Did you know that your liver is the second largest organ of your body, right after the skin? Comparable to the size of a football, this hardworking organ weighs up to four pounds in total and rests under your ribcage on the right side of your abdomen. The purpose of the liver is to assist in multiple functions crucial for everyday living, such as storing energy, digesting food, and removing toxins from the body.
Living in unpolluted environments and eating clean have become impossible in today's life. As a result, toxins keep flowing inside the body, forcing your liver to overwork. This, topped with other factors like infections and unhealthy factors like alcohol abuse, may severely topple the liver, leading to a multitude of issues, such as cirrhosis and ascites (buildup of fluid in the abdomen). The occurrence of liver and ascites together can be daunting and highly uncomfortable for most people. Fortunately, there are many proposed medical ways and natural remedies to manage these conditions and relieve their symptoms.
This article will help shed light on liver cirrhosis, its relation to ascites, and how to manage these conditions together through medical and herbal solutions.
What Is Cirrhosis of the Liver?
Cirrhosis refers to a progressive liver disease characterized by the formation of scar tissues in the liver. Consequently, severe liver dysfunction impacts multiple critical processes such as the elimination of toxins and waste, blood flow, digestion of certain nutrients, and hormonal balance.
As per the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, some of the most common reasons why the liver develops dangerous scar tissues include:
- Family history of liver disease
- A history of fatty liver disease
- Alcohol abuse
- Infections, such as hepatitis
- High cholesterol levels
- Poor dietary habits
Once cirrhosis begins, the health of the liver slowly begins to deteriorate. Unfortunately, if it progresses to advanced stages, certain extremely uncomfortable symptoms like ascites begin to kick in. Soon enough, the liver sets on a discourse leading to liver failure, which may be fatal unless transplantation is planned. Fortunately, a combination of certain pharmacological therapies and lifestyle changes can help halt or slow down this process or may reverse it to some extent in some.
How Liver Cirrhosis Causes Ascites?
Cirrhosis is one of the most common causes of ascites, i.e. the buildup of free fluid in the abdomen. Cirrhotic ascites develop due to increased blood pressure in the portal vein. The portal vein refers to the main blood vessel that carries blood from different digestive organs, like the spleen, gallbladder, and intestines, to the liver. With increased pressure in this vein, the kidney function begins to deteriorate, and instead of kicking out excess fluid, it starts accumulating it. Because the cirrhotic liver cannot function optimally, it struggles to manage this excessive fluid and forces it into the abdominal cavity, leading to ascites.
Ascites due to liver cirrhosis can be highly uncomfortable with symptoms like abdominal discomfort, belly pain, and difficulty breathing. For many, it may limit the ability to move around, eat, or perform activities of daily life.
Treating Ascites Due to Liver Cirrhosis
The definitive treatment for ascites secondary to liver cirrhosis involves halting the cirrhotic process or reversing it if possible. In the meantime, an expert may suggest different procedures to remove the fluid buildup from the abdomen for temporary symptomatic relief.
Diuretics or water pills are commonly used for treating ascites due to multiple etiologies. These drugs work by increasing the amount of water and salt leaving your body, reducing the pressure in the portal vein.
This procedure involves using a thin, long needle to remove excess fluid from the abdomen. A qualified expert inserts this needle through the skin into the abdomen and sucks out all extra fluid. The process may need to be repeated in people with recurrent or severe ascites.
In severe cases, a trained surgeon may put a shunt or a permanent tube into the body to reroute the blood flow around the liver. This rerouting reduces the need for regular drainage through diuretics or paracentesis.
If ascites does not respond to any of the procedures mentioned above or keeps coming back, it indicates advanced level cirrhosis and liver transplant becomes the only viable option of treatment.
Managing Cirrhosis-related Ascites With Home Remedies
In addition to the therapeutic interventions explained above, specific home remedies may reduce the severity or intensity of ascites in an individual. These remedies are explained below in detail:
Epsom Salt Bath
Epsom bath salts are a potent detoxifier of the body and can soothe swelling in the abdomen and legs to relax you. It contains magnesium ions that can easily permeate through the skin to enter the system and assist in different metabolic functions of the liver.
