Authors: Taylor Messick, Dr. C. A. Michie and Wali
Wali is back and ready to take you on another adventure into your belly! Put on your thinking caps and follow me as we explore the liver.
French call this ‘le foie’, the Spanish ‘el higado’. Did you know the liver is the largest solid organ in your body? Only the skin is heavier! The liver lives underneath the right side of your ribs so it can be protected – it is a little fragile.
The liver has so many different jobs, it is like a really busy factory. It is so busy that it makes heat, keeping you and your blood warm. Wow! Amazing, right? I, Wali, and my friends like to warm our blood in the sunshine by putting our bellies on a warm rock.
You may be thinking, “Wali, why does the liver need to do all of this?” The reason is the liver processes all the blood from your gut. Nutrient-rich goodies you eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner flow past it. The liver puts sugars together or synthesises them into a storage substance called glycogen.
Glycogen is an important sugar made in your body that can be used for energy by other organs. For instance, the heart and brain use glycogen so they never run short of glucose. The liver gives your body the strength to play with your friends throughout the day!
The liver also makes this slimy green stuff called bile or gall. This goop gets put into the gall bladder for storage, and is used to help your intestines digest your food. Bile collects fats and nutrients found in fat, like vitamin A, so these can be absorbed and stored.
The grossest thing of all is this substance called bilirubin, which is made by your liver. This is the reason your poop is a brown colour (and Wali’s poo too). Yuck!
“Wali, you are telling me the liver is the reason my poop is brown and not any other colour of the rainbow?”
Yep! This bilirubin stuff is removed from your body as poop. Next time you go to the bathroom and see the brown poop, remember your liver is in “tip-top shape.”
If you breathe in nasty toxins from a truck exhaust, these will be taken up in the blood and then broken up by the liver. The smaller molecules can be removed in the bile or by the kidneys. Substances such as ethanol from alcoholic drinks are also removed by the liver. This is why too much booze makes the liver unhappy!
Wali wants to make sure you know how much your liver truly does for you every day! Unlike Wali, or you guys, it never takes a break or naps. Another cool thing about your liver is that it is like your skin or bone marrow, it can regenerate!
If you have a small piece removed because of an accident, this amazing organ can grow back to its original size. I guess you could say the liver has some pretty cool superpowers.
How do you take care of your liver? Make sure you exercise and eat healthy. Your liver relies on you to keep it working like a “well-oiled machine.” We iguanas have no problem keeping our livers happy because we eat fresh fruit and flowers all around St. Maarten.
Check back next week for another adventure with Wali!