The below provides a general overview on this topic and may not apply to everyone. Any treatment protocol should be discussed with a qualified healthcare practitioner ... Please refer to: Medical & Legal Disclaimer.
The Function of our Liver:
The liver is a unique organ in its versatile ability to chemically convert a wide range of toxins into safer, less harmful waste products that are shunted off to the kidneys and colon for excretion.
The liver cleans the blood and also makes proteins that help fight infections.
Proper liver function is critical for good health.
- Because of its importance in toxin removal, limit your intake of substances, such alcohol and cigarette smoke - as these toxins that can unduly stress the liver. There are environmental toxins we can't escape, but we should minimize those that are within our control. Also refer to "toxic home"
- Milk thistle has long been used as a prime protector for the liver. Modern medical researchers have confirmed its effectiveness. For example, research in India demonstrates that milk thistle can help the liver fight off free radicals (oxidative molecules that injure tissue) generated by environmental toxins (Source: Basic Clin. Pharmacol. Toxicol. 2007, June;100(6):414-9). This benefit has been shown to be so potent, that Indian researchers argue that the natural chemicals in milk thistle should be employed "as a protective drug against toxicity induced by environmental contaminants."
Causes of Liver Disease:
Medication / Drugs: According to the "Consumer Report On Health" magazine, the leading cause of acute liver disease in the U.S. is "ordinary acetaminophen. That is the ingredient in many pain medications, such as Tylenol, Advil, Motrin IB and Naproxen (aka Aleve). This ingredient can raise your blood pressure and possibly harm your stomach, liver and kidneys if used long-term.""
The "Consumer Report On Health" recommends:
Diet High in Fat & High-fructose Corn Syrup: A diet high in fat and in high fructose corn syrup may cause severe liver problems in people with a sedentary lifestyle, according to a study conducted by researchers from Saint Louis University and presented this year at the Digestive Diseases Week meeting in Washington, D.C. Researchers fed mice a diet that was 40 percent fat and high in high fructose corn syrup for 16 weeks. In contrast to other studies, where mice have been fed a regulated amount, the animals in the study were allowed to eat as much as they wanted. They were kept sedentary and prevented from exercising.
- Avoid remedies that contain multiple ingredients. You may not need all of the ingredients and they can raise your risk of side effects.
- Choose by active ingredient, NOT brand name. You'll avoid getting the wrong ingredient or unnecessary ones.
- If symptoms persist, stop the drug and call your doctor.
- Ask your doctor about precautions.
"We wanted to mirror the kind of diet many Americans subsist on, so the high fat content is about the same you'd find in a typical McDonald's meal, and the high fructose corn syrup translates to about eight cans of soda a day in a human diet, which is not far off with what some people consume," said Brent Tetri, M.D., an associate professor of internal medicine at Saint Louis University Liver Center. To the researchers' shock, it took only four weeks for the first signs of serious health problems to emerge. "We had a feeling we'd see evidence of fatty liver disease by the end of the study," Tetri said. "But we were surprised to find how severe the damage was and how quickly it occurred. It took only four weeks for liver enzymes to increase and for glucose intolerance -- the beginning of Type 2 diabetes -- to begin." According to Tetri, preliminary research suggests that fructose actually suppresses the body's feeling of fullness, whereas foods rich in fiber activate it. This meant that the mice didn't know when to stop eating, even though their diet was exceptionally high in calories.
High fructose corn syrup is a widely used sweetener, particularly in the United States, where corn is cheap and sugar importation is expensive. "A high-fat and sugar-sweetened diet compounded by a sedentary lifestyle will have severe repercussions for your liver and other vital organs," Tetri warned.
The University of Illinois Medical Center has in-depth information on liver disease in humans.
Untreated liver disease can lead to liver cirrhosis.
Liver Cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) is caused by ...
- heavy alcohol use
- nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which is often caused by obesity
- chemicals in the environment / food
- toxic metals - environmental exposure or genetic diseases, such as hemochromatosis or Wilson disease that cause the build-up of iron and copper in the liver as a result of genetic diseases
- malnutrition can lead to liver damage and impaired liver function
- autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system attacks the liver.
- exposure to some drugs, medicines and harmful chemicals
- infections (bacterial, viral, i.e., hepatitis B, C, or D)
- diseases that damage or destroy bile ducts—tubes that carry bile from the liver
A functional liver is necessary for survival and a liver with extensive scar tissue cannot function properly. However, early treatment can prevent cirrhosis from getting worse.
What are the symptoms of cirrhosis?
You may have no symptoms in the early stages of cirrhosis. As cirrhosis gets worse you may
- no symptoms in the early stages
- progressive symptoms:
- feeling weak or tired
- loss of appetite
- weight loss
- red, spider-shaped blood vessels under your skin
- skin and the whites of your eyes may turn yellow (jaundice)
- associated health problems:
- nosebleeds; patients may bruise or bleed easily
- bloating / swelling in legs and abdomen
- confusion / difficulty thinking
- severe itching
- liver cancer
How is cirrhosis treated?
