Chronic liver disease is a serious problem, occurring more and more frequently; in 2010 the number of deaths in the US alone hit 31,903. (cdc.gov)
What is it?
Cirrhosis or Chronic Liver Disease is a gradual destruction of liver tissue, waging a war on your liver cells preventing them from doing their job. The main cause of this is something called Fibrosis of the liver. Fibrosis is the growth and buildup of scar tissue, caused by inflammation, injury, infection and a healing process of our bodies. Scar tissue build up can happen to any organ in the body, when affecting the liver it inhibits the livers ability to function properly.
Our liver is our most important organ for detoxifying our bodies, ensuring every cell in our body is healthy and functioning normally. When the liver begins to fail and not do its job we see symptoms pop up, some more severe than others.
Symptoms of Liver Failure
While some symptoms of liver disease may seem very generic or vague, they are signals your body is sending to you, letting you know something is wrong and needs to addressed. If you have concerns that you may have liver disease contact your doctor and have it professionally diagnosed.
Early warning signs of liver disease can include:
Nausea and loss of appetite are common symptoms of the early stages of liver disease, this is a sign there is a problem with the production of bile to break down fats in the intestine during digestion.
Fatigue is a universal symptom of liver disease, a sign that your liver isn’t detoxifying blood properly. The liver produces, processes and regulates all sorts of essential functions in the body, if any of these are not balanced properly you will notice a dramatic change in energy levels.
Diarrhea is another way your liver is telling you it isn’t working properly. Flushing out partially digested foods without breaking them down properly to ensure you absorb the nutrients you should be.
Later more severe symptoms include:
Jaundice, a yellowing of the eye, inside the mouth as well as darker brown colored urine and pale stool color. This occurs when the liver is overloaded, damaged or too many red blood cells are dying, causing a buildup of Bilirubin, normally processed by the liver, will redistribute itself in the bloodstream causing it to show up in the eyes and mucous membranes.
Anemia or excessive bleeding due to problems with blood clotting. About ¾ of people with chronic liver disease will have this symptom, caused by lack of red blood cells.
Swollen abdomen caused by a build up fluid, built up over weeks and months this can be very painful. A major concern is the fluid becoming infected, increasing pain and risk of severe infection.
Mental disorientation will occur when the build of toxins becomes so great that it will actually interfere with brain function. Leaving you feeling confused, and even cause a loss of consciousness. If the liver isn’t constantly ridding the body of these toxins the symptoms only get worse.
Causes of Chronic Liver Disease
Hepatitis is a leading cause of liver disease, essentially inflammation of the liver. It can be a long term issue known as chronic hepatitis or shorter term known as acute hepatitis.
Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol is the most common cause of liver disease. While drinking alcohol is not considered healthy in any quantity, try to reduce your consumption and make it an infrequent activity. For help with excessive drinking you can turn to your local organization for help, find them with a simple google search, New Jersey alcohol detoxification or A.A.
Fatty liver disease is usually but not always associated with being overweight. It is a liver with excessive amounts of fat both in the cells and in the spaces of the liver causing an enlarged and heavy organ that is unable to filter and clean the blood allowing toxins and fat to build up. Left unattended it can lead to cirrhosis, diabetes and worse.
Immune function problems can lead to liver disease, overloading your liver with toxins, the stress of which will eventually cause liver failure.
Liver Fibrosis is the buildup of scar tissue, caused by inflammation. Repeated liver damage will cause an excessive buildup of this tissue,resulting in cirrhosis and causing a serious disruption in blood flow and basic liver functions. Fibrosis of the liver can be reversed, but if the cause of the damage continues the problem will only get worse.
Prevent Chronic Liver Disease
Some simple steps can be taken to help prevent chronic liver disease, or help reverse the damage that has been caused to date, allowing your liver to detoxify your blood and maintain general immune health.
Proper diet – This is the most important factor in liver health. A proper diet will provide your body with the nourishment it needs to fight infection and won’t overload your liver with toxins. Ensuring your liver is not overworked or inflamed.
Reduce or Eliminate Alcohol consumption – This is the most common and may be the hardest step for a lot of people to take. Simply moderate your alcohol consumption, keep it to a minimum. Daily consumption of alcohol will cause your liver to become overworked, inflamed, damaged and then scar tissue begins to build. Prolonged use will cause liver disease and liver failure.
Try to avoid sharing things such as toothbrushes or razors, these toiletries can host dangerous germs that can cause liver function problems.
Proper hygiene is a huge factor, germs build up on your hands and spread like wildfire, minimize the risk of contamination by frequent hand washing.
Some more obvious risks include
Tattoo and piercing. If getting these done, ensure only the highest hygienic practices are in place. Contaminated needles are a huge risk for infection.
Use condoms when having sex! The exchange of bodily fluids is the easiest way for infection to spread. Practice safe sex and avoid these risks.
Intravenous drugs, if you do take drugs that you inject, do not share needles. This is the reason many “safe havens” provide shelter and clean needles for drug users, preventing the spread of disease.
Don’t eat mysterious wild mushrooms! Some relatively harmless seeming mushrooms can cripple your immune system in hours. Halting liver function completely, causing extreme pain and often death.
Now That You Know
Take these preventative measures, practice a healthy lifestyle; you will be rewarded with a healthily functioning liver and proper immune function. You don’t have to stop indulging in your favorite unhealthy activities, just make them more infrequent. With consistent healthy choices, your liver will be more prepared and better equipped to deal with the toxins that we can’t avoid, whether that’s a glass of wine with dinner or our polluted air and water.