Plasma Exchange Therapy (Plasmapheresis): What Is It and What Can It Help Treat?

Plasma exchange therapy or plasmapheresis is not unlike undergoing dialysis and can help treat otherwise debilitating autoimmune disorders. Find out how it works.

Plasmapheresis, or plasma exchange therapy, involves removing the blood’s plasma via a blood withdrawal, cleaning it up, and transfusing it back. Similar in many ways to kidney dialysis, therapeutic plasma exchange can be used to treat certain autoimmune conditions by way of fluid replacement. We have the details on how this process works and which conditions it can help successfully treat.

What Is Plasma Exchange Therapy?

According to the American Society for Apheresis (ASFA), therapeutic plasma exchange (TPE) involves passing a patient’s blood through an apheresis machine, removing the filtered plasma volume, and then reinfusing the red blood cells back in, along with replacement fluid like fresh frozen plasma or albumin.

While the terms apheresis, plasmapheresis, and plasma exchange (PE) are quite often used interchangeably, there are some distinctions in their definitions that we’ll address first.

  • Apheresis: This is a general term that describes the removal of blood from a patient, after which some portion of the blood is separated and retained by the doctor while the rest is returned to the donor. If you’ve ever donated plasma, you have interacted with an apheresis machine.
  • Plasmapheresis: This process removes less than 15% of the donor’s blood volume, which is an amount so small it does not need to be replaced with other fluids (much like when you make a whole blood donation and you do not need any replacement substances other than a juice box and a cookie).
  • Plasma Exchange (PE): This therapeutic apheresis removes a large amount of plasma from the person’s blood flow, so much so that if it is not replaced immediately, he or she might experience hypovolemia (a decreased volume of circulating blood) and vasomotor (blood pressure) or circulatory collapse. In this instance replacement fluid is necessary.

The plasma fluid of those sick with autoimmune disorders could be full of antibodies that are attacking the immune system. By separating the red cells from the rest of the liquid part of blood with a cell separator and centrifugation machine, a health care professional can help remove these antibodies, alleviate autoimmune symptoms, and possibly improve quality of life.

What Does Plasma Exchange Therapy Treat?

Certain forms of neuropathy (diseases of the nervous system) and some complications of sickle cell disease can be treated with therapeutic apheresis. Other conditions that have shown clinical improvement from plasma exchange therapy include:

  • Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS): Also known as acute inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (AIDP), Guillain-Barre syndrome can cause weakness and paralysis of the limbs, and has shown strong evidence of treatment thanks to plasmapheresis in clinical practice, from severe to mild presentations of the condition. IV immunoglobulin (IVIg) is an alternative treatment for Guillain-Barre syndrome patients, with neither IVIg or plasma exchange therapy showing any superiority in clinical trials over the other.
  • Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP): This neurological disorder is characterized by impaired sensory functions as well as progressive weakness in the limbs. There is strong evidence that plasma exchange therapy is effective as a short-term treatment alongside immunosuppressants, steroids, and IVIg.
  • Myasthenia gravis: This chronic autoimmune disease translates literally to “grave (serious) muscle weakness.” It afflicts the skeletal muscles of the limbs and body, including those needed for breathing. While clinical results are mixed, plasma exchange treatment is nevertheless considered a treatment option.
  • ANCA-associated rapidly progressive glomerulonephritis: This is inflammation of the tiny filters or glomeruli of the kidneys. Glomerulonephritis also plays a role in other autoimmune disorders like Goodpasture’s syndrome and systemic lupus erythematosus, both of which can be helped with the use of therapeutic apheresis in clinical practice.

Each of these conditions involves antibodies in the plasma of the blood which, instead of attacking foreign invaders like viruses, target healthy cells with important functions. This is true in conditions like multiple sclerosis (MS) in which the immune cells attack the protective sheathing on nerve cells. In more recent years plasma exchange therapy is being studied in relation to conditions like thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP), a blood disorder characterized by low platelet levels and dangerous blood clots, and Wilson’s disease, a genetic disorder characterized by copper buildup in the body.

Plasmapheresis is also used as a first-line therapy in cases of hyperviscosity syndrome (too much viscosity in the blood) and cryoglobulinemia (the presence of abnormal proteins in the blood that can thicken in cold temperatures).

What is plasma exchange therapy?

How Is Plasma Exchange Therapy Administered?

Plasma exchange therapy may be administered on either an in-patient or out-patient basis. The patient will rest on a bed or cot while a needle and catheter (the tube) are inserted in the best vein possible (if not in the arm then in the shoulder or possibly the groin). This is the outtake tube, whereas the reinfusion line will be inserted in the other arm or possibly the foot.

Those who are donating plasma may be done in as little as 90 minutes, while those receiving plasma exchange therapy may find the procedure takes as long as 4 hours up to 5 times per week depending on the state of their overall condition and any side effects or exacerbations which may arise.

How Should You Prepare for Plasmapheresis?

Rest assured that the process is relatively painless. Outside of the discomfort associated with needles and sitting still for a long period of time, the general recommendations for optimal comfort during this procedure include:

  • Getting a good night’s rest the day before.
  • Drinking plenty of fluids well in advance (keep in mind that you can’t get up to pee during this procedure).
  • Eating a solid meal before this procedure to reduce the risk of becoming light-headed or fainting.
  • Wearing comfortable clothing and bringing a blanket if you tend to get cold.
  • Bringing a novel, electronic device, or book of puzzles to stay entertained during the duration.

Potential Risks of Plasma Exchange Therapy

Outside of the faintness, dizziness, and cold feelings most people know are associated with donating blood (and a drop in blood pressure), other risks of undergoing plasmapheresis include stomach cramps, blurred vision, and possible infection, blood clotting, or an allergic reaction.

If you worry about infection, talk with your doctor to make sure you’re up on your vaccinations. You may be prescribed an anti-coagulant for blood clots, and if there is an allergic reaction to the solution your plasma is replaced with, health care professionals will be on hand to help you safely through it.

How Is Plasma Exchange Therapy Administered?

It’s in Your Blood

Along with immunosuppression drugs, plasma exchange therapy can help treat and drastically improve certain autoimmune disorders by cleaning your blood. Talk to your doctor or another qualified health care professional about your treatment options and whether plasma exchange therapy could improve your condition.

What Everyone Should Know About B-Type Natriuretic Peptide and Congestive Heart Failure

B-type natriuretic peptide is a hormone produced by the heart ventricles in response to pressure changes linked to heart failure. By testing BNP levels, doctors can screen for heart disease and assess the efficacy of heart disease treatments. Learn what to expect from a test and how to keep your BNP levels in the healthy range.

Brain natriuretic peptide, commonly called B-type natriuretic peptide or, even more succinctly, BNP, is a hormone produced by the heart ventricles (the pumping chambers of the heart) in response to pressure changes linked to heart failure. Since its discovery in the late 1980s, it has earned a place of prominence in the medical world, as it can be used as a biomarker to facilitate the diagnosis of congestive heart failure (CHF).

Researchers have found that B-type natriuretic peptide measurements can be used not only to help with the diagnosis of heart failure, but also to predict future cardiovascular events and the risk that such events will prove fatal. This is part of what’s known in clinical practice as risk stratification: the separation of patients into low risk, rising risk, and high risk in order to develop the most effective treatment plan possible.

According to an article published in Circulation, a journal published by the American Heart Association, BNP levels are “a powerful marker” for cardiovascular risk stratification. “In a recent study of 78 patients referred to a heart failure clinic, BNP showed a significant correlation to the heart failure survival score,” the authors wrote. “In addition, changes in plasma BNP levels were significantly related to changes in limitations of physical activities and were a powerful predictor of the functional status deterioration.” They mention, too, that measurements of BNP levels taken when patients came in through the emergency department could be used to predicate how patients would fare once they were discharged, with higher BNP levels strongly associated with worse prognoses.

There’s some evidence as well that B-type natriuretic peptide concentrations have predictive value for other cardiac conditions, such as acute coronary syndromes and pulmonary embolism.

It’s rare that a relatively new diagnostic measurement results in such rapid and widespread changes to clinical practice. Read on to learn exactly what B-type natriuretic peptide is and how measurements of BNP levels, which can be analyzed with a simple blood test, allow doctors to evaluate complicated elements of cardiovascular health.

What Is B-Type Natriuretic Peptide?

In scientific terms, B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) is a polypeptide made of 32 different amino acids. When the muscles of the heart stretch excessively in response to changes in blood volume caused by heart failure, they release BNP along with its inactive, 76-amino acid synthetic byproduct, known as N-terminal prohormone BNP, or NT-proBNP.

BNP is one of four natriuretic peptides. All the members of this protein hormone family are secreted by components of the circulatory system. Atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP) is secreted by the atria of the heart (the upper pumping chambers), as its name indicates. BNP comes from the larger, stronger lower chambers, while C-type natriuretic peptide (CNP) is generated primarily in the blood vessels. The highest levels of dendroaspis natriuretic peptide, or D-type natriuretic peptide (DNP), the most recently discovered member of the family, have been found in blood plasma but are believed to be secreted by the heart.

All four natriuretic peptides appear to help regulate circulation. So far, experts have compiled the most data on the actions of ANP and BNP, which are jointly known as the cardiac natriuretic peptides. Both cause the blood vessels to dilate, allowing more blood to flow through them and lowering the risk of clot formation. They also help the kidneys flush out higher quantities of water as well as salt (a process called natriuresis).

Furthermore, researchers have found that ANP and BNP downshift the production of hormones like adrenaline, angiotensin, and aldosterone that narrow blood vessels, increase fluid retention, or elevate the heart rate.

The overall effect of the actions of ANP and BNP—namely, relaxing blood vessels, thereby lowering blood pressure, and improving renal function—ensures that the heart does not have to overtax itself. That’s why when the heart is under stress, the body increases levels of these protective peptides.

What is B-Type Natriuretic Peptide?

How B-Type Natriuretic Peptide Relates to Heart Disease

As touched on in preceding sections, pressure changes inside the heart stimulate release of both B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) and N-terminal (NT)-pro hormone BNP (NT-proBNP). Because those pressure changes tend to be indicative of either heart failure or some other type of cardiac malfunction, experts have proposed that both BNP and NT-proBNP levels might have prognostic value as a simple, inexpensive method of screening for cardiovascular diseases, particularly chronic heart failure.

