Liver cirrhosis is the last stage of chronic (ongoing) liver diseases. It is defined as development of widespread nodules in the liver, and fibrosis. Fibrosis occurs when scar tissue accumulates in excess; this is a result of ongoing inflammation and liver cell death. Scar tissue replaces normal, healthy liver tissue, preventing the liver from working as it is supposed to
The liver is responsible for carrying out several essential functions, some of them being detoxification of harmful substances in your body, purifying blood and producing vital nutrients. When cirrhosis is present, the liver starts losing the ability to perform its most essential functions. If not treated soon, this vital organ will end up failing altogether, putting the patient at risk of death.
It takes years, even decades for a chronic liver disease to become cirrhosis. Unfortunately, there’s no cure for cirrhosis, and the best way to prevent it is to diagnose and treat your chronic liver disease as early as possible.
Lifestyle Habits That Lead To Cirrhosis
Here are some lifestyle choices that lead to the potentially fatal cirrhosis.
1. Drinking Too Much Or Too Often
Consuming uncontrollable quantities of alcohol is the most common cause of cirrhosis and liver scarring (fibrosis).1For some of us, it is one or two glasses of wine as a way of unwinding after a hectic day at work. Sometimes, the stress of a busy career also influences our drinking habits. For a lot of others, it’s part of going to nightclubs and weekend get-togethers and letting our hair down. Even if we don’t have the habit of drinking too much, we allow ourselves to get carried away many times because of peer pressure.
Alcohol is particularly dangerous for the liver because when it is metabolized by the liver, the resulting components, mainly acetaldehyde, are highly toxic and damaging. More than 90 percent of people who drink heavily develop fatty liver, a type of liver disease. Yet only 20 percent will go on to develop the more severe alcoholic liver disease and liver cirrhosis.2
There are ways to control the urge to drink so often.
- Professional Help – If you’re an alcoholic, reach out to a professional who can help you overcome this addiction. Set a goal for yourself and be persistent about wanting to reduce your alcohol intake.
- No Alcohol At Home – Avoid keeping alcohol in the house. Chances are, you’ll be too lazy to go out and buy yourself a drink after you get home from work.
- Avoid Peer Pressure – Most importantly, try to avoid peer groups that drink a lot, for it is understandable for you to want to go back to your old ways once you see your friends doing it.
2. Exposure To Hepatitis
This is an inflammation of the liver and is very often caused by a virus. Hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C are the most common forms, of which chronic hepatitis B and C can cause cirrhosis. Hepatitis B is transmitted from one person to another through body fluids like blood and semen. While hepatitis C is caused by blood-to-blood contact. People suffering from chronic hepatitis C usually stand a one-in-four chance of developing cirrhosis. This virus basically attacks the liver and if not treated soon, will ultimately result in inflammation and chronic damage to the liver.
- Avoid Unprotected Sex – It doesn’t hurt to have responsible sex. Make sure to get yourself and your partner tested for hepatitis B. In case you are someone who has hepatitis B, be honest about it with your partner so that he or she can get tested. If your partner does not report hepatitis B, and is not already immune to it, a vaccine called Hepatitis B immune globulin is recommended. This works like an antibody, quickly fighting infection. It can also be given to a partner who has been exposed to any of your body fluids within two weeks after exposure to fight infection. Even after being vaccinated, be sure to always use a condom.
- Stop Drug Abuse – If you think yourself to be a victim of drug abuse, do consider therapy, medicines, and a variety of other methods that are available to help you quit or cut down on your drug use. Consult a counselor or a doctor about substance abuse treatment. Some treatment programs also facilitate the provision of medicines such as methadone or buprenorphine to people on an outpatient basis to help them quit using drugs like heroin or Opana. In case you must keep using needles – be sure to always use new needles. Clean your needles with bleach only when you can’t find new ones, and when you’re done, make sure to dispose them off properly.
- Sterilized Needles For Getting Inked – If you want to get yourself a tattoo or a body piercing, don’t get lured by small, unclean tattoo parlors that offer you services at a lower cost. It is always advisable to do prior research about your tattooist first, always cross-check if the instruments used are properly sterilized, and firmly insist on a new needle being used. On no account, must you settle for a needle that has been previously used. 3
3. Too Much Fast Food
Eating fast food on a daily basis is not just bad for your waistline but can have a devastating effect on your liver, in ways that are surprisingly similar to hepatitis.4
The amount of saturated fat and unsaturated fats, monosodium glutamate (MSG) and high-fructose corn syrup in foods like french fries, fried chicken, burgers, and pizzas leads to a buildup of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. In this case, the excess fat accumulates in the form of an exorbitant amount of triglycerides in the liver, which occupy more than 5% of liver cells. This means that the fat forms 5% of the weight of the liver as compared to that in normal condition (in which there is hardly any fat present in the liver). The result? A severe injury to your liver cells due to the fat which further leads to inflammation and fibrosis. In addition to the risk of liver failure, there is also an increased risk of developing liver cancer or complete dysfunction of the liver.
The good news it that fatty liver is a reversible condition (provided it’s found in the early stages) that can be resolved with changed behaviors.
- Have a Balanced, Healthy Diet – The liver converts an excess of carbohydrates into fat. Try and avoid bread, pasta, rice, breakfast cereals, and potatoes. Try to stay away from too much alcohol, as the liver converts this into fats too. Fruits and veggies, both cooked and raw, can help to cleanse and repair the liver and restore its ability to trap and remove more fat and toxins from the bloodstream (if you have high blood sugar or insulin resistance, it’s best to limit your fruit intake to 2 servings a day). Protein consumption with each meal is important because it helps to keep the blood sugar level stable, helps with weight loss from the abdomen, and reduces hunger pangs. Incorporate eggs, poultry, seafood, meat, nuts, seeds, whey protein powder, legumes, and dairy products in your diet. Since a balanced diet demands a certain amount of healthy fats too, you can consider including olive oil, oily fish, flaxseeds, coconut oil, raw nuts, and seeds.
- Exercise – It is important to exercise on a regular basis. You don’t have to run marathons, but a quick jog or a brisk walk and even a few simple stretches can go a long way if you choose to be disciplined about it.
- Liver Tonic –You can also choose a good liver tonic to promote damaged liver cell repair and to facilitate the fat burning and detoxification abilities of the liver. Do not, however, make your own decision when it comes to buying liver tonics. Consult your doctor first and see what he recommends for your condition.
It is important to remember that this is not an overnight cure, but something that will bear fruit only after months, even years of discipline. Consult a doctor to help you through this process, and reach out to close friends and family members to encourage you to stay on track. Adapting healthier lifestyle changes will not only help reverse the effects of early stage cirrhosis in the long run but will also leave you feeling more fit and positive about yourself.
|↑1||Bruha, Radan, Karel Dvorak, and Jaromir Petrtyl. “Alcoholic liver disease.” World J Hepatol 4, no. 3 (2012): 81-90.|
|↑2||Alcohol Metabolism: An Update. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.|
|↑3||Tohme, Rania A., and Scott D. Holmberg. “Transmission of hepatitis C virus infection through tattooing and piercing: a critical review.” Clinical infectious diseases (2012): cir991.|
|↑4||Yasutake, Kenichiro, Motoyuki Kohjima, Kazuhiro Kotoh, Manabu Nakashima, Makoto Nakamuta, and Munechika Enjoji. “Dietary habits and behaviors associated with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.” World J Gastroenterol 20, no. 7 (2014): 1756-1767.|