5 myths about liver disease that needs urgent attention

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Myth 1 – Liver disease occurs only in those who take alcohol

This is a common myth. In fact, Liver diseases can be caused by multiple reasons. Viral Infections, drugs and fatty liver (usually seen with obesity and diabetes) are some of the reasons. Viral hepatitis B and C, fatty liver as well all other etiologies can affect the liver in similar fashion as alcohol. Once cirrhosis occurs, it does not matter what has caused cirrhosis. The complications remain the same.

Myth 2 – Fatty liver is common and can be ignored

Fat is the new alcohol!! In last 2 decades, a significant increase in knowledge on fatty liver is obtained. Fat destroys the liver in same manner as alcohol does. In fact, liver biopsies appear similar in both cases. If someone has diabetes, blood pressure, obesity, their liver may have fat deposition and gradually it hardens the liver and causes cirrhosis. It may also cause liver cancer and may need liver transplant.

Myth 3 – Taking detox tonics and nutritional supplements can keep liver healthy

Liver does not need any tonics or detox treatment. It needs healthy diet and exercise. Vaccination against hepatitis and avoiding high risk behaviors is enough to keep liver healthy. Avoid Obesity to keep liver safe. Tonics are not alternative for exercise. The so called “Liver Protectives” are the reason sometimes they cause liver failure and may warrant an urgent liver transplant. Unlicensed drugs and herbal supplements are now recognized causes of liver damage. There are recent publications on liver damage caused by GILOY – which individuals take to keep liver safe and immunity better. 

Myth 4 – In jaundice – avoid all foods except juices

This is a myth even some doctors are harboring. Even in very high jaundice, liver needs nutrition to recover. The standard Indian diet with dal, roti, sabzi and chawal has to be taken. In fact, diet should be taken every couple of hours and fasting is detrimental to liver regeneration. Milk avoidance is no longer recommended unless it causes nausea. The more calories and protein you take, more is the likelihood of liver recovery. Do not starve!

Myth 5 – Jaundice is a disease

Jaundice is a symptom. It is not a disease. It is a manifestation of liver injury most of the times. It can also occur when red blood cells are being broken down by body rapidly. Sometimes, the bile duct blockage also cause jaundice. Like fever, jaundice is also a symptom. When one gets fever, we investigate for the cause, same way, we need to investigate for the cause for jaundice.

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