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Signs and Symptoms of Liver Disease or Damage:
In the twenty-first century, we are seeing more and more liver disease and not necessarily from street drugs or alcohol abuse. (Although that still plays a large role.) No, in fact much has to do with diet - mostly poor food choices, toxic environments and over-use of prescription drugs.
Common Signs of Liver Damage in Humans:
1) General malaise/fatigue
2) Digestive distrubances, especially when trying to digest fats.
3) Jaundice or yellowing of the skin, eyes, etc.
4) Edema or swelling, especially of the abdomen and ankles/feet
5) Pain under right rib cage
6) Allergies or chemical sensitivites, when none had existed before.
7) Nausea and/or vomiting
8) Itching of the skin, can be anywhere on the body.
9) Very light or clay coloured stools.
10) Mental confusion (usually later stage damage of the liver)
Function of the Liver in Humans:
The liver is an organ in vertebrates,(life forms with spinal columns) including humans. It plays a major role in metabolism and has a number of functions in the body including glucose storage in the form of glycogen (for energy, when needed), plasma (blood fluid) protein synthesis (production), and detoxification (drugs, toxins,waste products from our own metabolism).
It also produces bile, which is important in digestion. It performs and regulates a wide variety of high-volume biochemical reactions requiring specialized tissues. Medical terms related to the liver often start in hepato- or hepatic from the Greek word for liver, hepar.
Location of the Liver:
As seen in the diagram below, the location of the liver is under the right lower ribs, below the lungs and heart and it slightly wraps around the top surface of the stomach.
|The adult human liver normally weighs between 1.3 - 3.0 kilograms,(about 3 to 6.5 lbs.) and is a soft, pinkish-brown "boomerang shaped" organ. It is the second largest organ (the largest organ being the skin) and the largest gland within the human body.
The liver is among the few internal human organs capable of natural regeneration of lost tissue; as little as 25% of remaining liver can regenerate into a whole liver again. This is predominantly due to the hepatocytes (cells of the liver) acting as unipotential stem cells (i.e. a single hepatocyte can divide into two hepatocyte daughter cells).
Functions of the Liver:
The various functions of the liver are carried out by the liver cells or hepatocytes.
- The liver produces and excretes bile required for dissolving fats. Some of the bile drains directly into the duodenum,(second section of the small intestine) and some is stored in the gallbladder.
- The liver performs several roles in carbohydrate metabolism. Glucose is the most important base carbohydrate for all your cell, especially for your brain, so the live can 'make' it when you don't have enough in your system:
- Gluconeogenesis (the formation of glucose from certain amino acids,(building blocks of protein) making lactate or glycerol)
- Glycogenolysis (the formation of glucose from glycogen) This is the process of breaking down stored glucose, which is called glycogen.)
- Glycogenesis (the formation of glycogen from glucose) To put it into storage form for when you need it.
- The breakdown of insulin and other hormones..once used, they have to be gotten rid of.
- The liver is responsible for the mainstay of protein metabolism...sort of the central warehouse of protein operations.
- The liver also performs several roles in lipid (fat) metabolism:
- Cholesterol synthesis (remember..its needed to make hormones and cell walls ..See The Truth About Cholesterol
- The production of triglycerides (fats)...again for storage purposes..they are only a problem when you make too much.
- The liver produces coagulation factors I (fibrinogen), II (prothrombin), V, VII, IX, X and XI, as well as protein C, protein S and antithrombin. Basically these factors control the formation and breakdown of your clotting pathways. (ie after injury, etc.)
- The liver breaks down hemoglobin, (the iron carrying part of your red blood cells) creating metabolites that are added to bile as pigment. (this is why bile is yellow)
- The liver breaks down toxic substances and most medicinal products in a process called drug/toxin detoxification. This sometimes results in toxication, when the metabolite is more toxic than its precursor...particularly if your liver is damaged.
- The liver converts ammonia (bi-product of protein production and breakdown, and is VERY toxic to us in high amounts, so this conversion is essential.) to urea...which is excreted by the kidneys as part of urine.
- The liver stores a multitude of substances, including glucose in the form of glycogen, vitamin B12, iron, and copper...again for when you need it.
- In the first trimester fetus, the liver is the main site of red blood cell production. By the 32nd week of gestation, the bone marrow has almost completely taken over that task.
- The liver is responsible for immunological effects- the reticuloendothelial system of the liver contains many immunologically active cells, acting as a 'sieve' for antigens(things that you are allergic to or are harmful to you) carried to it via the portal (liver's blood and lymph system) system.
