Liver Strong

A strong liver is vital to long, healthy living. It performs hundreds of functions including storing energy, breaking down food, detoxifying harmful substances, and building muscle. There are loads of ways to keep your liver lively:

  • Eat healthy foods. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables, packed with fiber and antioxidants, and low in saturated fat is recommended by experts — the less work your liver needs to do the better.
  • Don’t smoke or use drugs. These vices can contribute to severe long–term damage, causing the liver to work overtime to remove the toxins.
  • Avoid alcohol. For liver health, some experts recommend abstaining from alcohol entirely; others advise no more than 2 drinks a day for men and 1 for women.
  • Monitor prescription drugs. Make sure your doctor and pharmacist know every prescription and nonprescription drug you’re using. Dosage needs fluctuate with age, and prolonged use can damage the liver.
  • Visit your doctor regularly. Since many liver diseases are preventable, regular checkups are vital.

Liver Failure Life Support

When a kidney fails, patients can stay alive with dialysis machines. For failed hearts, there are pacemakers; for lungs, ventilators. For people whose livers fail each year, there is no mechanical life support, and currently 80 percent of them die.

Jenny and Chris were married just three months when Jenny became very ill. Chris remembers, “It just happened so quickly. That morning she was coherent, and two days later she was in Chapel Hill in a coma.”

Jenny’s liver had suddenly shut down. Her blood was filling with poisons.

Her doctor explains, “These patients come in, and it really is a race against time before they die or get a transplant.”

Time is just what this new machine can give patients like Jenny. It’s called a bioartificial liver and it filters the patient’s blood until a donor liver can be found or the failed liver heals on its own. Patients are hooked up six hours a day for two weeks. The patient’s blood is filtered through charcoal and liver cells from pigs.

“I think it’s really given patients and family members a ray of hope in a very grim time,” says Dr.

Jenny got a donated liver quickly. So she didn’t have to be put on the machine. “There are a lot of people that wait for a long time before they get a liver, and some people don’t get one,” she says.

In the near future, this artificial liver may help them hold out longer.

The bioartificial liver is not designed for patients with chronic liver disease, like hepatitis C. It’s meant for sudden liver failure, like Jenny’s. Sudden failure is most often caused by a viral infection but can also be caused by exposure to toxic chemicals or taking too much of the pain reliever acetaminophen.

Hepasil DTX is a carefully formulated blend of antioxidants aimed at supporting and maintaining the body’s second largest organ: the liver.

The main ingredient in Hepasil DTX is Milk Thistle Extract. It is one of the most powerful antioxidants currently known, and it helps to increase both the amount and the activity of several antioxidant enzyme systems involved in the detoxification process (including superoxide dismutase (SOD) and the glutathione peroxidase system).

Other important antioxidants in USANA Hepasil DTX include alpha-lipoic acid, green tea extract, turmeric extract, and the patented olive fruit extract Olivol. Each of these helps to protect multiple enzyme systems in the liver, as well as providing secondary antioxidant protection to the rest of the body.

Additional key ingredients in Hepasil include choline (a precursor to betaine and a methyl-group donor in detoxification reactions), n-acetyl L-cysteine (a precursor to glutathione), and biotin (a key component of fatty acid synthesis).

Fibrosis Can Be Reversed and Cured

A new discovery could lead to the first cure for cirrhosis of the liver.

San Diego researchers have proven liver fibrosis can be stopped and reversed in mice. This could help scientists develop new treatments and cures for conditions that cause excessive scarring such as viral hepatitis, fatty liver disease, cirrhosis, pulmonary fibrosis, scleroderma, and burns.

Previous research from the University of California, San Diego found the cause of the excess fibrous growth that leads to liver fibrosis and cirrhosis and developed a way to block it in mice. Now the researchers show that by blocking a protein linked to overproduction of scar tissue they can stop fibrosis from progressing in mice as well as reverse some of the cell damage already done.

In conditions such as cirrhosis, oxidative stress activates hepatic stellate cell (HSC) which results in a lot of collagen. Collagen is necessary to heal wounds but too much of it causes scar tissue. The study shows activating a protein called RSK triggers HSC and is critical for liver fibrosis to progress. Researchers developed an RSK inhibitory peptide to block the activation of RSK.

When scientists gave mice the RSK-inhibitory peptide it stopped RSK activation which kept the HSC from growing, blocking the excessive collagen response. The peptide also killed the cells producing liver cirrhosis but did not harm the normal cells.

The cells continue to do their normal, healing work but their excess proliferation is controlled. Remarkably, the death of HSC may also allow recovery from liver injury and reversal of liver fibrosis.

The study found similar results in humans with severe liver fibrosis but not in control livers which suggests the pathway is also relevant in human liver fibrosis.

SOURCE: PLoS, published online Dec. 26, 2007

Understanding Liver Disease in the Obese

A new study looks at what is associated with a form of fatty liver disease that can lead to advanced liver disease. For the study, researchers looked at the livers of patients undergoing gastric bypass surgery.

