Can the liver recover from cirrhosis

Liver damage: how regeneration can succeed

Status: 04.07.2017 12:52 | archive
The liver is the most important metabolic organ in the human body.

The liver is the most important metabolic organ in the human body. It detoxifies the body and produces important blood proteins. In addition, the organ forms the bile and releases it to the intestine to support fat digestion. If the liver fails, its function cannot be taken over by machines in the long term, as is possible with the kidney through dialysis. In the short term, liver replacement methods can be used, for example, in acute poisoning by fungi - but only if the liver has not been previously damaged.

Double blood supply

A special feature of the liver is its double blood supply: the hepatic artery supplies the organ with oxygen-rich blood. In addition, the portal vein supplies blood from the intestines to the liver. The portal vein blood contains components of food that are processed in the liver.

Alcohol abuse can lead to cirrhosis of the liver

Alcohol abuse or chronic inflammation (hepatitis) can destroy the liver. First there is liver fibrosis, an increase in connective tissue from which the organ can recover. In the worst case, cirrhosis of the liver develops: the cells of the organ die and connective tissue takes the place of the liver tissue. The shape of the liver changes, it forms bumps and lumps. And it is getting smaller, which is why it is also called "shrunken liver". Symptoms such as yellowing of the skin, weight loss or severe itching of the skin indicate cirrhosis of the liver. The disease can be discovered with blood and ultrasound examinations. In order to stop the destruction of the liver, the underlying cause must be corrected or treated.

Sometimes only a transplant will help

Cirrhosis of the liver can impair the metabolism, hormonal balance and blood clotting. Toxins are no longer broken down sufficiently. If the liver no longer works properly, this also affects other organs. A greatly increased creatinine level in the kidneys can indicate liver failure. In addition, the blood flow is obstructed when the liver changes due to the formation of connective tissue: New blood vessels form that bypass the liver. Varicose veins can develop in the esophagus and abdomen, which if left untreated can easily tear and lead to life-threatening bleeding. If the cirrhosis of the liver cannot be stopped, there is usually only an organ transplant.

Cortisone therapy for alcohol-related inflammation

Cortisone is used to try to stop alcohol-related hepatitis. New studies have shown that cortisone therapy improves the chances of survival by five percent. In contrast to most other organs, the liver can recover - but it can take a long time. Decisive requirements for this are absolute abstinence from alcohol, a healthy diet and plenty of exercise.

Pay attention to a good supply of nutrients

Fatigue and muscle weakness in liver patients are an indication of malnutrition in which minerals, vitamins and proteins are missing. Sick people should therefore ensure a good supply of energy and nutrients. Unlike in the past, a protein-rich diet is recommended today. Fiber-rich whole grain products and vegetables, lean meat, fish and good vegetable fats are also important because the carbohydrate and fat metabolism is disturbed in liver patients. Even after a short period of hunger, the metabolism switches to burning fat. Those affected therefore have to eat several small, carbohydrate-rich meals throughout the day and have a snack before going to sleep (for example, drinking food). In the event of liver damage, all alcoholic beverages should be strictly avoided. Drugs containing alcohol, tonics or chocolates are also prohibited.

Fatty liver causes hardly any discomfort

In contrast to liver cirrhosis, fatty liver usually causes hardly any symptoms and is usually only discovered by chance during an ultrasound examination of the upper abdomen or during a blood test (increased transaminases). If bile congestion in the liver occurs as a result of fatty liver inflammation, symptoms such as severe itching and yellowing of the eyes and skin may occur. A lack of exercise and poor nutrition play an important role in the development of fatty liver, especially if the proportion of carbohydrates in the diet is too high: the liver uses carbohydrates to build a single fatty acid, palmitic acid. It makes the cholesterol level rise much more than the fat in food.

Liver-friendly diets can cure fatty liver

In order to stop the fatty degeneration of the liver and relieve the organ, the main thing that patients need to do is reduce their weight. Then the fatty liver can regress again. A liver-friendly diet with omega-3 fatty acids and only a few, complex carbohydrates, i.e. a low-calorie, low-carbohydrate, protein-rich and fat-modified diet helps. Caution is advised with fruit and fruit juices, because the fruit sugar (fructose) they contain increases the fat storage in the liver and promotes inflammation. If the change in lifestyle with a lot of exercise and a healthy diet is not enough to get a severe overweight with fatty liver under control, a so-called bariatric surgery (for example a gastric bypass) can be useful to relieve the liver and develop a Stop diabetes mellitus.

Interview partner

Interview partner in the post:
Dr. Th. Till Wissniowski, internist, gastroenterologist, infectiologist
Senior Physician Clinic for Gastroenterology, Endocrinology, Metabolism and Clinical Infectiology
Head of the Hepatology Department
University Hospital Gießen Marburg, Marburg location
Baldingerstraße, 35043 Marburg
Tel. (06421) 58-664 60

Dr. Dorothee Sundermeyer, specialist in general medicine, naturopathic acupuncture, teaching doctor at the Philipps University of Marburg
Michelbacher Strasse 47, 35041 Marburg-Michelbach

Additional Information:
Gastro League e.V.
Friedrich-List-Strasse 13, 35398 Giessen

German Liver Foundation
Barkhovenallee 1, 45239 Essen
Office: Carl-Neuberg-Straße 1, 30625 Hanover
Telephone consultation tel. 01805-45 00 60 (Mon-Thu 2-4 p.m.)

Michael Ackermann: It doesn't die that quickly!
200 pages, self-published, 12.95 euros
available from Michael Ackermann:
Email: [email protected]
or Internet:

German Liver Foundation:
The Liver Book: How Do I Keep My Liver Healthy ?. New therapies and state of research. The liver from A to Z.
160 p., Schlütersche (3rd edition; 2016), 16.99 euros

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