Medically, doctors say cirrhosis from alcohol has no cure. Once the permanent scarring of the liver occurs, it’s irreversible. However each case is unique. A number of treatment options are available to prevent the damage from worsening. And believe or not, there is always a chance ‘miracle’ of reversing the damage, though it’s hard to do. Here are a few natural ways and remedies to help increase your chance of healing the damage.
Alcohol makes your liver work harder. Over time it will take a serious toll on your liver health. Although drinking in moderation is acceptable for most people, the story is completely different when you have cirrhosis.
Even small amounts of drink could be fatal if your liver is not healthy enough to handle alcohol. That’s why you need to stop drinking otherwise your liver damage could be much worse. Studies show that continuing drinking with cirrhosis will significantly worsen the outcome of the disease.
Abstinence is the best way to deal with cirrhosis from alcohol. It plays a key role to prevent the liver damage from worsening. We can say it’s impossible to reverse the damage without abstinence.
Unfortunately, it’s not easy to stop drinking when you’re already addicted to alcohol. Also, there are some withdrawal symptoms (e.g. irritability, hallucinations, anxiety, and seizures) which could turn into serious if not properly treated. Quitting very suddenly will make these symptoms more likely!
Therefore it’s important to properly reduce your alcohol levels. You may need a number of approaches and strategies to make sure you can handle the urge safely. These may include counseling, detoxification program, and medications (if necessary). Get a medical supervision for more guidance!
Hepatitis, inflammation of the liver caused by infections, is a serious threat for liver health. It’s one of common causes for cirrhosis. And having hepatitis when you already have cirrhosis could be fatal. So get the shots of vaccines against hepatitis, if you haven’t already.
Vaccines are available for hepatitis A and B. Unluckily, hepatitis C has no vaccine yet. So to keep safe, avoid things that increase the risk of the infection. Here are a few examples that may help:
- Be extra careful when you need to involve in public areas where many different persons are in close quarters. Hepatitis viruses can spread through body fluids like saliva, stool, and blood. Wash your hands cleanly after using toilet, changing diaper, or before serving /eating foods.
- Don’t share your personal items (e.g. razors, toothbrushes, or towel) with someone else! Also, avoid someone else’s needles; they may harbor traces of infected fluid (blood). And only get body piercings (tattoos) from professionals who have serious commitment about controlling infections!
- Do safe intercourse! If you think your partner may be infected, get tests for hepatitis – because it’s possible to have hepatitis for years without any symptoms.
Your diet is one of important pillars for improving the recovery and preventing the condition from worsening. Some foods can help make cirrhosis symptoms ease up. But there are also certain foods that make things worse, especially ones that cause your liver work harder and make the complications of your cirrhosis more likely.
Eat well for healthy weight!
Being obese can factor into fatty liver disease. And did you know the combination of alcohol and obesity will significantly hurt the liver, much worse than the effect of alcohol or obesity alone?!
Obesity is also more likely to worsen /increase the risk of other liver problems — e.g. liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma) and hepatitis. So it’s important to have healthy body weight, especially when the liver is recovering from injury or something else.
But while obesity increases the risk of liver damage for various reasons, you may find it difficult to eat with cirrhosis. The condition can cause appetite loss, making weight loss and even malnutrition more likely to occur. Find out more this topic in this section!
Whether or not your appetite is affected, it’s important to eat right to make sure your body get enough nutrients so you can recover optimally! And if you’re obese or overweight, lose weight gradually.
What to eat and what to avoid?
When the liver is abnormally functioning, your body tends to retain more fluid. This results in buildups of fluid in the legs, abdomen, or other parts of the body. That’s why it’s important to reduce your dietary sodium (salt). Diet high in sodium may also provoke other cirrhosis complications more likely (e.g. portal hypertension and enlargement of the spleen).
You may also need to reduce your protein intake, especially animal-derived protein. This is particularly true if you experience altered mental function.
However protein is one of crucial nutrients required by the body – it’s still required to make sure you’re well nourished. To keep safe, get most of your dietary protein from plant sources. Also, never eat large amounts of protein (including plant-derived protein) at one time.
Your dietary factors can help prevent hepatitis, too. For examples, ensure your meals are not undercooked. Skip ‘street’ foods and dairy products when you’re traveling to areas where hepatitis viruses are common!
See also other bad and good foods for your liver health in here!
The bad news, it’s usually difficult to eating right with cirrhosis from alcohol. The effect of alcohol might cause your appetite decrease more drastically, increasing the risk of malnutrition. The toxic byproducts of alcohol may also interfere with the ability of your body to break down and absorb nutrients. For these reasons, sometimes nutrition therapy is necessary. Your doctor can prescribe nutritional supplements (if required).
A few herbal treatments are available for cirrhosis. But mostly, they have not been approved by FDA because there is no enough data showing that they actually work (effective).
So talk with your doctor first before using them. This is also important to make sure they will not become counterproductive for your healing, because some may interfere with certain medications for cirrhosis or provoke some cirrhosis complications.
It’s thought to be helpful to slow the liver damage. It has an active substance called silibinin, which is powerful to provide detoxifying effects. A few limited studies show that it might help the liver recover from alcohol-related liver disease, but other studies has not found the benefit (more studies are required).
But it’s not recommended when the complications of cirrhosis have occurred, for instance when you already have ascites (swelling in the abdomen).
Glycyrrhizin, a licorice root extract may promise a benefit for treating liver disease and hepatitis C. But again, scientifically we don’t know enough yet to exactly determine whether or not it’s actually helpful for cirrhosis. How it works and its long-term health benefits still remain puzzling.
Nevertheless, there are now many holistic physicians use this increasingly popular herb to help ease cirrhosis symptoms and complications. But though it seems harmless, it carries powerful side effects. So use it only as directed by your doctor or other professionals!
In TCM (traditional Chinese medicine), for years this herb has been used to help treat numerous different types of liver disease. Some herbalists believe that it might have a significant effect to improve the overall health of the liver.
There is still no evidence that it works for reversing the liver damage due to cirrhosis. But it may help make some cirrhosis symptoms ease up. Also, it might reduce the risk of liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinomas) in people with cirrhosis, according to the Japanese study at Osaka City University Medical School.
How about apple cider vinegar (ACV)?
It’s unclear whether ACV can provide a benefit for cirrhosis. But it’s well established that it can help maintain healthy body weight and good for controlling blood sugar. These benefits may help soothe some cirrhosis symptoms.
Read more the benefits of apple cider vinegar for liver problems in this post!
Talk with your doctor about medications that you need most! This is dependent on the symptoms and complications you have.
Also, stop smoking! Tobacco smoke is bad for your overall health. On the other hand, quitting may help improve your chance of becoming a better candidate for transplantation (liver transplant) when you need one.