The Effects of Chronic Heart Failure on the Body

Chronic heart failure, also called congestive heart failure (CHF), occurs when the ventricles (the walls of the heart chambers) become either too weak or too tense to properly pump blood throughout the body. Two of the top underlying causes are coronary artery diseases and high blood pressure. Other causes include heart valve diseases and, less frequently, diseases of the heart muscle (cardiomyopathies).

The heart’s purpose is to draw in the blood that has been circulating through the veins and push it back out into the arteries. As the muscles weaken, the hearts of individuals with CHF cannot contract enough to fully pump blood back into the arteries. As a result, blood begins to collect in the lungs, then the veins, and the tissues of the body do not receive the supply of oxygenated blood they need.

Because of this lack of sufficient oxygen in their bodily tissues, individuals with CHF often feel fatigued and unable to exert themselves physically. Renal function becomes impaired—sometimes permanently—exacerbating the fatigue and making treatment more challenging. The brain suffers from this lack of oxygen-rich blood as well, causing confusion.

The blood collected in the lungs and veins produces its own set of symptoms, beginning with lung function. Shortness of breath is the definitive symptom of CHF. Initially, it only sets in during physical exertion, but as the disease progresses, it transpires while individuals are resting. Advanced CHF can make it impossible for individuals to sleep lying flat—when they do, their shortness of breath can intensify to the point where they are awakened by it. Other ways CHF shows up in the respiratory system include wheezing, coughing, and increased susceptibility to pneumonia. The most severe presentation is acute pulmonary edema, a buildup of fluid in the lungs that requires emergent medical attention.

Other symptoms of CHF include:

  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fluid retention in the feet and legs
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Swelling of the scrotum and penis
  • Frequent nighttime urination
  • Diminished urine output throughout the day and night
  • Weight loss (cardiac cachexia)

People of all ages can develop chronic, congestive heart failure—even children!  Statistics show close to 5 million Americans currently have CHF, and around 555,000 new diagnoses are made each year.

This serious condition can be fatal, and it’s common for death to occur suddenly. Individuals with CHF experience sudden death at a rate that’s between 9 and 10 times that of the population at large! This makes it vital for doctors to have the means to rapidly and accurately diagnosis CHF.

13 Symptoms That Can Indicate Chronic Heart Failure (CHF)

Using B-Type Natriuretic Peptide to Diagnose Chronic Heart Failure

When it comes to diagnosing CHF in the advanced stages, doctors have a plethora of screening tests at their disposal. By that point, the symptoms will be quite clear, and chest X-rays, electrocardiograms (EKGs), or certain blood tests can confirm a doctor’s suspicion.

Earlier presentations of CHF can be harder to catch, however, as symptoms overlap with those of a number of lung, liver, and kidney diseases. In order to determine the root cause of a patient’s symptoms, doctors historically used an ultrasound test called an echocardiogram, or an echo for short. This safe, typically painless test allows doctors to see the heart muscles at work and to determine its ejection fraction, a measurement of the quantity of blood pumped by the left ventricle with each contraction. The healthy range for ejection fractions is between 50% and 70%.

The downside to echocardiograms is that they can be expensive and may not be available under all circumstances. This is where the value of BNP tests becomes clear. These simple, low-cost blood tests can be carried out bedside in an emergency department if need be. According to experts in the field, about 98% of the times that a BNP test reveals normal levels, it’s accurate to rule out CHF as a diagnosis. This suggests to doctors that they should focus their attention on alternate explanations for shortness of breath or other symptoms that could indicate CHF.

At most facilities, a test revealing BNP levels below 100 picograms per milliliter (pg/ml) is grounds for eliminating CHF as a potential diagnosis. If patients are experiencing kidney failure, the threshold rises to 200 pg/ml.

When tests show high BNP levels, next steps become less certain. This alone does not fully support a CHF diagnosis, as there are other factors that can affect BNP levels, such as:

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Lung, kidney, and liver health
  • Blood pressure
  • Thyroid function
  • Cortisol levels
  • Some uncommon tumors
  • Brain hemorrhages
  • Body weight

Certain medications, including diuretics, beta blockers, ace inhibitors, and spironolactone also impact BNP levels.

That said, BNP levels of around 900 pg/ml in individuals between the ages of 50 to 75, or over 1,200 pg/ml for those older than 75 correlate to a diagnosis of CHF 90% of the time. In most cases, patients with high BNP levels who do not have CHF have either severe lung or kidney disease.

BNP levels can not only help doctors make a diagnosis of CHF but also evaluate how far the disease has advanced, develop treatment plans, and determine how patients respond to different interventions. Generally speaking, the higher BNP levels are, the more severe the situation. As treatments take effect, backed up blood begins circulating into the rest of the body once again, and heart muscle cells begin to recover and to secrete less BNP.

A systematic review of clinical trials published in The BMJ looked at how accurate BNP measurements—both initial levels and changes in response to treatments—are for predicting risk of death, myocardial infarction (heart attack), and other cardiovascular events in heart failure patients. The authors determined that BNP has strong prognostic value for heart failure patients at all stages of the disease as well as for asymptomatic patients.

They went as far as to state that their findings raise “important questions concerning the way that heart failure is defined and diagnosed.” The majority of the recent trials and studies they analyzed used ventricular systolic function, expressed in terms of ejection fraction measurements, as the reference standard for the diagnosis of heart failure. “This is despite the fact that it is recognized that 20-50% of patients with heart failure have preserved systolic function,” they wrote. Given those statistics, they propose that BNP may be a superior method for identifying patients who would benefit from treatment for heart disease.

What Factors Impact BNP Levels, Other Than Chronic Heart Failure?

Can B-Type Natriuretic Peptide Levels Be Used to Diagnose Coronary Artery Disease?

When patients have coronary artery disease (CAD) without CHF, the muscles of their heart do not stretch in the way that spurs the release of BNP. If they have extensive coronary artery blockages, however, or active vascular inflammation, this can cause heart muscle cells to become ischemic (oxygen-deprived). Ischemic heart muscles cells also release BNP, though in smaller quantities than when they’re attempting to counterbalance the effects of CHF.

Experts are quite excited about the possible use of BNP values to diagnose CAD, particularly for patients with asymptomatic CAD. As a review published in QJM: An International Journal of Medicine put it, “It would be of great benefit if a simple blood test could identify those most likely to have CAD.” As a follow-up to that screening measure, individuals whose test results indicate they’re likely to have CAD could undergo “more definitive but more invasive tests,” like angiography and stress tests. The authors believe BNP testing “has the potential to reduce cardiac deaths” because its widespread use will let doctors “better target cardioprotective strategies to those who most need them.”

What to Expect from a BNP Test

Now that you have a sense of why experts in the field of cardiovascular health find BNP tests almost endlessly exciting, you may be wondering, what exactly occurs during a BNP test?

As you know, the test measures BNP concentrations in the blood. In clinical practices, doctors are likely to recommend a BNP test when patients have symptoms of chronic heart failure like the classic shortness of breath. This simple, inexpensive test can catch CHF in the early stages before more serious complications develop. BNP tests can also be used to evaluate whether heart disease treatments are having the desired effects.

A BNP test does not require any special preparation, such as fasting. The test involves drawing blood from a vein using a hypodermic needle, so if you feel faint at the sight of blood, you may wish to ask a family member or friend to accompany you and drive you home.

The blood sample will then be sent to a laboratory where machines measure levels of BNP as well as NT-proBNP. This process typically takes between 15 and 20 minutes if the laboratory is located in the same facility where the test was performed. If the blood sample has to be sent to a separate laboratory, it make take up to a week for the results to be ready.

Once a doctor has reviewed the BNP test results, they will let you know whether your levels are high enough to indicate a diagnosis of heart failure. If you already have a confirmed diagnosis of CHF, your doctor will update you on whether your current treatment protocol is working effectively, as evidenced by lower BNP levels.

As touched on earlier, BNP levels under the threshold of 100 pg/ml usually exclude a diagnosis of heart disease. However, normal, healthy BNP levels fluctuate depending on your age and sex.

Normal BNP levels by Age and Sex

5 Expert-Approved Methods for Lowering BNP Levels

If you improve your heart health, your BNP levels will drop. Certain risk factors for heart disease are out of your control, such as a family history of the disease and your underlying genetic makeup. However, there are a variety of steps you can take on your own to address lifestyle-related risk factors known to negatively impact heart health, including:

  1. Stop smoking cigarettes. As you almost certainly know, smoking cigarettes harms your health. Studies have shown it undermines heart health in multiple ways, including raising your blood pressure, decreasing good high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels, and elevating your heart rate. It can be quite challenging to stop, but the benefits are undeniably worth the effort. After just 1 year, your susceptibility to heart disease drops significantly, and 15 years after cessation, it’s equivalent to that of someone who has never smoked.
  2. Engage in regular physical activity. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend that adults get at least 2 hours and 3 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week, along with at least two strength training sessions. If you find it difficult to fit exercise into your schedule, don’t despair: even three 10-minute sessions daily can add up to make a difference. Try taking a brisk walk or spending time outside gardening. You can also build healthy habits into your day by taking the stairs, parking in the spot furthest from the door, or commuting to work on your bike. Ideally, you should also be finding ways to enhance your fitness by increasing the intensity, frequency, and duration of your workouts.
  3. Prioritize stress management. Scientists have uncovered a clear link between uncontrolled stress and heart disease. The body responds to stress by releasing a hormone called cortisol, which can have a detrimental impact on your cardiovascular health. This is particularly true if stress becomes chronic. Be sure to find ways to manage the stress that inevitably arises as a part of life. Strong research supports the use of mediation and breathwork for this purpose.
  4. Get adequate sleep. Safeguarding your sleep is a vital part of stress management as well as the fortification of your overall health. Unfortunately, findings show that 30% of Americans experience intermittent insomnia, while many more struggle with milder forms of sleep deprivation on a regular basis. Building healthy sleep habits, such as refraining from working or eating in bed as well as using a computer or cell phone too close to your bedtime, can help you get the 7 to 8 hours experts advise for adults.
  5. Supplement with essential amino acids. As mentioned earlier, one of the physiological causes for chronic heart failure (CHF) is the weakening of the heart muscles. Researchers have found that amino acids can help counteract three of the ways that heart failure impairs muscle function: accelerated breakdown of muscle protein, poor regulation of muscle blood flow, and impaired production of cellular energy. Learn more about how to use essential amino acids to increase heart health here.

