Jaundice occurs when the body has too much bilirubin (a yellow-orange pigment produced from the breakdown of old ‘used’ red blood cells). It is a common manifestation of liver problem, though it can be caused by something else. It can occur in adults, though it’s more common in infants.
For quick recovery, you have to eliminate any factors that can affect your healing. Depending on the underlying cause of the problem, here are a few helpful ways to recover from jaundice quickly.
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Unlike in infants, treatment is usually necessary in adults because it’s often caused by certain health conditions that require medical attention. So diagnosing the underlying cause is important to treat the problem effectively.
It is one of the most common causes of jaundice. It hurts the liver, increasing the risk of liver damage and cirrhosis. Poor liver function is not powerful enough to filter and eliminate unnecessary substances, including bilirubin, from the circulation (bloodstream). As a result, this makes jaundice more likely.
Hepatitis treatment depends on what causes the problem. Mostly, it’s caused by virus. This kind of hepatitis is usually acute (short-lived) and will relieve on its own as the liver recovers. But treatment is required if it’s associated with autoimmune disease or something else that requires medical intervention.
Alcoholic liver disease,
Heavy drinking (excessive use of alcohol) will damage the liver. How long it takes to cause liver damage can vary. But typically, the damage occurs for at least 8 to 10 years.
Treatment is dependent upon the extent of liver damage. If the damage is mild, some lifestyle changes may be enough to cope with. But if it has become advanced, medications or even surgical procedures are suggested!
Obstruction of bile duct
Bile, a fluid containing a mix of products (including bilirubin), is produced in the liver and stored in the gallbladder. When you eat, bile is released through bile ducts to help digest foods in the small intestines. But if bile ducts are obstructed (blocked), the distribution of bile is affected. This drives more bilirubin to buildup in the body.
Bile duct obstruction may develop slowly (many years) or abruptly (severe). Medications can help treat things that cause the blockage. For example, if it’s caused by gallstones (hardened, abnormal deposits of digestive fluid), oral medications are available to help dissolve gallstones. But if the blockage is severe, surgery may be recommended to open it.
Rarely, jaundice could also be a consequence of the following conditions:
- Cancer in the pancreas, because it can cause a blocked bile duct.
- Hereditary abnormalities that interfere with the way of the body to handle bilirubin (e.g. Gilbert syndrome and Dubin-Johnson syndrome).
Hepatitis causes inflammation of the liver, increasing the risk of liver damage, cirrhosis, liver cancer, and other liver problems. There are several types of the disease — the main ones in the United States are hepatitis A, B, and C. For hepatitis A and B, vaccines are available so make sure to get the shots. But currently, there is no vaccine of hepatitis C.
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Most of the time, hepatitis is caused by viral infections. Getting infected when you’re recovering from jaundice will interfere with your healing, making the problem take longer to heal.
Even though if your jaundice is not caused by hepatitis, it’s still worth a try to eliminate factors that increase your risk of having the infection!
Keep hands clean!
Hepatitis A can spread through poor hygiene (unclean hands, for example), because the viruses may survive outside the body for many days or even weeks. So it’s important to have good hygiene and always wash hands before eating /handling foods, and after changing a diaper /using the toilet.
Avoid risky behaviors!
Hepatitis B and C can spread through infected body fluids and blood. That’s why, it’s much better to avoid such things as:
- Frequent, unsafe intercourse with different partners. The infection that causes the disease can spread through semen or other body fluids. If possible, always use dental dams and latex condoms to reduce the risk of infection.
- A contact with open wound of someone else who has the disease.
- The use of illegal drugs.
- Unsafe, badly body tattoo or piercing. Because the viruses may be transmitted through unclean needles and improper sterilization! To keep safe, choose one that seriously cares about controlling infections. And the staff should be licensed (well trained).
Don’t share personal items!
Sharing personal items (e.g. nail clippers, razors, toothbrushes, needles, and washcloths) increase the risk of hepatitis B and C. Using one of these items belonging to someone else could be potential to harbor traces of infected body fluids or blood. So keep these items for your personal use only!
Since alcohol can provoke liver inflammation and jaundice, it’s important to drink only in moderation. If possible, stop drinking – this abstinence is the best treatment to recover quickly if your jaundice is caused by alcoholic liver disease.
But it’s usually hard to completely stop drinking if you have been going with it a long time. Often, this requires rehabilitation programs.
Abstinence plays a key role for the prognosis of alcoholic live disease. If you stop drinking early enough before cirrhosis (permanent liver damage) occurs, the inflammation and swelling of the liver are reversible. Even when the scar tissues of the liver have become advanced, abstinence is still one of the best ways to cope with.
The body has its own amazing ability to heal and repair itself, that’s your body immune system. This system involves complex process (including thousands of biological and chemical reactions) to help you recover quickly after serious illness. It also plays a role to protect the body against infections, including infectious diseases like hepatitis.
Jaundice may come up with other symptoms such as a tendency to bruise, fever, weakness, loss of appetite, headache, swelling in the legs, or confusion (depending on the underlying cause) — which some may drive you to become inactive (sedentary). But when you’re ready for exercise, don’t delay it.
