Cirrhosis of the Liver
Cirrhosis of the liver is a very serious condition and is a condition of liver damage that impairs its functioning. The liver which is located in the upper abdomen is a vital organ, as it carries out various essential functions. Under normal circumstances, a healthy liver helps to detoxify your system, purifying your blood, facilitating digestion and manufacturing vital nutrients.
Cirrhosis of the liver occurs as a result of damage to the liver that may be caused certain diseases or health conditions, or due to alcoholism. In mild cases, the liver repairs the damage to liver cells, but scar tissue forms in the process. The buildup of scar tissue in the liver is what severely impairs its functioning, and the more advanced the condition of cirrhosis, the greater is the buildup of scar tissue. To understand the seriousness of the condition you need to be aware of the complex functions of the liver:
- The liver is responsible for the production of bile that helps in the digestion of food and absorption of certain essential nutrients.
- The liver regulates the levels of protein, sugar and fat in the bloodstream.
- It purifies your blood by filtering wastes and toxins.
- It helps to metabolize various drugs and alcohol.
- The liver also produces substances that help with clotting, restricting the loss of blood from wounds or bruises.
Cirrhosis of the liver can therefore have serious consequences as the functioning of the liver also has a direct effect on the health and functioning of the other vital organs. Liver cirrhosis can cause a buildup of bile and toxins in your system, which eventually affects the functioning of all the organs. It can also cause intestinal bleeding and other life threatening complications. Early detection and treatment can be very effective however and can restrict liver damage. Lifestyle modifications and diet changes are also necessary, and without adequate self care, treatment cannot be effective.
Symptoms of Cirrhosis of the Liver
Symptoms of cirrhosis of the liver may not be easy to recognize and there may be no noticeable symptoms during the early stages. For this reason a thorough medical diagnosis is absolutely essential. The symptoms that surface from liver cirrhosis are because of the impaired functioning of the liver or because of a distortion to the shape and size of the liver as a result of scarring.
The most common symptoms of liver cirrhosis include:
- Exhaustion, fatigue and a constant feeling of weakness.
- Nausea and appetite loss, which eventually leads to weight loss.
- It can also affect libido, with a loss of sex drive
In most cases, the symptoms of liver damage and cirrhosis only become evident when complications begin to set in.
- Yellowing of the skin is the most common sign of any liver disorder and is referred to as jaundice. This occurs because of a buildup of bilirubin in the tissues. Under normal circumstances bilirubin levels are regulated by the liver.
- Fever, vomiting and diarrhea may also be noticed.
- Some patients also notice an itching sensation.
- The englargement of the liver can cause abdominal pain. This may also occur because of swelling and bloating as a result of fluid retention.
- Fluid retention could also cause weight gain and edema or swelling of the ankles and legs.
- You may also experience sensitivity to certain medications because of the livers inability to metabolize and filter drugs.
- The subsequent buildup of drugs and toxins in your system can cause confusion or delirium.
Causes of Cirrhosis of the Liver
Liver cirrhosis does not develop overnight and it is the result of a slow process of damage that is caused to the liver over a period of years. When there is any damage to the liver it redresses it by repairing itself, but as a result scar tissue is formed and with the buildup of scar tissue over time the livers functioning is impaired. The damage to the liver may be caused by some underlying conditions that could include:
- Alcohol abuse is the biggest cause of liver cirrhosis and occurs over a period of time.
- The condition may also occur as a result of damage sustained over time from a hepatitis B or C infection.
- The accumulation of fat in the liver or nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
- Schistosomiasis, a parasitic infection that is more common in developing countries.
- Glycogen storage disorder or problems with the storage and supply of energy.
- Excessive buildup of copper in the liver, as in Wilsons disease.
- In rare cases the damage to the liver may be caused by your immune system, as in autoimmune hepatitis.
- The condition may also be caused by cystic fibrosis.
- Poorly formed bile ducts or a hardening and scarring of the ducts may also result in liver cirrhosis.
Remedies for Cirrhosis of the Liver
There is no natural cure for cirrhosis of the liver that has been found to be effective, but some natural treatments can help to relieve the symptoms and facilitate recovery. Treatment for cirrhosis of the liver can be very effective, but to improve the effects of treatment you also need to make significant changes to your diet and lifestyle. Home remedies should not be used as an alternative to conventional treatment but can be used along with it. If you do wish to try out any home remedies for cirrhosis of the liver make it a point to consult with your doctor first.
- Milk thistle is one of the most popular herbal remedies for cirrhosis of the liver and is widely used in some parts of the world. Investigations into the effects of milk thistle suggest that flavonoids like silymarin that are present in the herb may help to protect the liver from damage caused by certain toxins and drugs. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties in the herb may also help facilitate repair, but there is little evidence to suggest that this can help treat liver cirrhosis.
Diet for Cirrhosis of the Liver
A diet for cirrhosis of the liver will not help to cure the condition or prevent it, but it can certainly help restrict the damage and give you a better chance at recovery.
- The most important concern would be alcohol consumption. Whether or not the liver damage that resulted in cirrhosis was caused by excessive alcohol consumption or not, alcohol poses a high risk to the liver and should be avoided completely, while you are undergoing treatment. It would also be advisable to avoid the consumption of alcohol after recovery, as the liver could sustain damage again.
- Fluid retention can be a significant problem in individuals who suffer from cirrhosis of the liver. For this reason, it would be best to follow a low sodium diet. Foods that are rich in sodium could worsen the symptoms of cirrhosis, like abdominal swelling or edema. To this end you should cut down on your salt intake and avoid all processed and junk foods. Check the nutritional value of any packaged products before buying them. To compensate for the lack of taste with reduced salt, you could try using various herbs for seasoning of food.
- As the liver plays an important role in the digestive process, particularly with the breakdown of fat, you should reduce your intake of fatty and oily foods.
- Try and stick to a healthy and highly nutritious diet to combat the risk of malnutrition. Include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables in your daily diet and also consume legumes and lean meats like poultry and fish in moderation.
Suggestion for Cirrhosis of the Liver
The most important suggestion for anyone interested in alternative treatments and cures is to seek prompt medical attention for any type of liver disorder. The effects of home remedies and natural cures can vary greatly and it would be unadvisable to try such an approach with the treatment of a life threatening condition like cirrhosis of the liver. Make sure that you follow all the recommendations and instructions of your health care provider diligently and report any changes in your condition to your doctor at the earliest. Regular checkups and follow-up treatment plans should be adhered to.
- In addition to quitting alcohol you should also stop smoking because smokers are at a higher risk of suffering liver damage.
- The threat of liver cirrhosis is also greater in individuals who are overweight or obese, so try to take steps to maintain a healthy weight. Make sure that you do not go on any extreme diet to this end however.
- Physical fitness also has an effect on your overall health and indirectly on the liver condition, so try and take up a light exercise routine.
- Stress may have no direct bearing on liver cirrhosis, but it does have a significant effect on your general health and various bodily processes. High levels of stress could therefore worsen your condition and impede recovery.
- Kidd P, Head K. A review of the bioavailability and clinical efficacy of milk thistle phytosome: a silybin-phosphatidylcholine complex (Siliphos). Altern Med Rev. 2005 Sep;10(3):193-203. Review. PubMed PMID: 16164374.
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