When chronic diseases cause the liver to become permanently injured and scarred, the condition is called cirrhosis. The scar tissue that forms in cirrhosis harms the structure of the liver, blocking the flow of blood through the organ. The loss of normal liver tissue slows the processing of nutrients, hormones, drugs, and toxins by the liver. Also slowed is production of proteins and other substances made by the liver.
Cirrhosis is the seventh leading cause of death by disease. About 25,000 people die from cirrhosis each year. There also is a great toll in terms of human suffering, hospital costs, and the loss of work by people with cirrhosis.
Cirrhosis has many causes. In the United States, chronic alcoholism is the most common cause. Cirrhosis also may result from chronic viral hepatitis (types B, C, and D). Liver injury that results in cirrhosis also may be caused by a number of inherited diseases such as cystic fibrosis, alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, hemochromatosis, Wilson's disease, galactosemia, and glycogen storage diseases.
If a person's bile duct becomes blocked, this also may cause cirrhosis. Other, less common, causes of cirrhosis are severe reactions to prescribed drugs, prolonged exposure to environmental toxins, and repeated bouts of heart failure with liver congestion.
People with cirrhosis often have few symptoms at first. The two major problems that eventually cause symptoms are loss of functioning liver cells and distortion of the liver caused by scarring. The person may experience fatigue, weakness, and exhaustion. Loss of appetite is usual, often with nausea and weight loss.
In the later stages of cirrhosis, jaundice (yellow skin) may occur, caused by the buildup of bile pigment that is passed by the liver into the intestines. Some people with cirrhosis experience intense itching due to bile products that are deposited in the skin. Gallstones often form in persons with cirrhosis because not enough bile reaches the gallbladder.
The liver of a person with cirrhosis also has trouble removing toxins, which may build up in the blood. These toxins can dull mental function and lead to personality changes and even coma (encephalopathy). Early signs of toxin accumulation in the brain may include neglect of personal appearance, unresponsiveness, forgetfulness, trouble concentrating, or changes in sleeping habits.
Drugs taken usually are filtered out by the liver, and this cleansing process also is slowed down by cirrhosis. The liver does not remove the drugs from the blood at the usual rate, so the drugs act longer than expected, building up in the body. People with cirrhosis often are very sensitive to medications and their side effects.
Treatment of cirrhosis is aimed at stopping or delaying its progress, minimizing the damage to liver cells, and reducing complications. In alcoholic cirrhosis, for instance, the person must stop drinking alcohol to halt progression of the disease. If a person has hepatitis, the doctor may administer steroids or antiviral drugs to reduce liver cell injury.
Medications may be given to control the symptoms of cirrhosis, such as itching. Edema and ascites (fluid retention) are treated by reducing salt in the diet. Drugs called diuretics are used to remove excess fluid and to prevent edema from recurring. Diet and drug therapies can help to improve the altered mental function that cirrhosis can cause. For instance, decreasing dietary protein results in less toxin formation in the digestive tract. Laxatives such as lactulose may be given to help absorb toxins and speed their removal from the intestines.
Patients with cirrhosis often live healthy lives for many years. Even when complications develop, they usually can be treated. Many patients with cirrhosis have undergone successful liver transplantation. (National Institutes of Health)
EDGAR CAYCE'S PERSPECTIVE OF CIRRHOSIS OF THE LIVER
Edgar Cayce gave many readings for individuals suffering from cirrhosis of the liver. On the whole, these readings are very consistent with the medical perspective on the causes of cirrhosis.
Most often the liver became overwhelmed in its job as primary detoxifier of the body. Whether by excessive alcohol consumption or other sources of toxicity, the liver became "torpid" or "sluggish" in its functioning. It was not able to keep up with the toxic load of the system and essentially became poisoned. In some cases an infectious force (such as malaria or flu virus) was a causative factor. The infection settled in the liver and compromised its function. Decreased systemic vitality and impaired immune function were usually noted in such instances. In any case, the liver became "hardened" or developed "spots" characteristic of cirrhosis.
Invariably other organs of the digestive and eliminating systems became involved (or were originally involved as part of the general etiology of the disorder). Problems with the kidneys, spleen, pancreas and stomach were often associated with the cirrhosis. Thus cirrhosis of the liver is best regarded from a systemic perspective with regard to causation and treatment.
EDGAR CAYCE'S THERAPEUTIC MODEL
The treatment recommendations made by Cayce for cirrhosis reflect the specific and systemic aspects of the disease. Hot castor oil packs applied over the area of the liver were frequently prescribed to stimulate the circulation to the liver and improve eliminations. A basic cleansing diet and colonic irrigations were often suggested to increase eliminations through the alimentary canal. Manual therapy (spinal manipulation and massage) were also suggested to improve circulation and eliminations. As typical of Cayce's holistic approach, the mental and spiritual aspects of therapy were emphasized.
Here are the basic therapies recommended for the treatment of cirrhosis of the liver:
- HEALING THE LIVER: Although all of the therapies are intended to assist with healing the liver, castor oil packs are most specifically directed to this organ. The hot packs are to be placed directly over the liver to stimulate circulation and healing through absorption of the oil.
- INTERNAL CLEANSING: Hydrotherapy includes drinking six to eight glasses of pure water daily, colonic irrigations (preferably) or enemas, and cleansing diet of fresh fruits and vegetables. Castor oil packs across the abdomen are recommended to improve eliminations through the liver and colon. Mild laxatives may be helpful if constipation is a problem. Fume baths followed by full body massage helps the body eliminate toxins through the skin.
- MANUAL THERAPY (SPINAL MANIPULATION AND MASSAGE): Osteopathic or chiropractic treatment is recommended to relieve any pressures that may be hindering circulation and decreasing eliminations. If osteopathic or chiropractic treatment is not available, the use of an electric vibrator along the spine may be helpful. Gentle massage is suggested to relax the body and improve circulation and eliminations.
- DIET: The Basic Cayce Diet is intended to improve assimilation and elimination. The diet focuses heavily on keeping a proper alkaline/acid balance while avoiding foods which produce toxicity and drain the system. Essentially, the diet consists mainly of fruits and vegetables while avoiding fried foods and refined carbohydrates ("junk food"). Certain food combinations are emphasized.
- DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS: Beef juice taken as a medicine is suggested for persons suffering from weakness and general debilitation. Olive Oil taken in small quantities during the day is recommended to improve assimilations and eliminations through the alimentary canal.
- ATTITUDES AND EMOTIONS: The mental and emotional aspects of healing are frequently discussed the Cayce readings. Particularly, an attitude of desiring and expecting to be healed is important. A positive mental and emotional attitude and can be created and maintained by focusing on a high purpose (ideal) for being healed.