Cirrhosis: Be Kind to Your Liver

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The liver is probably the most versatile organ you’ve got. It performs many tasks, including:

•  Producing bile (a substance that aids digestion of fats).

•  Producing blood proteins.

•  Helping blood clot.

•  Metabolizing cholesterol.

•  Maintaining normal blood sugar levels.

•  Forming and storing glycogen (the body’s short-term energy source).

•  Manufacturing more than 1,000 enzymes necessary for various bodily functions.

•  Detoxifying substances such as alcohol and many drugs.

The liver is equipped to handle a certain amount of alcohol without much difficulty. But drink too much alcohol, too often, for too long, and the vital tissues in the liver break down. Fatty deposits accumulate and scarring occurs. This is known as cirrhosis. It’s most commonly found in men over 45, yet the number of women developing cirrhosis is steadily increasing.


To make matters worse, people who drink too much generally have poor nutritional habits. Since alcohol replaces food, essential vitamins and minerals are missing from the diet. Malnutrition aggravates cirrhosis.


While alcohol abuse is the most common cause of cirrhosis, hepatitis, taking certain drugs, or exposure to certain chemicals can also produce this condition.


Doctors recognize the following as signs of advanced cirrhosis.

•  Enlarged liver.

•  Yellowish eyes and skin, and tea-colored urine (indicating jaundice). Bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract.

•  Itching.

•  Hair loss.

•  Swelling in the legs and stomach (indicating fluid accumulation).

•  Tendency to bruise easily.

•  Mental confusion.

Image of liver with cirrhosis.

Liver with Cirrhosis

Cirrhosis can be life threatening, so get medical attention if you suspect your drinking habits may have gotten out of hand or you have any of the above symptoms. And needless to say, you (or anyone you suspect of having cirrhosis) should abstain from alcohol.

This website is not meant to substitute for expert medical advice or treatment. Follow your doctor’s or health care provider’s advice if it differs from what is given in this guide.


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