5 Ways to Lower Your BNP Levels and Enhance the Health of Your Heart

Is It Possible to Reverse Liver Cirrhosis Naturally?

How serious is liver cirrhosis, what causes it, and is it possible to reverse? Find out about how to cope with liver cirrhosis naturally.

The liver is one of the most unique organs in our bodies, with an ability to heal in a way that other vital organs cannot. Damage done to the heart, for example, is damage that cannot be undone by your body or by medical technology; it can only be worked around. Likewise with the kidneys: ground lost in kidney functioning is ground that is permanently ceded. However, some people do require liver transplants, indicating that as much as the liver can recover from damage, it can’t completely regenerate after a certain point. Where is the line between reversible damage and irreversible damage? Can you reverse liver cirrhosis naturally, without medications or a transplant? This article explores that question.

Is it possible to reverse cirrhosis naturally?

What Is Cirrhosis of the Liver?

Your liver is the largest organ inside your body (your skin itself is the largest organ overall, but it’s on the outside). The liver’s function is to help digest your food, store energy substances, and detoxify your blood of any impurities, poisons, or toxins that are eaten or otherwise ingested.

You can aid a healthy liver in its detox duties by consuming a liver flush diet. But what can you do to help an already ailing liver? First, it’s important to understand what cirrhosis is and where it falls on the liver damage continuum. What follows are the stages of liver failure.

  • Stage 1: The first stage leading to liver failure is inflammation. The liver becomes inflamed and enlarged when it is overtaxed with too many toxins and cannot filter them out at a high enough rate. Common causes of liver inflammation include viral hepatitis infection, alcohol consumption, autoimmune hepatitis, or poisoning. Sometimes this stage arises without any noticeable symptoms.
  • Stage 2: Fibrosis of the liver is the second stage of liver damage, which involves the appearance of scar tissue on the liver. A little bit of scarring can be overcome, but chronic liver fibrosis is also known as the early stages of cirrhosis. Scarring inhibits liver functioning and starts to threaten a person’s survival rate.
  • Stage 3: Cirrhosis of the liver is the third stage of liver failure, an incredibly serious and life-threatening condition that may have symptoms like jaundice (a yellowing of the eyes and skin), muscle cramps, dry mouth, peripheral edema, abdominal fluid buildup (ascites), and compromised brain function (hepatic encephalopathy).
  • Stage 4: The fourth and final stage is end-stage liver disease. This is often the cause of death in those who are not treated quickly enough or who cannot receive a liver transplant. Blood tests determine who is healthy enough to even be included on the transplant list, and not everyone is eligible.

As you can see, cirrhosis is the last stop before potential end-of-life hospitalization. When scarring of the liver becomes so extensive that it eclipses healthy liver tissue and starts to interrupt blood flow, detoxification, and digestion, medical advice and treatment is an emergency necessity, but can cirrhosis be fixed?

Cirrhosis: Symptoms, Complications, and Prognosis

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases says that the most common underlying causes of liver scarring and cirrhosis are conditions like chronic hepatitis, long-term alcohol abuse, and cases of diet-induced nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Some of those conditions can be treated or avoided entirely by getting vaccinated, making diet and lifestyle changes, practicing safe sex, and drinking alcohol in moderation, but if the damage is not stopped in time, liver failure and liver cancer may develop, which could end a person’s life.

Cirrhosis Symptoms

It’s important to recognize the symptoms of cirrhosis and liver disease as soon as possible. Those symptoms include:

  • An itching sensation of the skin
  • Swelling in the extremities (edema)
  • Unexplained fatigue or listlessness
  • Lack of appetite
  • Stomach or muscle cramping
  • A tendency to bruise or bleed easily
  • Unusually dark urine
  • Tar-colored or pale stool
  • Cognitive disorientation or confusion
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Jaundice or yellowing of the skin or sclera of the eyes

Cirrhosis Complications

Regardless of how it comes about (hepatitis B, hepatitis C, alcohol abuse, fatty diet, or genetics), cirrhosis affects up to 10% of the population of the United States, according to the American Liver Foundation. The complications of cirrhosis quickly shorten the lifespan of those diagnosed with this disease. Complications include:

  • The creation of bile duct and gallstones
  • Portal hypertension, edema, and ascites, which can lead to the bacterial infection known as peritonitis
  • Hepatic encephalopathy, which leads to an accumulation of toxins in the brain
  • Diseases like type 2 diabetes and metabolic bone disease due to the interference in digestion and absorption of nutrients
  • Weakened immune system and spleen functioning
  • Higher risk of infection, kidney failure, and lung failure
  • Varices, which are enlarged blood vessels in the stomach or esophagus that may burst and cause deadly bleeding
  • A much higher risk of liver cancer

Cirrhosis Prognosis

Unfortunately cirrhosis isn’t curable, but it is treatable. Once you’re aware of the damage being done to the liver, the first priority is to treat and if possible cure the underlying cause, and then to stop the progression of cirrhosis and prevent deadly complications. For alcoholics that means sobriety is key. For those with hepatitis, disease management is the first priority. For those whose liver biopsy shows too much damage to overcome, a liver transplantation may be the only option, but for some, there are natural ways to help your liver cope with cirrhosis.

Is it possible to reverse cirrhosis naturally?

Can You Reverse Liver Cirrhosis Naturally?

As with scar tissue anywhere on or in your body, while you can’t reverse the damage, you may be able to minimize its impact on your life and live around it. What follows now are natural ways to cleanse your liver, support its health and functioning, and strengthen your body so you have the resources to cope with any complications that may arise.

1. Eat a Liver-Cleansing, Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Your liver detoxifies your body, so you can’t exactly detoxify it. What you can do, however, is to avoid poisoning it and provide it with the nutrients it needs to detox itself. That means avoiding alcohol intake entirely, only consuming medicine when you absolutely need to (avoid over-the-counter medications for mild aches and pains if possible), and eating a robust diet of nutrient-rich foods such as:

  • Dark, leafy greens like spinach and kale
  • Other steamed veggies like broccoli, carrots, and asparagus
  • Potassium foods like avocados, sweet potatoes, and bananas
  • Natural herbal supplements like ginger, turmeric, milk thistle, or dandelion and burdock root
  • Probiotics like Greek yogurt or sauerkraut
  • Citrus fruits and juices
  • Cold-pressed oils like coconut and extra virgin olive oil
  • Superfood supplements like wheatgrass, spirulina, and chlorella

Avoid overeating and abstain from unhealthy food substances like refined sugars and carbs, spicy and fried foods, alcohol, and caffeine. If you smoke, now is the time to quit to help preserve your liver function and quality of life.

2. Maintain a Healthy Body Weight

Obesity and fatty diet are huge contributors to liver disease in the Western world, and if those are the underlying causes of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and cirrhosis, they need to be addressed immediately.

Even if weight is not directly tied to cirrhosis (let’s say your cirrhosis is caused by a hepatitis infection), maintaining a healthy weight is still imperative. Obesity is closely linked to high blood pressure, which causes extra strain on your heart and increases your risk factors for diabetes and your cholesterol levels. By focusing on healthy, sustainable weight loss and eliminating obesity as a risk factor, you improve your liver’s health.

3. Guard Against Diseases and Toxins

The best defense is sometimes a good offense, and when it comes to liver disease and liver failure, that means reducing your exposure to toxins (household or industrial chemicals that can damage your liver cells), as well as to diseases like hepatitis (if you’re not already vaccinated, make it a top priority), and checking your medications for anything expired or unnecessary (ask your doctor about any prescriptions or take gentler alternatives to common over-the-counter drugs). By preventing toxins of any kind from reaching your liver, you preserve its remaining healthy tissue.

Managing a Cirrhosis Diagnosis

Cirrhosis cannot be reversed, as it’s the last stage of liver disease before hospitalization is required. However, the preceding stage, liver fibrosis (when scar tissue is still being accumulated), can be stopped before the damage becomes permanently debilitating. You can’t be too careful when it comes to the symptoms of liver damage: the sooner you catch it, the better diagnosis you’ll receive and the longer you’ll be able to live healthily.

Liver Failure Death: Causes, Symptoms and Stages

What are the causes and symptoms of acute and chronic liver failure? How is liver damage diagnosed? Prevented? What are the stages that lead to liver failure death? Find out here.

The human liver is one of our most vital organs, responsible for filtering our blood and detoxifying our bodies. Without a functioning liver, we first become jaundiced, and after a certain point, we can no longer stay alive without liver transplantation. Any issue with liver function is a life-threatening healthcare emergency. So come with us as we explore the leading causes of liver damage and the progressive stages of liver failure death.

What Causes Liver Failure Death?

Cirrhosis is late-stage scarring of the liver (fibrosis). According to those who study hepatology, the most common causes of cirrhosis in the United States are due to hepatitis C infections and heavy alcohol consumption. These chronic liver diseases not only affect one’s quality of life, but can also lead to the end of life.

However, there are other causes of acute liver failure that have a much faster onset, such as drug or toxin overdoses. Genetics are also among the risk factors that can contribute to liver damage and disease, as are obesity, autoimmune disorders, and various forms of cancer.

Liver failure death: causes, symptoms, and stages.