Liver Disease and Damage:
Some of the most common causes of liver disease are:
-Many diseases of the liver are accompanied by jaundice caused by increased levels of bilirubin in the system. The bilirubin results from the breakup of the hemoglobin of dead red blood cells; normally, the liver removes bilirubin from the blood and excretes it through bile.
-Hepatitis, inflammation of the liver, caused mainly by various viruses but also by some poisons, autoimmunity or hereditary conditions.
-Cirrhosis is the formation of fibrous tissue in the liver, replacing dead liver cells. The death of the liver cells can for example be caused by viral hepatitis, alcoholism or contact with other liver-toxic chemicals.
-Hemochromatosis, a hereditary disease causing the accumulation of iron in the body, eventually leading to liver damage.
-Cancer of the liver (primary hepatocellular (cells of the liver itself) carcinoma or cholangiocarcinoma(cells of the gall bladder and its ducts) and metastatic cancers, usually from other parts of the gastrointestinal tract..(digestive)).
-Wilson's disease, a hereditary disease which causes the body to retain copper.
-Primary biliary cirrhosis, autoimmune disease of small bile ducts.
-Gilbert's syndrome, a genetic disorder of bilirubin metabolism, found in about 5% of the population.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Liver Disease
Hepatitis is characterised by fatigue, malaise,(weakness) joint aches, abdominal pain, vomiting 2-3 times per day for the first 5 days, loss of appetite, dark urine, fever, hepatomegaly (enlarged liver) and jaundice (icterus).
Some chronic forms of hepatitis show very few of these signs and only present when the longstanding inflammation has led to the replacement of liver cells by connective tissue; (scar tissue) the result is cirrhosis. Certain liver function tests can also indicate hepatitis.
For a full discussion of hepatitis C symptoms and hepatitis C treatment..visit here
Cirrhosis is a consequence of chronic liver disease characterized by replacement of liver tissue by fibrotic scar tissue as well as regenerative nodules, leading to progressive loss of liver function. Cirrhosis is most commonly caused by alcoholism and hepatitis C, and was the 12th leading cause of death in the United States in 2000.
|Ascites (retention of water in the abdomen) is the most common complication of cirrhosis and is associated with a poor quality of life, increased risk of infections, and a poor long term outcome. In advanced stages of cirrhosis, the condition is irreversible and the only option would be a liver transplant.
Picture of a liver with cirrhosis vs. a normal liver
Liver Treatment and Support for Cirrhosis and Fibrosing of the Liver
In a recent article published in the The Times in London, England researchers have actually found some hope for increasing the survival in patients with liver cirrhosis.
It seems that by turning off an an inflammatory molecule know as nuclear factor kappa beta (NFKB) which in essence is responsible for a lot of the damage caused by alcohol, obesity or something like Hep C..you can stop and even reverse some of the scarring associated with cirrhosis and liver damage.
The drug they are using is Sulphasalazine. It can be given to people even when they have not totally stopped drinking..and still help their liver improve...at least that is what its showin in the animal testing. My problem with this drug is that it comes with a bevy of side effects.
Now, its very interesting...that in the world of functional medicine we have been using an ayruvedic combination of herbs to decrease the activity of NFKB. The supplement is called Kaprex...and it was orignially designed to reduce the inflammation connected with many chronic health problems such as irritable bowel disease, arthritis, heart conditions, etc.
I decided, after reading this article, that it was worth a try for a few of my patients with cirrhosis.
Its too early to tell specifically...BUT...they are feeling better, more energy and their lab liver enzyme tests have improved. Of course to actually see if there are changes in the scarring on their livers..its going to take biopsies, which is a bit extreme. In time they may opt for that..but for now, they are definitely better.
Kaprex is simply a very cleverly designed herbal formulation by Metagenics, so is for many reasons a good supplement to decrease inflammation in the whole system...something which is a real concern in today's health...even if one is not overtly ill.
Liver Cleansing Diet:
Most liver problems..whether it be profound disease or just congestion and need for detoxification would show some of the above symptoms. Also you'd find in blood testing certain enzymes present in the blood to be higher than normal from acute liver cell destruction.
Total Internal Body Cleanse Better Than One Like Hulda Clark Liver Cleanse
Now before I get all kinds of hate mail..let me explain. The Hulda Clark Liver Cleanse has been very helpful to literally scads of people. But when one really thinks about it....if you are feeling less than tip top or there are actual health problems whereby a liver cleanse has been suggested....does it not make FAR more sense to cleanse all body systems at the same time???
This Total Internal Body Cleanse does just that...7..count them..7 different systems cleansed in 21 days!
Internal Cleansing Kit and Free Bonus Colon Cleansing Kit ($89.50 Value!)
