The liver is a beautiful color
A deep reddish-brown, its shade is reminiscent of rich leather, mahogany bookshelves, cigar papers. Its elegant appearance belies its purpose, which is to regulate chemical levels in the blood and excrete everyone’s favorite bodily fluid, bile. The liver also handles at least 500 other functions of which researchers are aware.
When we talk about toxins, we’re talking in large part about the liver. You can drink as much green juice and take as many detox supplements as you want, but if you’re not taking good care of your overall health, your liver will eventually feel it.
The holiday season, a time of equal parts joyous celebration and family-induced stress, is peak time for overworking your liver with alcohol and too much food. Yes, the body’s second-largest organ (after our skin) is a tough one, but if it fails, its jobs are difficult to outsource. A heart can be replaced by a pump, lungs can be assisted by a ventilator, but a liver is irreplaceable by anything other than another liver.
Luckily for holiday revelers everywhere, the liver is the salamander’s tail of the human body: It’s the only internal organ with regenerative abilities. Scientists aren’t totally sure why it can regenerate while others can’t, but this plays an important role in liver transplants. While humans can’t live without a liver, they can live with just a piece of it. (This means that sometimes, instead of a whole new liver, a recipient will get a large piece of the liver from someone currently alive, such as a relative. The chunk of liver then regenerates to form a complete — but maybe somewhat misshapen — new organ.) We’re talking superhero powers here.
Craig Lammert, a hepatologist (liver specialist) and assistant professor at Indiana University School of Medicine, says the regenerative power of the liver, and the history and myth around it, is one of his favorite aspects of the organ.
“Any hepatologist loves the story of Prometheus,” he says. “Prometheus was tortured each day by an eagle that tore out and devoured his liver, which then grew back each night in readiness for fresh ‘hepatophagy’ on the…