Causes and Symptoms of Acute Liver Failure

Acute liver failure is a rapid decline of liver function caused by:

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) overdose
  • Viral hepatitis infections (hepatitis A, B, and E)
  • Autoimmune hepatitis
  • Adverse reactions to medications for epilepsy, antibiotics, or even nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Adverse reactions to herbal supplements like kava (a nightshade plant) or ma huang (ephedra)
  • Wilson’s disease (a rare genetic disorder that causes copper buildup and poisoning)
  • Hepatic vein thrombosis (also known as Budd-Chiari syndrome)
  • Exposure to toxins like poisonous mushrooms or industrial chemicals

The symptoms of acute liver failure include:

  • General malaise or a feeling of unwellness
  • Persistent tiredness, drowsiness, or sleepiness
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Abdominal pain or swelling
  • Jaundice (a yellowing of the eyes or skin)

Causes and Symptoms of Chronic Liver Failure

Chronic liver failure is characterized by long-term progressive damage from the following causes:

The symptoms of chronic liver failure and breakdown could entail:

  • Persistent fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Jaundice of the eyes or skin
  • Easy bleeding or bruising
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • Severely itchy skin
  • Darkening of the urine
  • Fluid buildup in the arms or legs (edema)
  • Fluid buildup in the abdomen (ascites)

The Symptoms of Liver Cancer

Cancer that develops in the liver (referred to as primary liver cancer) could also be the cause of liver failure. Those with cirrhosis (the third stage of liver failure) are more at risk of developing liver cancer, which could then shut down the organ or spread to the rest of the body. Liver cancer symptoms could include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Jaundice
  • Itchy skin
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Abdominal pain or swelling

The Stages of Liver Failure

Liver failure and liver disease are two different things, but one of them can cause the other. Liver disease encompasses any ongoing condition that damages the liver, including inflammation and infection. Liver failure occurs when the liver loses a portion or the entirety of its functionality.

Damage to the liver can come in stages, creating a systematic shutdown of the body and requiring end of life care from health care professionals. What follows are the details of those various stages.

1. Inflammation of the Liver

Inflammation of the liver is often the beginning of the damage that can ultimately lead to a person’s death. Not everyone will notice or feel when their liver becomes inflamed or enlarged, and if the inflammation continues unabated, permanent injury or scarring could occur, leading to the next stage of liver failure.

2. Fibrosis of the Liver

Fibrosis is liver scarring. While the liver is one of the most unique organs thanks to its ability to heal itself (unlike the heart muscle), long-term damage from repeated intoxication or uncured or incurable infections can still build up. When scar tissue begins to take the place of healthy and functional liver tissue, it diminishes the liver’s ability to function. Again, this progressive damage is not always detectable, and the longer it persists, the more it affects the individual’s survival rate.

3. Cirrhosis of the Liver

Cirrhosis is characterized by severe scarring of the liver. When the damaged tissue accumulates enough to interrupt liver functioning, it puts your health in serious jeopardy. When scarring starts to outnumber and overwhelm healthy tissue, the liver begins to fail. Sometimes this stage is the first one that presents symptoms noticeable by the individual, including jaundice, dry mouth, muscle cramps, increased ease of bleeding, buildup of fluid in the abdomen (ascites), peripheral edema, and reduced brain functioning (hepatic encephalopathy).

4. End-Stage Liver Disease

Those with end-stage or advanced liver disease require palliative care and may be placed on a waiting list for a liver transplant by their health care provider depending on their MELD score (model for end-stage liver disease). This score was established to evaluate the short-term (90-day) survival rate of people with advanced liver damage, and it is determined by a series of blood tests. The MELD score ranges from 6 to 40, with 6 being the best change of survival.

Liver failure death: causes, symptoms, and stages.

Diagnosis of Liver Failure

Doctors may use several tools and methods to diagnosis and evaluate the severity of acute liver failure, including the following.

  • Blood tests: These tests include liver blood tests for enzymes that indicate liver functionality, CBC tests (complete blood count), or other blood tests to look for issues like viral hepatitis infection or undiagnosed genetic conditions.
  • Imaging tests: An MRI, ultrasound, or CT scan may be used to visually inspect the liver.
  • Biopsy: A tissue sample may be taken from the liver to investigate for scarring or other signs of disease and infection.

Liver Failure Treatment Options

First of all, in cases of acute liver failure, the patient will need to be hospitalized, and possibly in the intensive care unit to be given round-the-clock support as medical staff attempts to stabilize and treat their condition. Depending on the cause of the liver failure, a person may either recover or require a liver transplant.

For liver failure resulting from a chronic condition, often the first step is addressing the cause. If it’s drugs or alcohol, rehab needs to be part of the protocol. If it’s due to a viral hepatitis infection, then treatment will follow accordingly. For those with autoimmune conditions, certain therapies may be suggested by the medical team depending on the effects of the condition. If liver failure is a matter of lifestyle causes (poor diet or overuse of medications), then those behaviors would have to be addressed as part of a comprehensive treatment.

The American Liver Foundation says that liver failure can actually be reversed if it’s caught at the second (fibrosis) stage. For the third or cirrhosis stage, while the damage may not be reversed, it can be slowed, stopped, or treated so that the person may continue to live healthily.

For those with end-stage liver failure, however, if a liver transplant cannot be performed, the only follow-up may be end-of-life care.

How to Prevent Liver Failure Death

Given how important liver health is to human survival, taking care of your liver and your overall health is the best way to prevent sometimes permanent and deadly liver damage. Some ways to protect your liver include:

  • Abstaining from alcohol or only drinking in moderation
  • Never mixing medications with other drugs or supplements without a doctor’s consent
  • Never mixing medications with alcohol
  • Taking over-the-counter medications only when needed
  • Taking prescribed medications only as directed and to completion
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Aiding liver detox with your dietary choices
  • Getting vaccinated against hepatitis A and B

Liver Long and Prosper

If you suspect there is anything wrong with your liver, seek medical advice immediately. The sooner you intervene on behalf of your liver’s health, the better chance you have at being able to reverse the damage done and heal completely. In many cases liver failure death can be prevented, if it’s caught in time and if you follow your doctor’s advice. Eat well, detox regularly, and you may well live long and prosper.

What Does It Take to Detox from Alcohol?

Find out when drinking becomes an addiction, learn the symptoms of severe alcohol withdrawal, and discover how to detox safely at home if you can’t afford inpatient treatment. 

When it comes to cases of chronic alcoholism, detoxing isn’t just a matter of quitting cold turkey. Long-term drinking recovery, though it can be done at home, may be far safer with professional help. Substance abuse alters the body’s functions, and sudden changes can actually endanger the life of the loved one you’re trying to save. Review this information on the detoxification process and the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome, and then decide if maybe a treatment program might be better for all family members involved.

When Is Drinking Alcohol Considered Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is distinct, clinically speaking, from moderate or even regular drinking. Some of the earliest warning signs of alcohol dependency include having an emotional attachment to drinking and craving it even when there’s no outside prompt, such as a party, a celebratory event that calls for champagne, or a nice anniversary dinner where a bottle of wine is shared.

Emotional dependency to alcohol can lead to a physical dependency. Addiction occurs when the physical and behavioral signs of alcoholism arise (shaking hands or isolating from family and commitments) and when the person cannot independently control his or her drinking.

The Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal

Let’s say you want to stop drinking after an alcohol-heavy season, such as spring break or the holidays. You might feel a mild version of the detox process. Side effects like mood swings, body aches, and even some slight tremors usually cause overwhelming worry—a non-addict might even decide to stop drinking for their New Year’s resolution, and be successful at it.

The same is not always true for alcohol addicts, or dipsomaniacs as they used to be called in the 1800s, the Greek dipso– for “thirst” and –mania for “madness,” referring to those with a “morbid craving for alcohol.” Now known as alcohol use disorder or AUD, the symptoms of alcohol detox are still the same, and severe withdrawal can be life-threatening. For those who are trying to dry out after years of heavy drinking, they are at risk of all of these symptoms, from mild to serious:

  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Disorientation
  • Hallucinations
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Delirium tremens (also known as “the D.T.s”)

Keep in mind that the most severe symptoms involve recovery from damage done to the central nervous system, which is why in some cases a treatment center is the best option if it’s possible. Not only can inpatient treatment ensure there are medical professionals there to monitor high blood pressure and distribute appropriate amounts of withdrawal medications, but the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is combined for a reason: there may be underlying mental health issues that alcohol abuse has either hidden from knowledge or been used to “treat” (conditions like anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder). Other drugs and addictions may be at play as well.

Likewise underlying medical conditions can put people at greater risk too, like heart, lung, liver, or kidney conditions that may quickly worsen the impact of alcohol withdrawal.

Delirium tremens is the most severe form of withdrawal, and can encompass many of the above-listed symptoms and overwhelm the body to the point of cardiovascular collapse. It may not start the first day either: these symptoms could arise anywhere between 2 and 5 days after the addict’s last drink, as the body begins to process all the alcohol and then comes to find out there’s no more incoming.

Delirium tremens affects less than 5% of recovering alcoholics, so while it’s not an inevitable occurrence, it’s nevertheless still important to be aware of the risk in case your loved one is in that 5% and in need of professional substance abuse treatment to monitor their blood pressure and heart rate in a fully equipped treatment facility.

How to detox from alcohol.

How to Detox from Alcohol

Not everyone will have the resources for professional help when it comes to quitting alcohol, and while there are programs available to help, like the peer-counseling at Alcoholics Anonymous, keep in mind the AA’s Serenity Prayer, which asks for “the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” You or your loved one may be able to detox from alcohol at home, but if you can’t, it’s important to have the wisdom to know the difference.

That being said, here is how to detox from alcohol.

1. Taper Off

Quitting cold turkey means suddenly taking away a substance the body has learned to rely on, basically pulling the rug out from under oneself. A change like that means the body has to adapt all at once, and it may cause or exacerbate symptoms of withdrawal that needn’t have been felt with a careful tapering off of alcohol consumption.

While tapering can help slowly notch down physical alcohol dependence, an addict’s emotional attachment to alcohol and to drinking may get in the way. If you’re doing this on your own, you may backslide, and if you’re helping a family member, they may just be cheating and sneaking extra booze when you’re not looking. This is why a rehab center can be so valuable in cases of alcohol addiction, so that not only are the physical alcohol withdrawal symptoms met with medical supervision, but no interpersonal relationships are irreparably damaged in the process.

Long-term alcohol use means alcohol is the new normal for the addict’s body. Imagine how you feel when you try to quit sugar or caffeine, and know that it is much harder to quit drinking because alcohol is a much stronger drug.

