The Liver And Its Dangers
( Originally Published 1936 )
People talk about being "liverish," and that their liver is out of order, and by this they mean, perhaps, that poisons have accumulated in the system.
It is very reasonable to suppose, from what we know concerning the working of the liver, that such conditions should arise. All the blood from the intestines with the absorbed food, goes through the liver first, to the amount of 700 quarts a day, and naturally if there are any poisons in this blood the liver will be affected.
One of its chief functions is to detoxicate the blood before it gets elsewhere in the body. And the liver naturally suffers from its exposed position to destruction from the action of these various poisons. Thus the liver can be totally destroyed by the absorption of phosphorus, such as phosphorus match poisoning or the accidental or purposeful (with suicidal intent) eating of rat poison containing phosphorus. In such cases it is the total destruction of the liver cells which is the cause of death.
Fortunately the liver is a strong and active organ, and it can and does remove a large number of minor and less destructive poisons from the blood, thus protecting us constantly from their effects, without damage to its own cells.
One poison which has over and over been accused of causing liver disease is alcohol. The chronic use of alcohol is thought by most physicians to result in cirrhosis of the liver. I say "most physicians," because recently there has arisen a school which believes that cirrhosis of the liver is not caused by alcohol. That school had its day a few years ago, but lately the opinion of nearly all widely experienced doctors seems to me to be veering around again to the original idea.
In this connection, I note in Dr. J. F. Montague's recent interesting book called, "I Know Just the Thing for That," a discussion of the American cocktail hour. He points out that our British cousins have a habit of gathering socially for what they call "tea," and in the United States this is rapidly becoming supplanted by a regular social gathering which is known as "cocktails." Certainly there is no question that the British tea is a far more salutary social event than the American cocktail hour.
The artificial stimulation which seems to be necessary to us with our high-powered, engine-driven life, is harmful to the nervous system and the ability to adjust oneself to wholesome living. For that reason, perhaps, we crave the relaxation of cocktails. But I wonder sometimes as I see young people, and especially women, guzzling at this period in the day, what the harvest is going to be in the way of cirrhotic livers 20 or 30 years from now.