Don’t judge me by my size, I am Jack the giant slayer; treat me bad I can fell even a Hercules from within.
I am a three pound wonder, a gland tucked under the right side of your body. Remember the twelve labors of Hercules? I was right there while each task he performed, -and how did I do it, I fired up his muscles. It is far more wondrous than any of his physical feats. I have at my disposal 24 hour supply of glycogen or animal starch, from which I convert a part into glucose, the fuel for muscles and feeds it into the blood stream.
Each second some 10 million of his blood cells die and these need to be disposed of; the spleen breaks them down as easily as an used car sent to the landfill: I help salvage the component parts such as iron for re-use in building new blood cells. While chopping the many headed Hydra, had Hercules cut himself he would have bled to death but I produce fibrinogen and prothrombin that help clot blood; what’s more If it were not for antibodies he would have died while cleaning up the Augean stables from the bite of a horse-fly. Anti-bodies fight invading viruses and bacteria. Each second what I perform is astounding that I can vouch for the Titan was preserved despite the eagle that Zeus sent to peck at me.
I am all fired up when Hercules flexes his muscles, for instance when he was faced with the Cretan bull. Of course I had to see that lactic acid which was accumulating as a result of burning the glucose, did not poison the hero. What do I do? Presto, I simply converted the lactic acid back into glycogen! I am a miracle worker. I shall not waste time bending a spoon like Uri Geller. He is a mountebank while I, a 24- carat miracle-worker.
When my hero sits down to tuck in a hearty meal I cannot sit simply still: I shoot bile towards his intestine in order to break down the fat. Intestinal enzymes break fat into fatty acids, which is brought to me, ugh! it is like the man who sits on his thunder-stool and is given back all that he vacated in its glorious colors. I am not the one to cringe even in the face of such provocation. A stoic that I am I convert into body fat. When one is called obese think of what I have done for him. Out of the depths I cry, De Profundis what have I done to merit this?( Next time cut out the fat from your meat, won’t you?) Lean meat puts a smile in me, figuratively of course, for I make do protein from it into amino acids. I reconstruct them into plasma proteins, and these help build body’s tissue-building needs. Like lactic acid that I mentioned earlier Protein digestion bring us another problem: ammonia. I convert into urea and it is flushed out through kidneys.
Had Hercules quaffed dodgy wine It was my task to detox him and oh he would have no idea that I did him further service in keeping his hormone balance. If he did not suffer from thyroid imbalance he owes thanks to me for clearing off the excess of hormone.
I store for him like a banker the essential vitamins, A,D, the B complex.Also when excess blood is around we hold this like a vault for storing excess cash, lest it should tax the Herculean heart.
With regards to the energy we supply to the heart of Hercules we provide 25% of the total. Only the lungs have a richer supply but like Hertz we try harder. We keep moving what we receive through arteries, freshly oxygenated blood which from the intestine comes to us for filtering before sent to the heart.
I mentioned Hercules for one special reason: He helped Prometheus who was plagued by the winged tormentor for 30 years by killing it. Then of course little did he know that I can always regenerate though pecked at by the eagle. As much as 90 % of liver has been removed in some cancer cases but I have always grown back which is quite a feat. If Hercules had been elevated to the Pantheon of gods, the credit of which he owes no little to me.
(ack: JD Ratcliff-RD Feb’64 originally pub.AMA)