Cleanse the Digestive System, Liver and Gall Bladder, Parasite Cleanse, Lungs, Kidney and Bladder, Lymph/Blood and Skin...there is no more to do!
Liver Support-Detox and Healing:
I have listed below several liver support products I use in the office with great success. Yes, I have even seen liver cancer go into remission with these type of protocols...although we can never guarantee this.
An outline on the products I've listed and why I use them:
See my page on Mercury Detoxification to read an explanation of Phase I and Phase II Detox, the actual steps the liver goes through to clear your body of toxins.
|Our top overall liver function and detox supplement is Glutaclear
Glutaclear is a superior and effectiveupregulator of glutathione, your body's number one antioxidant and detoxifying molecule.
It also contains other elements to enhance the Glutathione cycle.
|One of the most important enzymes your body makes with glutathione and selenium is glutathione peroxidase. This is actually the enzyme which 'grabs' mercury, for example and takes it out of your body. The is the best form of selenium to use..SelenoMethionine
|For good overall nutrition and support of liver function, this combination is superb. LIVDETOX covers all the key and essential requirements for a healthy liver.
|In liver detoxification, Phase I (described in detail Here ) it is very important to have a high-end antioxidant combination present in your cells for the cascade of steps the liver must go through for the liver to detoxify and stop liver disease symptoms. Oxygenics is one of my favourites for this purpose.
|Some people prefer to use herbal remedies and for that we have HepatoDr.
An organic/wild-crafted blend of Milk Thistle, Dandelion, Oregon Grape, Wild Yam and Culver's Root and Globe Artichoke.
Details on Hepato Dr.
Hepto Dr is such a fine, effective remedy, that I wanted to go into more detail on it for you. Its contents are:
Probably the most liver protective and regenerative of herbs, even against one of the most virulent liver toxins known--the Amanita Phalloides or the Death Mushroom. Usually toxicity from this if eaten is extreme, but Milk Thistle protects, 100% against it.
It is also effective against liver cirrhosis, necroses and hepatitis A and B. Milk Thistle also lowers fat deposits in the liver, so is good for 'fatty liver'.
Addresses many liver and gall bladder problems, lowers cholesterol and aids in digestion of fats.
Has the ability to clear obstruction from the liver and aid in elimination of toxins. It also does the same for the spleen, pancreas, gall bladder, bladder and kidneys, so overall is a wonderful blood purifier. As a result it also helps balance hypoglycemia and lower blood pressure.
Culver's Root is actually an old time American doctors' remedy for liver congestion accompanied by constipation, a common consequence of sluggish liver.
Wild Yam is for the colic and gas associated with liver problems. It is anti-spasmodic and so also helps with pains of gallstones, abdominal or intestinal cramps and even menstrual cramping.
Stimulates the flow of bile through the liver, so can be used for all liver and gall bladder disease. By purifying and cleansing the liver this way, it also acts well to clear skin conditions.
Tissue Drainage Before Liver Detoxification:
Often, particularly when someone has been ill for a long time and the liver is very damaged, it's a good idea to open the detoxification pathways, being the lymph, liver and kidneys. These are the three drainage remedies I use, made by a small family-owned company. They are just excellent and have given me astonishing results:
|Herba-Lega-H is a liver tonic and cleanser to start ramping up the whole liver detox process, particularly when it is sluggish and there is liver congestion.
|Herba-Lymph is the drainage remedy of choice for your lymphatic system
|Herba-Petro is to cleanse and tone the kidneys, which even though we are talking mainly about the liver here, when we talk detoxification we must also include the kidneys as then do a good portion of the work.
Liver Digestion Aids:
The liver through its production of bile, is the key factor in fat digestion. This often becomes more of a problem as we age and the liver is congested, busy doing other functions from our exposures to toxins ...the longer we are on this planet.
In fact, the liver making bile is one of the ways your cholesterol is used up and therefore less is around to cause heart and artery damage.
While the liver is under stress, using digestive aids is a great idea. Some people use these for a couple of months until things are working better again and then just occasionally if they know they're going to have a higher fat meal, for example...i.e. eating out in a restaurant.
|Emulsi Formula works incredibly well to emulsify fats and aid in their metabolism particularly when the liver is not making enough bile or your gall bladder (where bile is stored) is not secreting well. As you're working on relieving liver congestion and bile flow, this will be of great help and reduce the colicky pain associated with gall bladder problems.
|For those who rather have a herbal approach we have Canadian Bitters as an excellent digestive aid.
This page is just an outline to get you started in looking after your liver. Remember to sign up for when I finish my full book on this subject below:
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