Regular exercise is an important part of healthy living. It can help boost your general health status, so can your immune system. It’s a good way to promote good circulation, allowing cells of the body (including liver cells) to do their function more effectively. But you may need to ask your doctor first before exercise. Also, rest as needed!
Deal with stress!
Stress is quite common during recovery. Other symptoms of what causes your jaundice may make you become frustrated. And if your stress is out of control, this could be counterproductive for your recovery and overall health.
Emotional stress can cause physiological effects. It increases your hormone cortisol. And prolonged elevation (higher than normal) of cortisol will suppress the body immune system, which is bad for your recovery.
But there are many options to help make your stress ease up. See also some effective ways for stress relief!
Get enough sleep!
There is an old wives’ tale that you will get sick more easily if you don’t sleep well – and this is true. In fact, sleep is one of important pillars of healthy living.
Sleep deprivation may make you more prone to have infections, including some that cause hepatitis. It might also suppress the immune system function. Many studies show that stress has to do with elevated inflammatory cytokines and drop amounts of T-cells (a kind of white blood cells for immune responses).
Smoking may cause negative effects for the prognosis of alcoholic liver disease. Tobacco smoke contains lots of toxins, which some could provoke inflammation and scarring of the liver.
Furthermore, it may drive more production of cytokines in the body. It’s also thought of as ‘carcinogen’ – it might increase the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma (a kind of liver cancer) in people with hepatitis B and C.
Nicotine in tobacco smoke may also make some complications of liver disease more likely. It causes narrowing of blood vessels by increasing the amounts of fat in the blood. With liver disease, the risk of high fat levels in the blood and portal hypertension may significantly increase when added to nicotine.
Unfortunately, the connection between smoking and liver damage is not fully understood, more studies are required. However along with a host of other lifestyle measures, quitting (in smokers) is often suggested to cope with jaundice and other symptoms of liver disease. Many experts believe that it is worth a try to help control and prevent the damage from worsening, though the link isn’t well established yet.
Being obese or overweight with jaundice may worsen the underlying cause, making the symptom take longer to relieve. Obesity is a risk factor of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Also, it increases the risk of having a blocked bile duct, because excess fats you gain will make gallstones more likely!
So maintaining healthy-body weight is a must. Keep it off by doing regular exercise and choosing a healthy diet!
If you’re overweight /obese, lose your weight gradually. Rapid weight loss is not recommended. This could be counterproductive, because it may even drive more gallstones in the gallbladder.
A sudden, significant decrease in body weight is also associated with the following health risks:
- Malnutrition, which is also bad when you’re recovering from jaundice.
- Dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.
- Sometimes it causes menstrual irregularities.
- Other side effects may include upset stomach (constipation), headache, dizziness, muscle loss, irritability, and hair loss.
Furthermore, it’s usually harder to maintain weight from rapid change because you’re more likely to regain more pounds of weight afterwards.
Your diet is not only critical to maintain healthy weight, but also has a role to boost your body immune system and treat the underlying cause of jaundice. Though there may be no specific diet for jaundice, here are a few things to remember:
- Eat plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and other healthy-nutritious foods so your body has enough nutrients to optimally support the body functions (including the immune system).
- Focus on healthy-balanced diet. Eat everything in balance, even healthy ones (e.g. fresh fruits and vegetables) contain calories. Also, eat meals regularly (never skip meals, including breakfast)!
- Restrict foods that increase the risk of diabetes or worsen your blood sugar control (if you’re diabetic), because uncontrolled diabetes increases the risk of both liver disease and bile duct obstruction. The common culprits include sugar-sweetened drinks, highly-processed carbohydrates (like white flour), and foods high in saturated fats (highly-processed red meats, for example).
- Avoid things that might hide traces of hepatitis viruses, such as raw shellfish, oysters, and mussels – or make sure they’re well cooked! Even sometimes fresh fruits could also spread the viruses. Therefore wash everything well before you eat, even though when you want to peel it.
- Keep hydrated to help the liver work easily! Without enough water, it’s harder for the liver to flush out unnecessary things (including bilirubin) from the blood.
- Cut down on salt! Liver disease may cause portal hypertension. Diet high in salt will make the complication more likely!
- For more guidance about healthy foods and worst things in diet with liver disease, see also this post!
If you have cirrhosis, you may need to follow a restricted diet to control the disease. In such case, ask your doctor or dietitian first before making diet changes.
There are certain medicines that make the liver work harder, increasing the risk of liver disease. These include penicillin, steroids, some birth control pills, and acetaminophen. Taking these medicines may worsen jaundice, especially if you take them in wrong ways.
To keep safe, take medications (especially some that have an effect on the liver) only as prescribed and instructed by your doctor or health care practitioner! Also, ask your doctor first before using any alternative treatments (e.g. supplements and herb products)!
And if you’re using certain medicines for another condition, tell your doctor! Again, it’s important to avoid some that probably cause detrimental side effects for the prognosis and outcome of your jaundice – or use them at lowest dose possible!