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Alcohol abuse health centre

Living with liver disease

NHS Choices Medical Reference

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If you have cirrhosis, stop drinking immediately. Alcohol increases the rate at which the condition progresses, regardless of the cause.

Talk to your GP or pharmacist if you are taking over-the-counter or prescription medications, because the liver processes some medications.

One of the symptoms of end-stage liver disease is an abnormal accumulation of fluid in the abdomen, called ascites. If you have ascites, reduce the amount of sodium (salt) in your diet to 1,000mg a day (500mg if possible). This will help reduce the amount of fluid in your body.

Eat a well-balanced diet. You may need extra energy and protein. Liver disease can cause the liver to stop working properly, so it may be unable to store glycogen, the carbohydrate that provides short-term energy. When this happens, the body uses its own muscle tissue to provide energy between meals, which leads to muscle wasting and weakness.

Healthy snacking between meals can top up your calories and protein, which helps preserve muscles and keeps them strong. Improved nourishment will make you feel better, so try to eat regularly, about every two to three hours.

Limit your caffeine intake. Caffeine is processed through the liver and eliminated from the body by the kidneys. This process is drastically affected by the presence of cirrhosis, and can result in a higher concentration of caffeine in the blood, causing headaches, fatigue, insomnia and anxiety. Avoid drinks that contain caffeine such as coffee, tea and some soft drinks.

Glossary

Abdomen

The abdomen is the part of the body between the chest and the hips.

Blood

Blood supplies oxygen to the body and removes carbon dioxide. It is pumped around the body by the heart.

Kidney

Kidneys are a pair of bean-shaped organs located at the back of the abdomen, which remove waste and extra fluid from the blood and pass them out of the body as urine.

Liver

The liver is the largest organ inside the body. Its main jobs are to secrete bile (to help digestion), detoxify the blood and change food into energy.

Tissue

Body tissue is made up of groups of cells that perform a specific job, such as protecting the body against infection, producing movement or storing fat.   

Medical Review: December 03, 2009

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