Cirrhosis, Weight Gain, Ascites, and Diet Tips
Cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver, can lead to abdominal fluid accumulation
(ascites) and subsequent distention and weight gain. Cirrhosis, which is caused
by liver disease such as Hepatitis C, is managed through diet and/or prescription drugs
with liver transplantation as the last solution.
As pointed out in research from the Department of Internal Medicine, Division
of Gastronterology and Hepatology, University of California, Davis Medical
Center, "accumulation of fluid as ascites is the most common complication
of cirrhosis. This is occurring in about 50% of patients within 10 years
of the diagnosis of cirrhosis."
I really wanted to understand what caused this fluid retention and they
explain it in very technical terms: "The most acceptable theory for
ascites formation is peripheral arterial vasodilation leading to under-
filling of circulatory volume. This triggers the baroreceptor-mediated
activation of renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system, sympathetic nervous
system and nonosmotic release of vasopressin to restore circulatory
integrity. The result is an avid sodium and water retention, identified
as a preascitic state. This condition will evolve in overt fluid retention
and ascites, as the liver disease progresses."
So here is a translation into simpler terms. First the "under-filling of the
circulatory volume" happens as cirrhosis progressively scars the liver and its ability
to effectively filter blood is reduced resulting in a reduced volume of blood and
lowered blood pressure. The body then releases vasopressin which retains salt and
fluid to try to counter the lowered circulatory volume pressure. The fluid
retention is worsened because as cirrhosis progresses and the liver produces less
albumin it results in fluids seeping out of the leg and abdomen tissues.
Ascites not only causes weight gain but can cause several other medical conditions
such as hepto hydrothorax (fluids in the lungs), hernias, infection, and
difficulty breathing. The fluid retention may also show in the legs called
edema as well as the abdomen (ascites).
Once ascites is present, most therapeutic modalities are directed on
maintaining negative sodium balance, including salt restriction, bed rest
and diuretics. Paracentesis and albumin infusion is applied to tense
ascites. Transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt is considered for
Here are some Cirrhosis Diet Tips and Natural Solutions for Reducing Ascites
(and therefore weight gain):
1. Reducing salt intake! Doctors typically advise limiting salt intake to 4-5 grams
per day (2,000 mg of sodium) or less. Don't forget that most processed and canned
foods have lots of salt so try making your own food. Its better for you in lots
of other ways too! You can try squeezing a little fresh lemon juice on your food
if you miss the sour flavor. Skipping the salt makes a HUGE difference to
2. Dandelion Root Extract is a bitter herb that will not only flush your liver
out of toxins, it will also help you drain the excessive fluids your body is
taking on. As with most diuretics you need to supplement with a banana a day.
Do not take with Lasix.
3. Use of diet to help alleviate the fluid retention and therefore weight gain
should should also include reducing protein intake and/or consuming mostly whey
protein. Whey protein is the most easily assimilated form of protein for cirrhosis of
the liver and also it will give you the albumin you need that your liver no
longer makes. This loss of albumin in your body is what contributes to fluid
accumulation, ascites, in your abdomen.
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