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Porphyria Educational Services


Porphyria Educational Services Bulletin
Vol. 2 No. 7                February 13, 2000
Focus:  Porphyria and the Liver

        In the hepatic porphyrias the liver plays an important part in the
overall picture.

        The production of porphyrins takes place in the liver.

        The liver is located behind the lower ribs on the right side of your
abdomen.  The liver is said to  weigh about 3 pounds.  Some people liken the
liver to the   size of a football. T

           This vital organ , the liver, performs many complex functions.
Some of these functions are:

        To convert food into chemicals necessary for life and growth;
        To manufacture and export important substances used by the rest of the body;
        To process drugs absorbed from the digestive tract into forms that are easier for the body to use; and
        To detoxify and excrete substances that otherwise would be poisonous.

        Moreover your liver plays a key role in converting food into
essential chemicals of life.

        All of the blood that leaves the stomach and intestines must pass
through the liver before reaching the rest of the body. The liver is thus
strategically placed to process nutrients and drugs absorbed from the
digestive tract into forms that are easier for the rest of the body to use.
In essence, the liver can be thought of as the body's refinery. Many ofthe
prescription drugs that people take are metabolizewd in the liver.

        In addition , your liver plays a principal role in removing from the
blood ingested and internally produced toxic substances. The liver converts
them to substances that can be easily eliminated from the body.

        The liver also makes bile, a greenish-brown fluid which is
essential for digestion. Bile is stored in the gallbladder which, after
eating, contracts and discharges bile into the intestine, where it aids
digestion.

There are many types of liver diseases, but among the most important are:

Viral hepatitis;
Cirrhosis;
Liver disorders in children;
Gallstones;
Hepatic porphyrias
Hepatic cancer

Please be aware that liver diseases appear to be on the increase.
Part of this increase may be due to our frequent contact with chemicals and
environmental pollutants. Certain medications may also be hazardous to the
liver in some individuals.