2. Know Your Limits

To taper off, you must first start by being honest about how much alcohol you or your loved one drinks each day. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines 1 drink as either:

  • 1 bottle of beer: 12 ounces at 5% alcohol content
  • 1 glass of wine: 5 ounces at 12% alcohol content
  • 1 mixed drink: 1.5 ounces of liquor at 40% alcohol content

These numbers may not directly correlate with each brand of alcohol product, but they are a guideline to provide a rough estimation of just how many drinks are being consumed each day. Beer is most recommended for tapering off, as it tends to have a lower alcohol percent by volume than wine or spirits do.

3. Take Your Time

Tapering should involve:

  • Taking between 3 and 7 days to ween down, depending on how much the person is accustomed to drinking
  • Temporarily increasing alcohol consumption if withdrawal symptoms arise
  • Seeking professional addiction treatment by way of a detox program if you’re unable to stop drinking at home

At-Home Detox Tips

For the milder symptoms of alcohol detox, it is possible to treat them at home. Some tips to keep in mind include:

  • Water: Alcohol is a diuretic, and long-term alcoholics have probably been in a case of mild dehydration for a very long time. Staying hydrated can help reduce mental confusion, irritability, and fatigue.
  • Electrolyte drinks: With dehydration comes a loss of certain minerals like electrolytes. Having some sports drinks with electrolytes like potassium, sodium, and calcium will help the recoverer feel better faster.
  • Healthy diet: Alcohol is full of sugar, and many people in rehab discover that they have a maddening sugar craving when they quit drinking. However, trading booze for sugar won’t help anyone feel better at the end of the day, so try to concentrate on a diet that contains the proper amount of protein, carbs (also sugars), fats, minerals, and vitamins.
  • Hygiene: No, a hot shower won’t help you “sweat out” the alcohol dependency faster, and in fact, it could cause a dangerous change in your body temperature. However, a warm shower or bath can help relax your wrung-out muscles, distract you from the discomforts of withdrawal, and leave you feeling refreshed and more like yourself again.
  • Meditation and calming techniques: Controlled breathing techniques can help normalize your blood pressure and heart rate, while meditation can help clear and focus your mind. While you may not experience the severe symptom of hallucinations, many recovering addicts have overwhelmingly intense dreams as the higher parts of their brain come back online.

You Can Do This

Whether you’re attempting to detox with or without help, engage in as much self-care as possible: stock up on your favorite movies, cuddle up in blankets if you feel a chill, and slap on a cool, damp cloth if you feel too warm. Try to avoid taking medications as much as possible so you don’t overtax your detox organs (the liver and kidneys), and if you’re at all worried that withdrawal symptoms are getting too severe, seek help from a trusted medical professional. As bad as it feels, people have detoxed before and you can do it too, just do it safely, and be well.

End-Stage Alcoholism: The Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction

Learn about the progressing stages of alcoholism and what end-stage alcohol addiction looks like. Recognizing these symptoms in a family member or loved one could help save his or her life.

Alcohol is a powerful substance with a long and varied history. On one hand alcohol has been a substance of social lubrication and celebration for thousands of years, but on the other it is, in essence, a poison that can lead to addiction and have devastating personal consequences. Alcoholism is a disease that affects up to 1 out of every 8 Americans and contributes to around 88,000 deaths per year. If alcoholism progresses unchecked, it can culminate in end-stage alcoholism and even premature death. This article describes the signs of alcohol addiction and what happens when a loved one reaches the end stages of alcohol abuse.

The Early Signs of Alcoholism

Some people can drink alcohol regularly and never develop an alcohol addiction problem. Others go through periods of alcohol abuse or overuse, for example during college or in times of high stress. Alcohol use disorder can advance over many years, but it contains three distinct stages. We’ll begin with the overview of the initial stages before fully exploring the end-stage symptoms of alcoholism.

Stage One: Social Drinking, Binge Drinking, and Occasional Alcohol Abuse

This first stage of alcoholism is essentially an exploratory stage. When those who ultimately become addicted to alcohol first enter stage one, they often experiment with different kinds of alcohol and test their limits with binge drinking. This is common among young adults, particularly teens and college-aged individuals.

  • For men: Binge drinking is more than 5 alcoholic beverages in a 2-hour window.
  • For women: Consuming 4 or more alcoholic beverages in 2 hours is considered binge drinking.

Playing games meant to accelerate drunkenness (like beer pong) often leads to consuming much more than the above-listed minimum for binge drinking. While chronic, long-term alcohol use is dangerous, so are these short bouts of binge drinking, as they can cause alcohol poisoning, coma, and sometimes death. It also begins an addiction pattern whereby people begin to develop a dependency on the feeling that alcohol provides.

Problematic Alcohol Abuse

Once the habit of drinking escalates past the early stage of social drinking, binge drinking, and excessive partying, the issue progresses to the second stage of alcoholism. This is marked by an emotional dependency on the drug of alcohol. It is less about feeling good at a special event and more about wanting to feel that way all the time. Drinking at this stage occurs to prevent the feelings of acute alcohol withdrawal.

Stage Two: Increased Dependency on Alcohol and Problem Drinking

In the second stage of alcoholism, alcohol consumption increases in frequency and is no longer tied to special events like partying. A person in stage two is likely to start drinking every weekend, and then may increase to drinking every day. The impulse for drinking is no longer to have fun at a party, but may arise from the following desires:

  • To relieve stress
  • As an excuse to bring together friends
  • To relieve boredom
  • To avoid feelings of loneliness or sadness

At this stage, emotions motivate drinking habits, which is what makes regular alcohol use different from otherwise moderate drinking: people become emotionally attached. Instead of the moderate drinker’s glass of wine with a meal, the regular drinker consumes alcohol to feel good, and the more they drink, the more physically and emotionally dependent they become, which can ultimately lead to the development of full-blown alcoholism.

This middle stage also brings about social changes related to the drinking problem: changes in friendships, strife with romantic attachments, erratic social behavior, and increasingly regular failures to uphold certain commitments (like getting to work on time, picking kids up from school, or abstaining from alcohol while pregnant).

The drinker will likely become aware that the effects of heavy drinking (irregular sleep patterns, depression, and anxiety) often make him or her feel sick, but they will still not curb, moderate, or quit the habit. They may begin to experience legal trouble resulting from incidents like public intoxication or drinking and driving.

At this stage, a drinking problem becomes obvious and family members will start to urge their loved one to stop drinking. If they can’t stop with or without intervention, the disease progresses to the next stage.

End-stage alcoholism: signs and symptoms.

End-Stage Alcoholism

The final stage of alcoholism occurs when drinking has consumed the life of the addicted person. They now must drink to avoid alcohol withdrawal symptoms, and they must schedule their life around this need. Without getting help with detox and rehab, the addict may drink themselves to death.

Stage Three: Addiction

Alcohol dependency is a habit that can be stopped, but alcohol addiction is characterized by an inability to curb the harmful use of alcohol. This starts to lead to other problems in life, including the following devastating physical health problems.

  • Racing heart palpitations
  • Excessive sweating
  • Body tremors due to nervous system damage
  • Nausea unrelated to hangovers
  • Severe irritability
  • Insomnia or trouble sleeping
  • High blood pressure
  • Liver damage or alcoholic hepatitis

A late-stage or end-stage alcoholic has to drink more and more, not for the enjoyment of alcohol, but to meet a persistent psychological and physiological need. They may be inconsolable until they can resume drinking each day, and may have other drug addictions and compulsive behaviors and rituals surrounding their drinking. They will most likely ignore any and all social conventions, and drink in the daytime, in the morning, alone, at non-alcoholic gatherings, or at work.

Treatment options exist to help end-stage alcoholics with alcohol withdrawal symptoms and social coping mechanisms, and it’s important to seek such treatment to avoid cirrhosis of the liver, liver disease, and liver failure. In the case of liver failure, the person will not be able to survive without a liver transplant, and many hospitals won’t perform a transplant until the patient has been able to abstain from alcohol for at least 6 months. This is not possible for many addicts in the United States, even if they do receive adequate and professional addiction treatment.

The Final Stage

Late stage alcoholism is a scary processes to go through and heartbreaking to observe. When alcohol dependence leads to increased substance abuse and a barrage of detrimental health conditions from blackouts to alcoholic liver disease, many people feel that they are watching a slow-motion car crash they are unable to stop.

Occasionally the last stage of alcoholism comes as a surprise if the addict is what’s known as a high-functioning alcoholic, able to maintain social decorum and maintain employment until the problem has progressed to the final stages of addiction.

It’s important to remember that alcoholism develops over a long period of time, and that being able to recognize the stages of alcoholism in a family member or friend could help save their life by getting them the help of a medical professional before it’s too late. That being said, any stage of alcoholism is dangerous, from initial youthful binge drinking right up to the end stage when people start to experience liver, heart, and brain damage, not to mention malnutrition and mental health disorders (which could lead to suicide).

F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of The Great Gatsby, once wrote of alcoholism, “First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you.” That is a very succinct summary of the three stages of alcoholism, including the final stage. Before the drink takes one of your loved ones away from you, know the warning signs of alcohol addiction, and do what you can to help them quit drinking while there’s still time to recover.

Thumb Knuckle Pain: The Top 6 Possible Causes

Thumb knuckle pain: what does it mean when you have unexplained pain in your thumb pad, lower joint, or knuckle? Find out what could be the underlying cause and how to get relief. 

If you have persistent pain at the base of the thumb, right at the knuckle joint, or in your thumb pad, you might be worried about what it could mean. Did you sprain your thumb, somehow sleep on it wrong, or could it be a sign of rheumatoid arthritis? This article reviews a few thumb knuckle pain culprits, and what you can do to help treat the cause of this discomfort.

Joint Pain Overview

If you’re young and experiencing joint pain, you may not immediately jump to the conclusion that it could be arthritis or some other serious joint-affecting condition like degenerative joint disease or gout. However, data shows that these conditions, though statistically more likely to develop with age, can afflict people as young as 40 (arthritis) or 30 (gout). In all honesty, our bodies start declining in little ways after the age of 25, and after that it’s just the luck of the draw on the genetic lottery sometimes, especially with autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.

