Liver Disease

Written by Amy Hall
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Liver disease, especially that which is caused by Hepatitis C, is the number one cause of liver transplants in the United States. The truth is, once the liver becomes so badly damaged due to disease or trauma, the only hope for survival is a liver transplant. The liver is the largest organ inside the human body, consisting of six distinct lobes that are organized into three regions. A healthy liver receives 25 percent of the ejected blood from the heart with each beat, and is able to reserve its power.

The downside to the fact that the liver is a serious powerhouse is that when a disease is in progression, the patient may not exhibit any outward signs until the disease is in the advanced stages. Fortunately, liver cells are able to regenerate themselves. In some cases, this means that the liver is able to revert itself back to a healthy state. It should be noted that very few organs in the body are capable of doing this.

Another interesting fact about the liver is that raw foods that are absorbed by the intestines flow directly to the liver for detoxification. The liver has a big job, as toxins and bacteria are metabolized and detoxified before they are allowed to enter the bloodstream by way of the heart. In essence, the liver protects the heart and other vital organs, most especially the brain, from bacteria and toxins that could cause irreparable damage. As you can see, when the liver becomes compromised, the body becomes prone to a host of serious complications.

Causes of Liver Disease

Perhaps when we think of liver disease, the most common causes that spring to mind are cirrhosis and Hepatitis C. Cirrhosis, otherwise referred to as alcoholic liver disease, is brought on by years of excessive drinking that put strain on the liver. Alcohol is a toxin, and therefore abuse of alcohol forces the liver to try and keep up with the detoxification process. Sometimes this leads to scarring of the liver and dysfunction. Complications associated with cirrhosis include accumulation of fluid in the abdomen, bleeding disorders, hypertension, and confusion.

Hepatitis C is a big problem in the United States, and people who contract this virus often do not exhibit any symptoms. Hepatitis C can be contracted through blood transfusions, needles, unprotected sex, razors, toothbrushes, and the birth process. Approximately one in 70 to 100 people in the United States have Hepatitis C; many do not know they have it. When symptoms do occur, they can include abdominal pain, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, dark urine, pale or clay-colored stools, low-grade fever, and jaundice. Blood tests can reveal if Hepatitis C is the culprit.

Other causes of liver disease include cancer, trauma, anemia, pancreatitis, toxins, or inflammation. It is important to note that liver disease can be secondary to another major illness. Malnutrition also puts undue stress on the liver and can lead to a host of problems. Alcoholics often expose their livers to a double whammy because the liver is inundated with the toxins in alcohol and it is also often malnourished, as problem drinkers tend to substitute liquor for food.

Coping with Liver Disease

In some cases, liver disease can be treated with medications, rest, and a nutritionally dense diet. Hepatitis C patients may do well with treatment involving interferon alpha or a combination treatment of interferon alpha and ribavirin. In addition, patients with Hepatitis C need to avoid alcohol and any foods that may be considered toxic to the liver. Rest is generally recommended during the initial stages of treatment, as the patient will feel more run down.

Liver disease can be prevented in many cases by drinking alcohol in moderation or not at all, eating a healthy diet, abstaining from risky behaviors such as having unprotected sex or sharing needles, and not smoking. Some people who lead healthy lives can still come down with liver disease. The good news is that a healthy person has a much better chance of fighting liver disease than a person who already has a compromised system.

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