Liver Transplant: Are There Alternative Treatments for Liver Disease?

  • Liver Transplant: Are There Alternative Treatments for Liver Disease?

    When your doctor recommends a liver transplant, it usually means that other treatments for liver disease aren’t enough. Transplants are for the worst cases of liver disease. The American Liver Foundation reports that over 6,000 patients receive liver transplants in the U.S. every year.

    Whether you are currently on the waiting list or not, it may be helpful to discuss all options with your doctor--including the possibility of alternative treatments. 

  • A Transplant Is a Waiting Game

    A liver transplant is just as it sounds: a healthy organ is transplanted in place of a diseased one. The trouble is that you must wait for a donor liver to become available, and the liver needs to match both your body size and blood type.

    Before you get on the waiting list, you must see a transplant team. This medical group assesses the severity of your condition, as well as possible risks. If your liver no longer works, it cannot help distribute nutrients in your body or get rid of harmful toxins, which is eventually fatal.

  • What Are the Types of Alternative Liver Disease Treatments?

    “Alternative” treatments refer to approaches not generally used in conventional medicine practices. As studies show promise with some treatments, medical doctors are using alternative approaches to complement conventional treatments.

    Herbs and supplements are common in alternative medicine. And certain dietary practices along with exercise are essential to many health outcomes, including liver disease prevention.

  • Herbal Supplements

    Herbs are an increasingly common treatment used in hopes of improving liver detoxification. The most popular herbs include:

    • dandelion
    • milk thistle
    • green tea
    • mistletoe
    • black cohosh
    • pennyroyal
    • valerian

    These herbs are available as teas, tinctures, and even tablets. They can cause side effects as do conventional drugs and should be treated as such. Don’t take herbs for liver disease without asking a doctor first.

  • Foods That Affect the Liver

    Technically, all foods can affect your liver. The liver processes much of what you eat and drink. Certain foods can increase your risk for liver problems, or worsen existing liver disease. These include:

    • high-fat foods
    • alcohol

    You may consider eating a plant-based diet as an alternative liver disease treatment. Choosing a full range of colored fruits and vegetables can help ensure that you get a variety of antioxidants in your diet.

  • Exercising for Optimal Liver Function

    When you’re battling liver problems, the last thing you may feel like doing is getting up and working out. For all stages of liver disease, however, this is perhaps one of the best alternative treatment methods available.

    Even a quick walk can help promote digestion. On top of that, maintaining your weight with regular exercise can help prevent nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, a condition caused by obesity.

  • Liver Disease vs. Liver Failure

    Cirrhosis is the most common cause for liver disease, and is often linked to other health problems like alcohol abuse and chronic hepatitis infections. With cirrhosis, the liver has developed so much irreversible scar tissue damage that it can no longer function.

    Severe cases ultimately lead to liver failure. At this point, a liver transplant is the only treatment that can save your life.

  • Alternative Can Equate to Complementary

    When faced with liver failure, you may be disappointed that you can’t do anything to reverse the damage. Alternative treatments can’t cure a failed liver, but they may help complement your recovery after a transplant. Diet and exercise particularly can extend the odds of a successful liver transplantation.

    It’s never a smart idea to play doctor at home. Talk to your physician about any alternative liver disease treatment plans you’re interested in. You’ll likely find that your doctor is open to complementary methods to help you heal and feel your best!

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