If you’re experiencing unexplained tenderness anywhere from the base of the thumb to thumb middle joint pain, discomfort so palpable that it’s interfering with your thumb’s range of motion, then it could be the sign of a serious condition, regardless of your age.

Thumb knuckle pain: top 6 possible causes.

Thumb Knuckle Pain: The Top 6 Possible Causes

Our thumb joints are one of the evolutionary wonders that differentiate us from our ape ancestors, and thumb knuckle pain can throttle your fine motor skills.

If you can’t think of any reason why your thumb knuckle is in pain—something as innocent as maybe you spent some time cracking walnuts or you’ve gotten a new keyboard and it could be a mild case of wrist tendinitis—then you could be worrying about one of the following underlying conditions.

1. Basal Joint Arthritis or Osteoarthritis

Basal joint arthritis could be causing your joint pain. The basal joint lies at the base of your thumb, just above the wrist. A wearing away of the cartilage in this joint is commonly called “thumb arthritis,” and comes not only with pain but also the loss of thumb mobility and the possible loss of thumb grip strength.

Our joint cartilage provides a cushion at the spot where two bones would otherwise meet and grind together. Cartilage cannot heal on its own, because, unlike other forms of tissue in the body, it has no blood supply to provide a healing pathway. Becoming aware of cartilage damage as soon as possible is important so you can ask your doctor how to prevent further breakdown.

Cartilage breakdown in the joints is also known as osteoarthritis, and it’s the most common form of arthritis worldwide.

2. Rheumatoid Arthritis

Thumb arthritis could also be caused by rheumatoid arthritis in the thumb. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disorder that can affect many of your joints. Rheumatoid pain in your thumb joint might be experienced as a stabbing, burning, or milder creaking pain.

3. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is characterized by a pinched or compressed median nerve in the “tunnel” it travels through your wrist. This could cause tingling, burning, numbness, or weakness in your finger joints, thumb joints, or wrists. A common condition in the United States, carpal tunnel affects up to 6% of adults, though it’s more likely to occur in women rather than men.

Long-term repetitive movements of the hand are risk factors for developing carpal tunnel. Imagine the repetitive work of jobs like stenographer, cashier, assembly line worker, musician, or hair stylist.

4. Sprain, Injury, or Break

A sprained, jammed, or even broken thumb could cause pain in the area. Jammed thumbs are commonly referred to as “skier’s thumb.” If you suspect an injury as serious as a thumb break, you should seek medical advice immediately to have it evaluated and properly set for healing.

5. De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis and Trigger Finger/Thumb

De Quervain’s tenosynovitis is a tendinitis condition that involves inflammation on the thumb side of your wrist. It’s often called “gamer’s thumb” in the modern world, as it can develop due to repetitive video game playing and the grip held on the controller.

Likewise trigger finger is the lay term for stenosing tenosynovitis, which is typified by a locking or catching sensation when you bend or straighten one of the digits on your hand. It most commonly affects the ring finger and the thumb, but it can impact any of the other fingers as well.

6. Gout

Though most people think of gout affecting the big toe joint, it can cause pain in any joint, including the knees, elbow, ankles, wrists, and fingers. Gout causes a buildup of uric acid crystals in these joints, which then leads to pain, swelling, and inflammation not unlike a feeling that the joint is on fire.

Thumb Knuckle Pain Treatment

Depending on the cause of your pain, treatment may involve little more than RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) if it’s due to an injury, or it may involve long-term care if it’s due to a chronic condition. A doctor may order X-rays or MRIs to assess the cause of this pain, and present you with treatment options, which may include:

  • Home remediesOver-the-counter NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like Tylenol or Advil, natural supplements and vitamins for joint pain, and devices like splints or ACE wrap bandages.
  • Medical treatments: Steroid injections, prescriptions for pain relief, physical therapy, or possible surgery may be appropriate for your situation. Your physician will review the pros and cons of each.

Thumb knuckle pain: top 6 possible causes.

Knuckle Down

There are many different causes that may be behind your thumb knuckle pain, anything from arthritis of the thumb to an injury that just needs time to heal.

If you’re experiencing persistent pain in your thumb pad, thumb joint, or thumb knuckle, don’t simply rely on anti-inflammatory medications to wait it out—chronic pain means there’s an underlying cause, and getting professional medical treatment sooner rather than later could make a massive difference when it comes to treatment, thumb mobility, and getting back to your daily activities.

SI Joint Pain: How to Identify and Relieve Sacroiliac Joint Pain

SI joint pain: find out if your lower back pain is coming from your sacroiliac joints, what causes this pain, and what treatment options are available to relieve it.

Your sacroiliac or SI joints are located in your lower back, and may be the source of low back pain you experience. This article has information that will help you identify SI joint pain. We’re also covering the different methods of pain relief and treatment options.

Where Is the SI Joint?

Issues with the sacroiliac joints are thought to be the cause of 15-30% of chronic lower back pain cases. A problem at your SI joint may manifest as a radiating stabbing pain between your pelvis and hips, or it may be felt as numbness and tingling down your thighs that makes it feel as if your legs are going to buckle. That is because your SI joints are located just above your tailbone (coccyx), between the triangle-shaped bone at the base of your spine (the sacrum) and two of your three hip bones (the flared ones that jut out below your waist, known plurally as your ilia), which reside at the uppermost part of your pelvis.

SI joint pain: causes and treatments.

The Symptoms of SI Joint Pain

SI joint pain, sometimes referred to as sacral pain, affects around 80% of adults in the United States at some point in their lives. Lower back pain and injury is one of the most common causes of work-related disabilities as well, most likely because the SI joint is the fulcrum of your back, responsible for distributing your body’s weight over the pelvic region and acting as a shock absorber for your spine.

The space between the jagged SI joint bones is full of lubricating fluid and free nerve endings that send pain signals directly to the brain. When there is any misalignment in the SI joint, the pain can be debilitating, and the communication between the nerves may be interrupted, causing numbness or lack of feeling.

While the bones in this area are stabilized by strong ligaments and muscle connections that allow us to stand upright, unlike our ape ancestors, and give birth to the large craniums of human babies, the area is nevertheless extremely vulnerable to injury and other medical conditions.

Some common symptoms of SI joint pain include:

  • Lower back pain
  • Pain in the hips, groin, or buttocks
  • Radiating pain that spreads down to the thighs
  • Stiffness or burning feelings in the pelvis
  • Numbness or weakness
  • A sensation of leg-buckling
  • Increased pain when standing from a seated position

SI Joint Pain: What Are the Causes?

There are many ways the SI joint can experience pain, only one of which is injury. Inflammation of the SI joint is called sacroiliitis, though it is often referred to as sacroiliac joint dysfunction, a general umbrella term that could apply to any of the following causes of SI joint pain.

1. Injury

The lower back is one of the most vulnerable parts of our bodies. Our brains are protected by our skulls, our most vital organs all guarded by our ribs or cradled by our pelvic bones, but the lower back region is wide-open. This allows for a unique range of motion and the ability to stand upright and tall, but it also means that the weight of the world relies on one column of bone and ligaments (the spine), which sits atop the sacroiliac joint. Trauma resulting from motor vehicle accidents, household or workplace falls, or even sudden twists of movement can cause injuries and damage that may persist for a lifetime.

2. Pregnancy

During pregnancy, a woman’s SI joint needs to become more elastic to allow for a vaginal birth. This is achieved with the release of a hormone aptly called relaxin, which allows the pelvis to widen when it comes time to give birth.

A combination between this elasticity, plus the weight gain associated with pregnancy and the positioning of the baby’s body, all lead to a higher likelihood of SI injury or ache. The joint becomes less stable, and some women even develop arthritis in their SI joints, a condition that may worsen with subsequent pregnancies.

3. Gait

Your walking pattern or gait can contribute to SI joint pain and dysfunction. For example, an overpronation problem can affect the way you walk, and the same is true if one leg happens to be longer than the other. A lifetime of irregular walking can add up to problems like shin splints, knee joint pain, and lower back pain, conditions that may or may not be remedied by corrective footwear.

4. Gout

Gouty arthritis, or simply gout, is a disease characterized by high levels of uric acid in the body, often caused by poor diet and lifestyle choices. The joint pain caused by uric acid buildup can be severe, and while it usually starts with the joint of the big toe, it can affect any joint, including the two SI joints.

5. Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis involves the degeneration of joint cartilage, causing potential pain and stiffness in many joints, including the SI joint, the knees, hips, and thumbs.

6. Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a chronic inflammatory arthritis that affects the joints of the spine. Not only does it cause pain from inflammation, but it can also lead to the growth of new bone structures that fuse together spinal joints and inhibit normal movement. This condition primarily affects the SI joint, but it can also cause inflammation in other joints and organs as far away as the eyes. It is most likely to be diagnosed in young men.

Diagnosing SI Joint Issues

SI joint problems are often hard to diagnose. These joints are located deep in your body and their associated issues often cannot be seen on CT, MRI, or X-ray images. Another reason is that lower back pain and other signs of SI issues resemble the symptoms of different conditions like arthritis of the hip, bulging spinal disks, and sciatica.

Doctors may diagnose your SI joint problems with a:

  • Physical examThe doctor may move you or ask you to stretch in certain ways to identify the source of your pain.
  • Diagnostic injectionBy injecting a local anesthetic like lidocaine into the SI region, doctors may determine the source of your pain if it temporarily disappears upon injection at that site.
  • Imaging test: While X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs don’t show every potential cause of SI joint pain, they can reveal an injury or misalignment right away.

SI Joint Pain: Treatment Options

Here are some possible options for treating pain in your SI joints.

Non-Surgical Treatment Options

  • Pain medication: Doctors may prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or opioids to help relieve joint inflammation and chronic SI pain that cannot otherwise be prevented.
  • Chiropractic or physical therapy: A physical therapist or chiropractic physician may perform or instruct you in SI joint stretches to relieve pain and build strength.
  • Yoga: The stretching exercises that characterize yoga can help increase flexibility and improve your pain symptoms.
  • SI joint injectionsMedications like corticosteroids may be regularly injected into the affected SI joint or joints to ease pain.
  • Radiofrequency ablation (RFA): This procedure, like steroid injections, can help temporarily deaden certain sensory nerves to stop the transmission of pain signals from the SI joints.
  • Physical aids: A sacroiliac belt or corrective footwear could help SI joint pain depending on its cause.

