so it can leave your body
  • Removes bacteria from your blood to help your body fight infections
  • Produces a protein that helps your blood clot when you cut yourself
  • Regulates the levels of many important chemicals in your body
  • Helps remove drugs and other harmful substances from your blood

The liver is a great disease fighter. It is the only internal organ that can naturally create new liver tissue after some of its diseased cells are removed or die. There are instances, however, when chronic liver diseases may result in irreversible damage to the liver and liver failure, which may make liver transplantation necessary.