Friday, January 19, 2018

Cirrhosis (Liver Disease) Overview

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Category: Cirrhosis

When liver cells die, your body normally replaces them. But if your liver has had to contend with years of alcohol or drug abuse, hepatitis B or C, or long-term exposure to noxious occupational chemicals, your liver cells stop regenerating, and scar tissue and fatty deposits form instead and spread. That’s cirrhosis. As it progresses, blood has a hard time circulating through your liver. Your remaining liver cells become malnourished, and can’t do what they’re supposed to.

About 25,000 Americans die of cirrhosis each year. About half are alcoholics; the rest develop the disease from hepatitis B or C. Typically, alcoholic cirrhosis develops after consuming a pint or more of liquor or a quart or more of wine daily for at least 10 years. But your liver is one tough organ. Only about 15 percent of alcoholics develop cirrhosis. On the other hand, you don’t have to guzzle gallons of booze to develop this ideas. If you have a sensitive liver, as little as three drinks a day for several years can damage it.

Cirrhosis may cause no symptoms. Or you may suffer loss of appetite and sex drive, weight loss, nausea and vomiting, fatigue, weakness, jaundice, abdominal pain, and swelling of your abdomen or legs.

Mainstream medicine has no treatment for cirrhosis, except to discourage drugs and alcohol. Doctors treat the complications, not the disease. But several complementary approaches can help:

Make tracks to milk thistle. In one study, 170 people (91 with alcoholic cirrhosis) were divided into two groups. One received the milk thistle extract, silymarin (200 mg three times a day). The other received a placebo. Four years later, 31 people in the placebo group had died of liver disease, but among those who took silymarin, there were only 18 deaths, 42 percent fewer. Several other studies show that milk thistle can normalize liver function in people with cirrhosis.

In another study, Scandinavian researchers recruited 97 heavy drinkers with alcohol-damaged livers, and gave 47 of them silymarin for four weeks. Compared with controls who took a placebo, the silymarin group showed significant decreases in abnormally high levels of several liver enzymes, and a greater likelihood of returning to normal liver function.

Trim the fat. “A diet high in saturated [i.e. animal] fat exacerbates alcohol-induced liver disease,” says naturopath Joseph Pizzorno, N.D., president of Bastyr University, the naturopathic medical school near Seattle. Cut down on meats and whole-milk dairy products.

Say hello to eleuthero. Eleuthero is Siberian ginseng (Eleuterococcus senticosus). Seattle naturopath Donald Brown, N.D., says it helps alcoholics withdraw from alcohol and stay dry. He recommends a standardized root extract (300 to 400 mg/day).

Take your vitamins. Alcoholics usually develop nutritional deficiencies. Dr. Brown suggests a daily multivitamin-mineral insurance formula, plus vitamin E (400 top 800 IU/day) and chromium (200 mcg/day).

Take Medication or Herbs Regularly?

Consider Taking Milk Thistle: In high enough doses, even such everyday medications as acetaminophen (Tylenol) can cause liver damage. In one animal study, silymarin prevented liver damage from large doses of acetaminophen. In other studies, it has protected the liver from damage caused by antibiotics (tetracylcine, erythromycin), antidepressants (Elavil, Pamelor), and antipsychotics (Thorazine, Haldol).

Beware Herbs That Can Cause Liver Damage: Several herbs long used in herbal medicine should not be ingested because they contain compounds (pyrrolizidine alkaloids) that can cause liver damage. Herbs to avoid include: coltsfoot, comfrey, and germander. (Comfrey can be used safely externally to treat wounds.)


2 Responses to “Cirrhosis (Liver Disease) Overview”
  1. karen says:

    Do sweating a sign of liver disease?

  2. sahar says:

    what are cirrhosis complications?