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General characteristics

General characteristics

Cirrhosis is a word that describes the condition of unhealthy fibrous scar tissue in the place of normal healthy tissue. It most commonly refers to cirrhosis in the liver when the liver becomes yellowish in colour, smaller in size, denser in its consistency and has considerably reduced functioning. Blood flow through the liver is seriously impaired and the livers overall ability to regenerate itself is lessened as the condition progresses.
The most common causes of liver cirrhosis are continued alcohol abuse, obesity, hepatitis, infection, drugs and gallstones.
Symptoms include fatigue, nausea, jaundice, 'clubbing' of the fingernails, spider capillaries on the face and body, loss of appetite, muscle weakness and pain in the left side of the abdomen.
Herbs and natural healing aim to assist with the regeneration of healthy liver cells, encourage proper blood flow through the liver, assist with the efficient digestion of foods and provide adequate nutrients to the body through specific foods and diet.

Diet and lifestyle

Diet and lifestyle

Base your diet around fresh whole foods such as grains, fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, sprouted nuts and seeds and consider adopting a vegetarian diet while your liver is unwell. Animal foods are rich in proteins and fats, both of which can add further stress to an already damaged and under functioning liver as protein produces ammonia when broken down by digestion. A vegetarian diet will also provide plenty of fibre.

Foods rich in zinc, magnesium, B vitamins, vitamins C, K ,E and beta-carotenes should be regularly eaten. Avoid supplements however and find these nutrients instead from food sources. See 'vitamins' and 'minerals' in the 'natural healing' section of this site for ideas on foods rich in these nutrients.

Foods that are beneficial to the liver include sesame seeds, carrots, beetroot, apples, radishes, lemons and limes, papayas, onions, spinach, globe artichokes, olives and figs.

More easily digestible dairy foods like natural, unsweetened yoghurt and cottage cheese are good to provide protein and other important nutrients.

Avoid all fried foods and processed foods that have been cooked in hot oil.

Include as many raw foods like salads and fresh homemade juices as you can in your diet. The anti-oxidants in fresh plant foods will go a long way to helping the liver heal itself.

Avoid alcohol completely whatever the cause of your cirrhosis. Alcohol is very harmful to an unhealthy liver.

Do not add salt to your food as this can lead to water retention. Avoid all processed and ready meals as they tend to be high in salt.

Avoid junk and sugary foods, included white and processed flour products as the damaged liver can struggle to store excess sugar as glycogen. Eat smaller more frequent meals if low blood sugar (hypoglcaemia) becomes a problem. Opt instead for slow burn complex carbohydrates like oats, rye, amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa etc. Do not use artificial sweeteners as theses can be harmful to the liver.

Useful herbs

Useful herbs

Use tinctures of plants sparingly due to their alcohol content.

Milk thistle seeds are highly beneficial to the liver, they encourage the regeneration of healthy liver cells, promote the flow of bile needed for digestion and are a powerful anti-oxidant. They can be ground up and added to breakfast muesli or other meals. Use a half teaspoon of ground seeds 3 times daily.

A teaspoon each of dandelion root, artichoke leaf, barberry root, burdock root, wild yam root and turmeric to a pint of water can be made into a healing brew by simmering the herbs for 20 minutes and standing for  an hour. Add a pinch of ginger powder or fresh root to each dose and take half a cupful before meals. These herbs will aid with digestion, keep the bowels moving regularly and help to gradually restore proper bloodflow and function to the liver.

Reishi mushroom can also offer protection to the liver against infection and can help the liver in some of it's functions.

A tea made of equal parts of alfalfa leaf, gotu kola leaf and nettle leaf will go a long way to provide beneficial nutrients such as vitamin K, iron, vitamin C as well as assisting with detoxifying. You could use half a teaspoon of each per cup, up to 3 cups daily.

A few drops of cascara tincture daily can benefit the liver and entire digestive system.

Natural healing

Natural healing

Probiotics such as Lactobacilli can help to re-balance the intestinal flora in the favour of the more protective bacteria, thus providing protection against harmful bacteria. This is an important consideration as bacterial induced complications are common occurrences in people with liver cirrhosis.
Try a non-alcoholic preparation of bee propolis daily for its potent anti-viral and anti-infection qualities.
Deep belly laughing has been shown to have beneficial effects on the health of the liver!

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