The Role of the Liver in Type 2 Diabetes

For more than 400 million people suffering from diabetes world over, living with diabetes is a fact of life. For all those who are diagnosed with diabetes, millions go undiagnosed and nearly 1.6 million people lose their lives to the disease. While it is an accepted fact that unmanaged diabetes multiplies risk factors for heart and kidney diseases, very few people know that around 50% of diabetics are more likely to develop liver disease

In diabetes management, so far, the understanding was limited to the pancreas and its hormone insulin. The malfunctioning of the pancreas was blamed for the onset of the disease. This is just half of the story.

Meet the other half, the liver, an insulin-guided organ and has a significant role in managing diabetes.

Effect of diabetes on liver

To start with, the liver is large and it is definitely in charge.  Weighing approximately 1.5 kg, the liver is the largest organ inside the body. Outside it is the skin, of course. With size comes immense responsibilities on the liver, like digesting fats, making and storing glucose (in the form of glycogen) and it functions as the detox center for the body.

The behavior of the liver is dependent on insulin. When the liver stops to function at its optimum level, it may lead to the development of type 2 diabetes or worsen high blood glucose levels for those who already have the disease.

The role of liver in blood sugar control

The liver and blood sugar are closely linked. Post-meal, the level of insulin and blood sugar rise in the body, the liver responds to it by storing sugar in the form of glycogen ( a longer-chain version of glucose), which acts as a warehouse of glucose.

During fasting blood sugar level drops in the body. Naturally, insulin secretion will fall down, which signals the liver to release glycogen, the source of energy that sustains the body when it goes without food for long periods (during sleep time, fasts) and provides fuel for workouts.

Diabetes and your liver

When we eat our blood sugar level goes up. This serves as a signal to the pancreas to release insulin, which functions as a cue for the cells to absorb the sugar from the blood. When you become insulin resistant, the cells do not absorb blood sugar as a result, more insulin gets secreted, which promotes fat storage.

Hence, insulin resistance and obesity go hand-in-hand.  Since the liver is guided by insulin, as the body grows resistant to this hormone (pre-diabetes), it refuses to acknowledge its presence and keeps releasing glycogen, even though there is enough blood sugar in the bloodstream. Therefore, diabetics will have high blood sugar level even when they are fasting.

Healthy liver is a prerequisite for effective blood sugar management

A healthy liver is sensitive to insulin and helps you stay lean because people with healthy liver have a fast metabolism and don’t gain weight easily. Unfortunately, a lot of people have fatty liver and the liver is busy storing fat rather than burning it. Also, when you go hungry for a long period, the liver releases the stored glucose to give you energy, but if your liver is weak, you will start feeling hungry, weak and irritable without food.  

Fatty liver disease is common in overweight people; nearly everyone with excess weight on their abdomen has some degree of fatty liver. This leads to chronic elevation of blood sugar levels.

Alternate Healing Practices and Liver

Both Ayurveda and Naturopathy give primary importance to the liver in diabetes management. Ayurveda regards liver as a seat of Agni (digestive fire) and an alchemist that has the power to convert carbohydrate, protein or fat into a source of energy. Ayurveda regimen for diabetes treatment concentrates on increasing the functioning of the liver. It does so by the process of detoxification and rejuvenation of liver. Naturopathy also works at increasing the functioning of the liver. It prescribes raw vegetable diet and hot and cold liver packs as a part of its regimen.

Resurrecting the liver

The role of the liver in type 2 diabetes management has been ignored for a long time. It is time for course correction. The reason for low awareness may lie in the inability of blood tests to show the suboptimal functioning of the liver. More than two-thirds of the liver must be destroyed before serious consequences occur.   As a result, most patients suffering from diabetes are in the dark about the condition of their liver.  They do not realize that an increase in the liver function can lead to better blood sugar management. Only a systemic approach working at increasing both the cells sensitivity to insulin and effectiveness of liver can be successful in controlling type 2 diabetes.

If you have any questions on managing diabetes you can comment below or write to us at We can also help you to connect with the right Ayurveda or Naturopathy doctor. 


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