Cholestasis: Causes, Symptoms, And Natural Remedies

Cholestasis is a serious liver condition in which the flow of bile from the liver stops or slows down. Bile is a fluid that aids the digestion of fats. Normally, bile binds with a waste product called bilirubin and is eliminated from the body. But when the flow of bile is impaired, bilirubin leaks into the bloodstream, gets accumulated, and leads to the many symptoms of cholestasis, including jaundice.

Causes Of Cholestasis

Hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause cholestasis

Cholestasis can be of two types — intrahepatic cholestasis and extrahepatic cholestasis. Intrahepatic cholestasis occurs within the liver and can be due to the following factors:1

  • Pregnancy
  • Alcoholic liver disease
  • Lymphoma
  • Primary biliary cirrhosis ( a condition in which the small bile ducts are slowly damaged)
  • Cirrhosis due to viral hepatitis B or C
  • Drugs
  • Acute hepatitis
  • Tuberculosis
  • Bacterial abscess in the liver

Extrahepatic cholestasis occurs outside the liver and can be caused due to:

  • Cysts
  • Stones in the bile duct
  • Pancreatic tumor
  • Bile duct tumors
  • Narrowing of the bile duct
  • Pancreatitis

Symptoms Of Cholestasis

Cholestasis can cause pain in the abdomen

If you’re facing an irresistible itch on the hands and feet, cholestasis might be at play. Such itching is one of the most common and noticeable symptoms of cholestasis and is caused by the interaction of bile and bile salts with the skin.2 However, the symptoms of cholestasis vary based on the causal factor and may differ from person to person. Symptoms of cholestasis include:

  • Jaundice
  • Dark urine
  • Light-colored stools
  • Upper abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Inability to digest foods

Natural Remedies For Cholestasis

Dandelion root can stimulate bile production

Depending on the underlying cause of cholestasis, doctors may recommend surgery or medications to treat the condition. However, herbs and supplements are known to be effective in relieving cholestasis symptoms.

1. Milk Thistle

Milk thistle is a detoxifying herb that can improve liver health. It can increase the production of bile, reduce inflammation, and repair damaged liver cells.3 Milk thistle can be taken in the form of a liquid extract, tincture, or capsule. However, pregnant or breastfeeding women must consult a doctor before using milk thistle.

2. Guar Gum

Guar gum is a soluble fiber that is extracted from the seeds of the guar plant. It is commonly used to treat diarrhea, diabetes, and to reduce cholesterol levels. But, studies suggest that guar gum can also help with cholestasis by increasing the elimination of bile acid and relieving pruritis or itching.4

3. Dandelion Root

Dandelion has been used for several years to treat problems associated with the liver, bile ducts, and gallbladder. Dandelion root is also used to strengthen the liver and stimulate the production of bile.5 It is available in the form of capsules or extracts.

4. Vitamin K

Cholestasis during pregnancy is harmful to both the mother and the baby as the condition reduces the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins such as D, E, A, and K. Supplementing with vitamin K during this period is of utmost importance as it will regulate blood clotting and improve bone formation. In addition, vitamin K will also reduce the circulation of bile acids in the blood, thus treating cholestasis.6

5. Vitamin D And Calcium

When you suffer from cholestasis, vitamin D is poorly absorbed in the body due to a lack of bile. This, in turn, affects your calcium levels as vitamin D plays an important role in calcium absorption. To prevent deficiencies, eat calcium-rich foods and get some sunlight.

Note: Avoid alcohol and drugs as they can worsen the symptoms of cholestasis and cause liver damage.