Surgical Treatment Options

Surgery is the very last resort when it comes to relieving sacroiliac pain, and involves a sacroiliac joint fusion surgery that utilizes small screws and plates to encourage these bones to fuse together. It’s invasive, it comes with its own set of risks (as does any major surgery), and experts agree it’s best to explore all other nonsurgical options before deciding alongside your doctor that this is the only way forward.

Preventing and Recovering from SI Joint Pain

Some instances of SI joint pain are temporary, say if it’s caused by a pregnancy or can be dealt with by wearing corrective gear. However, sometimes this pain arises from chronic medical conditions like osteoarthritis or irreversible injury, and may plague you for a much longer time without medical intervention.

Be cautious with your back when lifting or moving items at home or at work, and maintain a healthy lifestyle to avoid conditions like gout. That being said, not all SI joint pain causes can be avoided, so consult with a trusted medical professional to recover the best way possible.

SI joint pain: causes and treatments.

 

Kidney Infections: The Symptoms and Solutions

Kidney infections: what are the symptoms, what causes them, who’s most at risk, and how can they be cured? These important kidney-related questions are answered here.

A kidney infection is a serious health condition that needs immediate medical treatment. This article details the signs and symptoms of kidney infection, the diagnostic process, and the treatment options so you can determine whether or not it’s time to seek medical care.

What Is a Kidney Infection?

The medical term for an infection in your kidneys is pyelonephritis. It can develop from urinary tract or bladder infections that spread to one or both of your kidneys, and it can be a life-threatening condition. If you experience the following symptoms, seek medical evaluation immediately.

The Symptoms of a Kidney Infection

This list includes possible kidney infection symptoms, and due to the seriousness of such infections, if you experience them you’re encouraged to seek health care as soon as possible.

  • Cloudy urine (or urine containing blood or pus)
  • Pain in your groin, lower back, side, or abdomen
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Frequent urination
  • Burning or painful urination
  • High fever
  • Chills

An untreated kidney infection can quickly lead to sepsis and possible death, so do not hesitate if you are experiencing these symptoms, or if you suspect them in a person you care for like a child or an elderly parent.

The Causes of Kidney Infection

Your kidneys reside in your upper abdomen. These two fist-sized organs filter waste out of your bloodstream and into your urine for elimination from the body. They also work to regulate your electrolytes and water retention and are vital to human survival.

Bacteria like Escherichia coli (E. coli) can enter the kidneys via the urethra and bladder, where the bacteria can multiply and spread. Bacteria can also arise from other sources in the body and be spread via the bloodstream, or can arise from something blocking the flow of urine (like a kidney stone or an enlarged prostate).

The Risk Factors for Kidney Infection

Since we all have kidneys, we are all at risk of developing a kidney infection of some sort, but there are certain situations and conditions which make infection more likely.

  • Urinary catheter use: Because a catheter enters the urethra, it can introduce bacteria.
  • Compromised immune system: Taking immunosuppressant drugs, or having conditions like HIV/AIDS or diabetes, can increase the risk of kidney infection.
  • Urinary tract damage: Any damage that causes urine retention or backup can lead to kidney infection. Urine backing up into the kidneys is a condition known as vesicoureteral reflux.
  • Urinary tract infection: UTIs account for at least 1 in 30 kidney infection cases.
  • Being female: Due to the proximity between urethra and anus, plus the shorter urethra that characterizes female anatomy, women are statistically more likely to contract a kidney infection due to a UTI.
  • Being pregnant: Pregnant women are even more likely to have a kidney infection due to shifts that happen to the urinary tract during pregnancy.

If you have a UTI, seek medical intervention before it progresses to a severe infection. Likewise if you have unexplained lower back pain, abdominal pain (common kidney pain locations), or any other suspicious symptoms, consult a doctor as quickly as possible for treatment.

How Kidney Infections Are Diagnosed

A doctor may conduct a medical history survey to determine your health information and risk factors for kidney infection, and then order tests or conduct a physical exam of the genital area. Tests may include:

  • X-rays to assess for urinary system blockage
  • A rectal exam for men to evaluate the prostate gland
  • MRI, ultrasound, or CT scan of the kidneys
  • A urine culture to determine the type of bacteria involved
  • Urinalysis to check the urine for bacteria or white blood cell presence

Kidney Infection Treatment Options

Depending on the nature and severity of your kidney infection, treatment options may vary. Once your urine tests have been evaluated, a doctor may prescribe oral antibiotics, recommend you drink plenty of fluids to help clear out the infection, and issue other medical advice to help you avoid kidney problems in the future.

If you are given antibiotics, be sure to take them as directed and to completion to effectively eliminate the infection and avoid other serious complications like sepsis, chronic kidney disease, or kidney failure. Some instances may even call for surgical intervention and need prolonged medical attention.

Kidney Infection Recovery Tips

If you are sent home with a 2-week course of antibiotics, you can use a heating pad to help reduce your kidney pain or take over-the-counter pain killers like ibuprofen (avoid acetaminophen or Tylenol as it can cause more kidney harm). Be sure to drink at least 8 glasses of water and/or cranberry juice each day to help your body clear out the bacteria afflicting your organs.

Take Care of Yourself and Your Kidneys

Kidney infections, especially if they are caught early enough, can be managed and completely cured. Your kidneys are some of the hardest-working organs you’ve got detoxifying your body every day, so if you suspect they’re in danger or besieged by bacteria, seek medical assistance right away to get them back to functioning.

Kidney infections: symptoms and solutions.

Liver Flush: What Ingredients Actually Help Liver Function?

Will a liver flush or cleanse actually work? Find out what damages your liver, and which supplements and foods can actually help prevent liver disease.

Your liver is the undefeated detoxifier. Along with your kidneys, it’s the organ that detoxes you, and there’s only so much you can do to help detox it. That being said, while a liver flush is not as simple a concept as, say, clearing out your rain gutters with a high-powered spray of water, there are things you can do to support your liver’s natural detoxification processes, so it can flush itself and your entire body of any toxins swirling around in your bloodstream. This article details what substances can harm your liver and which liver aids have scientific reasoning behind them.

Liver Flush: Fad vs. Fact

Your liver is your largest internal organ. As big as an average football, the liver resides on the upper right side of your abdomen, above your stomach but beneath the divide separating your lungs from your guts: the diaphragm.

Many homemade liver cleanse concoctions involve fruit juice (organic apple juice, lemon juice, grapefruit juice), along with epsom salt and extra virgin olive oil. Some go so far as to suggest a coffee enema, but which one if any of these ingredients actually benefits your liver, and how? Let’s first dispel some misconceptions, and then read on for a list of foods and beverages that are proven to benefit your liver.

Is There Anything Useful in Liver Supplements?

Your liver is unique among your organs because it has the ability to heal and regenerate itself that other vital organs like the heart, lungs, and kidneys simply do not have. While you need to consume certain substances such as essential amino acids and antioxidant vitamins to support even your most basic functions, most of those nutrients can be found naturally in whole foods.

Many supplements on the market are sold without clinical testing or FDA approval, but there are certain ingredients that have been proven scientifically to help the liver do its job.

  • Milk thistleThe anti-inflammatory and antioxidant powers of milk thistle are known to have a positive effect on your liver’s health.
  • Turmeric: Another anti-inflammatory agent, turmeric can help not only reduce the risk of developing liver disease, but can also improve your entire body’s well-being by reducing pro-inflammatory molecules.

Can a Liver Flush Help with Weight Loss?

There really is no quick shortcut to losing weight. There are only two ways to shed body fat: one is burning more calories than you consume and the other is consuming fewer calories than you burn.

Because there are so many questionable claims surrounding liver cleanses on the market, studies have actually looked into and found that certain supposed liver-cleansing diets actually succeed in lowering your metabolic rate, therefore impeding weight loss rather than aiding it.

Instead of trying to find a shortcut to weight loss via your liver, focus on more tried-and-true methods of healthy weight loss (which in turn benefit your liver by cutting down on fatty deposits that may lead to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease). You can do this by:

  • Reducing caloric intake. It’s recommended that women eat 1,600-2,400 calories per day, and men 2,000-3,000. Staying closer to the lower end of the appropriate range is ideal for both your waistline and your liver’s health.
  • Burning calories through exercise. To burn off the body fat you already have, especially dangerous abdominal fat that could be negatively impacting your vital organs, take up regular exercise. Even evening walks or gentle at-home morning yoga can help get harmful fat deposits off your body and away from your liver.
  • Upgrading your diet. The better foods you choose, the more you can eat. If you want to lose weight without feeling like you’re starving yourself, eat superior foods from each food group: whole vegetables and fruits, unrefined whole grains, lean proteins like fish, chicken, and eggs, and healthy fats like those in nuts and olive oil.

Will a Liver Detox Diet Help Prevent Liver Disease?

Liver disease can arise from many different conditions, the most well-known being hepatitis (from infection by the hepatitis A, B, or C virus), alcohol abuse (leading to inflammation of the liver, scarring, and ultimately cirrhosis), and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which can come about through poor exercise and diet. The best way to prevent liver disease depends on the cause of it, and includes:

  • Safe sex and hygiene practices: Hepatitis can be contracted through unprotected sex, needle-sharing, or from mother to child during birth.
  • Alcohol moderation: The best way to prevent alcoholic fatty liver disease and other adverse health conditions (like kidney damage) is to drink alcohol in moderation or not at all.
  • Proper diet and exercise: To prevent the buildup of fat in your liver (not to mention your arteries), eating well and exercising regularly are key.

While the liver can recover and repair itself, once there is scarring of the liver tissue, that scarring cannot be reversed. Severe scarring of the liver is known as cirrhosis, and can ultimately lead to liver failure and death.

Avoiding fatty foods by choosing a liver detox diet can only prevent some of the risk factors for liver disease, not all, so be careful with your liver—unlike your kidneys, it’s the only one you’ve got.