To follow this remedy, add one cup of Epsom salt into a bucket of warm water and soak your feet for up to 20 minutes. Repeat every alternate night for best results.
Fenugreek seeds form one of the best home treatments for issues related to the abdomen. Due to its anti-cancer and hepato-protective effects, people with cirrhosis and ascites can easily rely on it. Fenugreek seeds aid in the elimination of free radicals and control inflammation to get rid of the fluid buildup in the abdomen.
To use this remedy, soak a handful of fenugreek seeds in a water bowl. Strain the liquid the next morning and drink it to keep your liver healthy.
Chop 3 or 4 cloves of garlic and extract the juice. Consume one tablespoon of this juice every night to reduce tenderness and bloating associated with ascites. In addition, garlic also possesses anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects that can benefit your liver.
Ginger is a well-known natural diuretic i.e.; it has the ability to flush out excess water from the body. To use it for ascites, crush a small piece of ginger, add it into boiling water and let it steep for 5 minutes. Consuming this delicious ginger tea can not only manage ascites but also exert an anti-cancer effect on liver cells.
Make yourself a glass of fresh carrot juice every day to tackle the discomfort associated with ascites. Carrots have a mild diuretic effect on the body and can aid in regular digestion. This vegetable also cleanses the liver and aids in the release of excess fats and bile that have accumulated due to cirrhosis.
Castor Oil Pack
Consider making a castor oil pack to support your liver health and reduce ascites. Castor oil is known to boost lymphatic circulation by opening up the blocked vessels. This effect, in turn, reduces inflammation and relieves pain.
To make a castor oil pack, soak some undyed wool in a bowl containing castor oil. Make sure the wool is saturated with oil but there is none dripping. Place this wool, dipped in castor oil on the painful area of your abdomen and cover it with plastic. Place a hot water bottle on top of it and leave it for around 45 minutes. Remove the pack after the time is up and wash the affected area with water. You can easily reuse the pack by storing the container in a fridge.
Controlling Liver Cirrhosis to Beat Ascites: Lifestyle Management
If your ascites does not respond well to the remedies mentioned above or keeps coming back, it is an indication that your liver cirrhosis is constantly progressing and requires immediate intervention. In addition to taking pharmacological help from your doctor, follow the tips below to contain the development of scar tissue on your liver:
Say no to alcohol
Most cases of cirrhosis leading to ascites are well-rooted in chronic alcohol use. For such people, practicing complete abstinence is necessary to prevent any further damage.
Lessen your sodium intake
Consuming too much salt forces your body to retain fluid, worsening ascites and cirrhosis. So consider cutting back on your sodium intake and prefer using herbs for seasoning your everyday foods.
Eat a healthy diet
It is common for people with cirrhosis to experience malnutrition. Combat this side effect by following a healthy plant-based diet with plenty of fruit, vegetables, and lean proteins.
Cirrhosis can make it difficult to fight off infections. So protect your liver and the rest of your body by observing frequent hand washing and avoiding people who are sick. Talk with your doctor and consider getting vaccinations such as for influenza, pneumonia, and hepatitis A and B.
Be watchful of the medications you use
Cirrhosis interferes with your ability to process certain drugs. For this reason, make sure to consult with a doctor before using any drugs, including non-prescription medications. Steer clear of drugs like ibuprofen, paracetamol, and aspirin to preserve liver health.
In a Nutshell
Liver cirrhosis can be a complicated and distressing diagnosis for anyone. The scar tissue that slowly replaces the healthy liver tissue can often make it difficult to carry out regular functions. This reduced liver efficiency can manifest in a variety of symptoms, ascites being the most common one. Without proper management, ascites can be extremely uncomfortable, often progressing to symptoms like shortness of breath and abdominal pain. Fortunately, many home remedies have been successfully implemented in controlling this fluid buildup in the abdomen. While most of these remedies are likely to work, keep in mind that the definitive cure involves containment of the cirrhotic process and partial reversal through pharmacological and lifestyle interventions.