Scar tissue on a liver can't be reversed; however, patients can stop the progression; this requires identifying the cause of the liver damage and in most instances also making certain lifestyle changes.
- Maintain a normal weight
- Do not drink alcohol as alcohol can harm liver cells
- Do not use illegal drugs and discuss with your doctor any medicines or over-the-counter remedies or supplements that you may be taking, as liver cirrhosis makes the liver sensitive to certain drugs / supplements. Cirrhosis makes your liver sensitive to certain medicines.
- When applicable, treat hepatitis B, C, and D. Potentially get vaccinated against hepatitis A and B.
- Avoid eating raw oysters or other raw shellfish as they could contain infection-causing bacteria
- Treat autoimmune hepatitis, as instructed by your physician.
- Stop smoking.
- Nutritional therapy: Avoid processed food that often contain chemicals and consume nutrient-dense food items instead. Eat ORGANIC! Chemically treated produce will increase the burden on the liver.
A balanced diet is important:
Take in recommended daily amount of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins (A, C and B, especially thiamine [B1]), and minerals (such as calcium and iron).
Supporting a Healthy Liver through a Healthy Lifestyle:
- Restorative sleep is crucial as it helps promote healing, including helping a liver rebuild itself. Patients need extra sleep and plenty of rest to recover.
Some alternative treatments you need to discuss with your doctor:
The following may help with the detoxification / treatment process:
- SAMe: In 1999, the University of California researched the benefits offered by the supplement SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine) for those suffering from chronic liver disease. The results- published in the Journal of Hepatology - showed that a group of alcoholics who received SAMe had a 30 percent reduction in deaths and liver transplants, compared with a group of patients who did not receive the supplement. The explanation is that patients with liver disease have abnormal methionine metabolism, which depletes the naturally occurring SAMe. Taking therapeutic doses of SAMe helps reverse that effect.
- 800 IU vitamin E per day is a successful treatment for fatty liver disease. (Sanyal AJ, Chalasani N, Kowdley KV et al. Pioglitazone, vitamin E, or placebo for nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. N Engl J Med. 2010 May 6;362(18):1675-85.) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20427778
- Castor Oil Pack
- Aloe Detox - One recommended brand is "Lily of the Desert Aloe Detoxifying Formula." It is available over the following websites: http://www.vitacost.com; http://www.amazon.com; http://www.internatural.com/ingr/ingr199340.cfm. It is also available at better health food stores, such as Whole Foods. The manufacturer reports that Aloe Detox needs to be refrigerated (obviously). After opening, it will keep for 7 to 9 months.
- NOTE: There are two cases we know of where the patient's liver was harmed by aloe vera capsules. It is unknown whether "processed" capsules are to be blamed and whether the problems could have been avoided with other Aloe Vera products. Therefore, it is important to discuss with a holistic / alternative medicine professional whether administration is recommended..
- Herbs that are conducive to maintaining liver health and even reversing existing liver problems are: Aloe, Milk Thistle, Psillium Husk Powder, Dandelions and others.
- Beets: According to Dr. H.C.A. Vogel (in The Nature Doctor), beet juice contains betaine, which stimulates the function of liver cells and protects the liver and bile ducts. Recent studies point to betaine as contributing to the prevention of coronary and cerebral artery diseases.
- Dandelion Root or MilkThistle in Lactulose - For detoxification and stimulation of liver
- Wheat Grass: It packs natural enzymes, vitamins A, B, C, E and K, calcium, chlorophyll, iron, lecithin, magnesium, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, potassium, amino acids, trace elements and protein. It cleanses the blood by improving the supply of oxygen to the circulatory system; detoxifies and regenerates the liver; and protects us from carcinogens in our food or our environment. Wheatgrass juice has been successfully used to treat anemia in humans and repair the liver.
- Carrot Seed: Among its uses are tonic, stimulant, liver regenerator, and control of cholesterol. Used in massage oils and baths as it is considered an excellent blood purifier due to its detoxifying effect on the liver. It is used to treat jaundice and other liver disorders.
- Improve Liver Function: Cauliflower
American Liver Foundation
75 Maiden Lane, Suite 603
New York, NY 10038
Hepatitis Foundation International
504 Blick Drive
Silver Spring, MD 20904-2901
(800) 891-0707 or (301) 622-4200
United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS)
1100 Boulders Parkway, Suite 500
P.O. Box 13770
Richmond, VA 23225-8770
(800) 24-DONOR or (804) 330-8500
Information contained on this website is provided as general reference only. For application to specific circumstances, professional advice should be sought.
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