If you have a family history of liver disease, consult a health care professional for medical advice on how to maintain optimal liver function.

What You Can Do to Protect Your Liver

There are foods and substances that can help cleanse or flush your system and aid liver health, but before we get to dietary solutions, here are other things you can do to maintain a healthy liver.

1. Vaccinate Against Hepatitis

Some forms of hepatitis are incurable, and preventing infection is the best way to make sure your liver does not have to suffer damage from the disease. Hepatitis viruses are not just sexually transmitted; they can be caught during travel to countries with unsanitary conditions, by healthcare workers who work in close proximity with infected patients, or from tattoo parlors with unsafe needle practices. The proper hepatitis vaccinations may save you from infection no matter how you’re exposed to these viruses.

2. Take Medications Cautiously and as Directed

No matter whether it’s a prescription or nonprescription drug, your liver must process the medication you take. If it’s possible to use natural remedies instead of pharmaceutical drugs, you may want to try those first.

If you need certain medications, take them as directed by your doctor (don’t stop a course of antibiotics for example when you start feeling better, as this can lead to drug-resistant viruses), and do not mix any medications with alcohol, including and especially over-the-counter medicine like Tylenol (acetaminophen), which should never be taken within 24 hours of imbibing alcohol, and vice versa.

3. Limit or Avoid Alcohol Intake

Liver damage from alcohol use is one of the most preventable conditions around. Alcohol is a poison, a toxin that your liver has to clean up. In fact, your liver has the lion’s share of the responsibility, as 90% of the alcohol you ingest is metabolized by your liver. The recommended limit is no more than 1 drink per day for women, and 2 drinks per day for men.

It’s not just liver disease you need to be concerned about with alcohol. When the liver metabolizes alcohol it converts it into acetaldehyde, which is a cancer-causing agent. While a glass of red wine with dinner is connected to heart health, excessive drinking and hard liquor consumption can cause inflammation, fatty buildup, and permanent scarring, which compromises your liver’s ability to detox your body, and no liver flush or cleanse can reverse that kind of damage.

4. Protect Yourself from Needles (and with Condoms)

If you need to use needles regularly for insulin injections or other medications, if you’re a healthcare worker who frequently handles needles, or if you are in the market for a tattoo, be proactive in making sure your needles are properly sterilized and never shared. Should you get stuck with a previously used needle, seek immediate medical attention, and do not take street drugs at all, especially if they involve injection.

Many viruses can be transmitted not just by blood, but via other bodily fluids as well. When engaging in intercourse, practice safe sex precautions like condom usage, dental dams, regular STD testing, and preventative medications like PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis).

5. Handle Chemicals with Caution

Household chemicals, paint, insecticides, fungicides, etc. are all toxins you can inhale or ingest, and it is up to your liver to process and eliminate those toxins. Protect yourself by wearing gloves, a mask, and protective skin coverings (like long-sleeved shirts and pants) to reduce the amount of toxic chemicals you’re exposed to in any given situation.

6. Reduce Unhealthy Food Consumption

Salt, sugar, and processed foods can all be detrimental to your liver’s health. For example, consuming excessive salt can lead to fluid retention, water weight gain, and extra stress on both your kidneys and your liver. If you don’t consume enough water along with the salt, your body may produce an antidiuretic hormone (vasopressin) that prevents urination, and you’ll retain the water instead of using it to flush toxins from your system. In this situation, more water intake, decreased salt intake, or increased potassium could help, as potassium helps balance out the effects of sodium.

When it comes to sugar and processed foods, it’s a metabolic nightmare. Added sugars like refined sugar and corn syrup are permeating processed foods, from cookies and candies, to salad dressings, pasta sauces, and even granola bars. High sugar consumption not only can lead to the development of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, but can also contribute to other chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.

Maintaining a healthy weight via diet and exercise can help prevent gallstone formation, which arises when you have too much cholesterol in your bile. Your gallbladder is attached to your liver courtesy of the common bile duct, and acts as a storage site for the necessary bile your liver produces. Bile that is thick with cholesterol can form stones that block your gallbladder or your liver (making them liver stones), and interrupt or damage the liver’s normal functioning.

Replacing junk foods with healthier alternatives, as well as eating more whole foods instead of processed ones, invariably leads to better health for you and your vital organs.

What ingredients work for a liver flush?

Healthy Foods for Liver Cleansing

So here we are: one of the best ways to help remove toxins from your bloodstream and your liver is to avoid consuming them in the first place. However, that begs the question, “What foods are good for a liver flush?” Here’s a list of foods and beverages that are particularly suited to promoting your liver’s health and helping it eliminate toxins.

1. Coffee

Good news: coffee is an excellent drink for liver health. It can protect against the development of liver disease, even for those who already have compromised liver function. For instance, multiple studies have shown that regularly consuming coffee lowers your risk for cirrhosis, even for those who already have chronic liver disease. Researchers urge those with liver disease to drink coffee, as many as 3 cups per day, because it may even lower the risk of death.

These amazing benefits are attributed in the above-linked studies to coffee’s ability to block collagen and fat buildup, two huge contributors to liver disease, and to aid in the production of glutathione, an antioxidant that helps guard against the oxidative stress caused by free radicals. Coffee comes with many health benefits, including improved liver function.

2. Grapes

Darker grapes (purple and red) are famously well-known for containing resveratrol, the compound that makes red wine a heart-healthy beverage. Grapes and grape juices have been shown to benefit the liver in various animal studies, preventing damage from toxins and lowering unhealthy inflammation.

One human study conducted in 2010 found that supplementing with grape seed extract for 3 months improved the liver function of participants with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, leading to the supposition that consuming concentrated, unsweetened grape fruit juice could help those with even severe liver conditions feel better.

3. Grapefruit

Another fruit that can provide natural hepatoprotective (liver-protective) antioxidants is grapefruit, thanks to its concentrations of naringenin and naringin. These antioxidants have been shown to help guard against liver damage and help reduce dangerous inflammation. They can also discourage the development of hepatic fibrosis, a condition wherein connective tissue excessively builds up in the liver and causes chronic inflammation.

Naringenin specifically has been shown to increase fat-burning enzymes and prevent metabolic dysregulation, while naringin is known to improve alcohol metabolism and mitigate alcohol’s adverse side effects. So if you find grapefruit juice in a liver flush recipe, it has scientifically backed reasoning to be included, not to mention it’s a great source of vitamin C, another antioxidant that’s known to help prevent cold and flu infection.

4. Nuts

Full of the antioxidant vitamin E and high in healthy fats, nuts are great benefactors for heart health and possibly the liver as well. This observational study conducted in 2015 found that consuming walnuts helped improve liver enzyme levels of 106 participants with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. And an observational study from 2014 demonstrated that men who consumed nuts and seeds in large amounts had a lower risk of developing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in the first place.

5. Tea

Tea (especially green, black, and oolong tea) has been shown to consistently improve the health and longevity of those who consume it regularly. Tea consumption has also been found to benefit the liver in particular, as can be seen in this study of Japanese men who drank 5-10 cups of green tea each day and had improved blood markers of both cardiovascular and hepatic health. In another study of 17 participants with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, drinking green tea for a 12-week period decreased fat deposits in their livers, reduced their oxidative stress levels, and improved their liver enzyme levels.

Green tea has also been found to help prevent the development of liver cancer, and black tea too has been observed reducing the negative liver effects of a high-fat diet while also improving liver health blood markers. If you have an active liver condition, consult your doctor before supplementing with green tea extract, but if you’re just looking to flush your liver of toxins, drinking green tea is a strong place to start.

6. Dark Berries

Deep-colored berries like blueberries and cranberries contain antioxidants known as anthocyanins. This compound gives berries their rich colors and is connected to improved liver health. For example, cranberries can help prevent toxic liver injury, and blueberries can help positively modulate T-cell activity in the immune response to your liver.

Blueberry extract has even managed to inhibit human liver cancer cell growth in laboratory studies, and may someday have practical anti-cancer application in humans.

7. Beetroot Juice

Beetroot juice contains betalains, nitrates that function as antioxidants for heart health. When it comes to the liver, beetroot juice also serves to increase your production of natural detoxification enzymes, improving your liver’s detox capacity. It also lowers inflammation levels in the liver and blocks oxidative stress damage.

8. Prickly Pear

The prickly pear, aka Opuntia ficus-indica, is an edible cactus that you may remember from the song “The Bare Necessities” in Disney’s The Jungle Book. A long-standing staple of traditional medicine, the prickly pear is used in modern medicine to treat wounds, ulcers, liver disease, and even hangovers.

That’s right: those who overindulge in alcohol and wake up the next morning with symptoms like dry mouth, nausea, and lack of appetite may lessen the severity of those ill effects according to this study from 2004. This is thanks to the detoxification-enhancing abilities and anti-inflammatory properties of the prickly pear. A more recent study from 2012 on rat models found that prickly pear helped protect the liver from the after-effects of alcohol consumption as well.

9. Fatty Fish

You might not think nonalcoholic fatty liver disease could be helped by eating more fat, but it’s the quality of fat that counts, as well as the omega-3 fatty acid content. Eating oily, fatty fish like salmon or halibut is well-known to be good for heart and cholesterol health, and consuming fish oil may help alleviate arthritis inflammation.

Fatty fish are good for your liver health as well, because they can help balance your ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids (most people in the modern world get far too much omega-6 and nowhere near enough omega-3 fatty acids), which is important because an imbalance between the two may help promote liver disease development.

10. Olive Oil

Olive oil can not only replace unhealthy refined vegetable oils in your diet, but it can also improve your liver enzyme levels, as was seen in this 2010 study of 11 nonalcoholic fatty liver disease patients. As with fatty fish, olive oil is a healthy fat that can improve your metabolic rate, optimize insulin sensitivity, and even increase blood flow to your liver.

Liver, Laugh, Love

When it comes to optimal liver function, it’s half about what you add to your body, and half about what you abstain from adding. Avoid overtaxing your liver with poison like alcohol and drugs, but do be sure to make a habit of consuming detoxification aids like green tea, grapefruit juice, healthy whole foods, and the occasional nutrient supplement designed to provide the liver-protective nutrients you don’t naturally gain from food.