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is found in 65 percent of obese people and is believed to happen in 90 percent of those morbidly obese. While nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is relatively benign, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is a form of fatty liver disease that is a concern. NASH can progress to fibroids which can then lead to cirrhosis and end-stage liver disease. The problem is in many cases of NASH there are no symptoms until it progresses to advanced liver disease. Researchers from the University of Washington School of Medicine looked at the risk factors for NASH in patients who were undergoing gastric bypass surgery.

Forty-eight patients agreed to have a liver biopsy done when they were having gastric bypass surgery. Researchers did not include patients who reported drinking more than two alcoholic beverages a day or who had cirrhosis. Study authors looked at who had NASH or severe fibrosis, the body mass index of the patient, the triglycerides level, and if the patient had diabetes.

Researchers report 33 percent of the patients had NASH and 12 percent had fibrosis. They also found 65 percent of the patients had moderate to severe fatty liver disease. Researchers report no difference in the age, sex, body mass index or triglyceride level between patients with and without NASH or advanced fibrosis. They also report the odds of NASH were 128-times greater and the odds of severe fibrosis 75-times greater in patients with diabetes. Researchers say the body mass index of the patient before the surgery was not associated with the likelihood of having NASH or severe fibrosis.

Study authors conclude fatty liver disease and NASH is common among patients undergoing gastric bypass procedures. They say diabetes and not body mass index is associated with NASH and the progression of fibrosis.

Coping With Hepatitis C

Like most viruses, there is no cure for hepatitis C. Four million Americans carry the virus that attacks the liver, but simple lifestyle changes can prevent hepatitis C from becoming deadly.

John Carrano enjoys a night with his family. However, he says life hasn’t always been fun and games. Three years ago, his nine-year-old daughter, Lauren, died of leukemia. That’s when John discovered his own health problem.

John explains, “We had all gone in to be tested to see if we would match to give her our blood, and when our results came back, they told me they had found hepatitis in my blood.”

Hepatitis C attacks the liver. The most immediate symptom is fatigue. Those with the virus are also prone to develop arthritis. Many patients take over-the-counter painkillers for relief.

Hepatologist Tom Riley, M.D., of the Hershey Medical Center in Pennsylvania, specializes in liver disease. After researching some over-the-counter drugs, he now recommends hepatitis C patients treat pain with Tylenol, a drug they were once told to avoid.

“Tylenol turns out to be the safest drug for patients with hepatitis C that have pain complaints or headache,” says Dr. Riley.

However, he says hepatitis C patients should not take medications containing ibuprofen or aspirin.

Dr. Riley says, “They commonly take these drugs over-the-counter not knowing that they may be injuring their liver while doing so.”

Patients should also avoid alcohol. Dr. Riley suggests taking multi-vitamins, but only those without iron to again protect the liver. Moreover he recommends a low-fat diet.

John is taking Dr. Riley’s advice seriously. He says, “Life’s too short.” Furthermore, the death of Lauren taught him and his family to be survivors.

Hepatitis C is most commonly transmitted through blood transfusions, I.V. drug use and contaminated tattoo needles. John believes he got the virus during a blood transfusion in 1975 following a serious car accident.

Get Hepatitis B Vaccinations

You’re probably not thinking about sexually transmitted diseases and intravenous drug abuse when your child is getting vaccinated, but the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says you should be.

Lynda Brady, M.D., is a pediatrician at the University of Chicago in Ill. “Hepatitis B occurs much more often in high-risk groups than HIV does.”

Acting on advice from the AAP and the American Liver Foundation, many states now require that children be vaccinated for hepatitis B — a disease that spreads virtually the same way as the AIDS virus.

“It’s not that we’re trying to say your child will be an I-V drug abuser or will have multiple sexual partners,” says Dr. Brady. “The reason we do it in childhood is because that’s the time we give vaccines.”

Dr. Lynda Brady of the University of Chicago says in countries like China, where childhood hepatitis B immunizations are routine, cases have dropped dramatically. The biggest problem in the U.S. has been parental education.

A pilot program by the San Francisco Department of Public Health showed parents were willing once they had the facts. Parent James Woods says, “This is a recommendation from the doctors that we trust. We looked at the information, and it seemed safe.”

New York state requires the vaccine for all children — so do public schools in Chicago. Dr. Brady says the American Academy of Pediatrics believes that with national immunization, hepatitis B could be wiped out as successfully as diseases such as smallpox and polio.

It’s not just younger kids getting hepatitis B vaccinations. The American Liver Foundation (ALF) recommends the shots for adolescents as well. The ALF says the vaccine should be required for anyone in the military, the medical profession, and anyone who could be exposed to someone carrying the virus. Hepatitis B carriers can pass the disease on for years without ever exhibiting symptoms.

Source: Ivanhoe Newswire