Living With Stage 4 Cirrhosis of the Liver + Ways to Prevent Cirrhosis
7 minute read
Your liver is a critical organ, and it’s responsible for filtering toxins and detoxifying the body, among other things. You only get one liver, and you can’t live without it.
Considering the severity of the disease, many don’t give their liver the care it deserves, as liver disease and cirrhosis are all too common in the United States. Despite serious damage to the liver, there are still things you can do to slow the development of the disease and live as comfortably as possible.
What Is Stage 4 Cirrhosis?
Decompensated cirrhosis is the term physicians give to the advanced form (or stage 4) of the disease. Compensated cirrhosis is different and doesn’t have any symptoms, as the liver usually functions normally during this stage.
Once the liver decompensates, individuals are near end-stage liver failure and need to be placed on a liver transplant list. At this stage, a transplant is the only option for a full recovery.
Cirrhosis may not show symptoms until it reaches this decompensated stage. Once this stage is reached, there are several common symptoms you may notice.
♦ Easy bruising and bleeding
♦ Swollen legs
♦ Bloated abdomen (from accumulated fluid)
♦ Loss of appetite
♦ Confusion, slurred speech
♦ Unexplained itchiness
Cirrhosis is the condition that develops once the liver tissue has become badly scarred. When the scarring is too bad, the liver is not able to function properly. Decompensation is the advanced stage of this, so it’s essentially caused by the same factors.
Fatty buildup around the liver, viral infections like hepatitis, and excessive and long term alcohol consumption are the leading causes of cirrhosis. If left untreated, the condition worsens to decompensated cirrhosis.
In addition to these main causes, there are a few other factors that can contribute to liver scarring and cirrhosis.
♦ Liver infections
♦ Bile duct injuries
♦ A buildup of copper or iron
♦ Cystic fibrosis
Once you have stage 4 cirrhosis, there are limited treatment options. Liver transplants are usually the only solution, as there is no way to reverse it at this stage.
At this stage, most options focus on comfort and improving your quality of life.
♦ A low-salt diet
♦ Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs
♦ Limit your fluid intake
♦ Start taking diuretics
♦ Take medications to help your blood clot
♦ Take antibiotics for any infections
♦ Take medications to improve blood flow to the liver
Preventing and Healing Cirrhosis
Decompensated cirrhosis is only fixed by a transplant, which may seem dire. The good news is that with earlier stages of cirrhosis, there are ways to prevent the condition from getting worse.
The liver has some ability to regenerate, so with the right lifestyle and diet changes you can protect your liver and give it the boost it needs to start healing. At the very least you can prevent decompensated cirrhosis.
| Related: 7 Essential Liver Health Tips and Habits You Can Start Today |
With regular checkups, you can identify the condition before it reaches a dangerous stage. Once you identify the condition, you can make the following changes to improve liver health and potentially reverse some of the damage already done.
This extends the life of your liver and prevents you from reaching the decompensated status.
Exercise is great for your overall health, but it has some unique benefits for your liver. Regular physical activity promotes the efficient burning of fat, which eliminates fat storage in the body. This protects your liver from fatty build-up that leads to cirrhosis.
Avoid Alcohol and Drugs
Excessive alcohol consumption contributes to fatty deposits on your liver tissue, which interferes with liver function. Recreational drugs are toxins, and when present in excessive amounts, your liver becomes overworked trying to get rid of them.
Long term drug or alcohol abuse causes serious wear and damage to your liver, so this should be the first things to give up if cirrhosis is suspected.
Supplements like milk thistle, tocotrienol vitamin E extract, and ALA (alpha-lipoic acid) are all proven to help support liver health, and they even heal certain forms of damage. Together they work to improve liver metabolism and function. Milk thistle, in particular, has been shown to heal liver damage, reduce fatty deposit buildup and so long as the damage is not too severe, it can even help reverse cirrhosis.
With supplemental help, you can slow the progression of decompensated cirrhosis. Even if you are unable to heal it completely, you can give your liver more time while waiting for a transplant.
Using these supplements as part of your daily routine will also protect your liver from damage and can protect you from cirrhosis in the first place.
Liver Healthy Foods
There are a number of foods you can start eating that will protect your liver from damage and can help boost function, which can help delay the progression of cirrhosis. Coffee and green teas are great drinks for those with liver problems, as they help to reduce inflammation and fatty buildup around the organ. Regularly drinking coffee or tea can help lower your overall risk for liver disease and cirrhosis.
In addition to this, certain fruits contain valuable liver-healthy compounds. Grapefruit contains enzymes that work to improve fat metabolism, which prevents fatty deposits. Berries, such as blueberries and cranberries, contain powerful antioxidants, which work to slow the development of liver lesions and fibrosis.
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and brussels sprouts are also good for liver health. These increase the production of detoxification enzymes that protect your liver from damage. They also work to increase blood levels of other beneficial liver enzymes.
The Bottom Line
You only get one liver, and while it is designed to filter toxins daily, too much can cause permanent damage. Protecting your liver and promoting liver health is the best way to avoid decompensated cirrhosis.
With the right diet, lifestyle, and supplemental support, you can boost liver longevity and even heal some damage that may already be done. Don’t wait until a transplant is your only option, start loving your liver today.