Liver Disease

Lark Lands teaches an integrated approach to liver disease that is aimed at not only living better day to day, but also at boosting health in a way that helps prevent, to the greatest extent possible, disease progression.

Many people are living with chronic hepatitis B, chronic hepatitis C, alcoholic liver disease, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (including NASH, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis). It is, of course, very important for anyone living with such problems to consult with a hepatologist (liver specialist) and take advantage of the best possible medical treatments. However, it is also important to integrate the appropriate medical therapies with dietary improvements, elimination of liver-damaging substances, and the nutrient supplements and herbs that can help protect the liver, boost liver cell regeneration, and support the overall health of the liver.

It is known that with most liver diseases, including chronic viral infections of the liver (hepatitis B and C), part of the damage occurs as the result of oxidative stress and inflammation in the liver. Luckily, there is a long history of the successful use of certain antioxidants and natural anti-inflammatories to counter these processes and help protect the liver. And there is substantial research that supports the importance of this.

For example, research has shown that oxidative stress plays an important role in the progression of chronic hepatitis C. Oxidative stress occurs when free radicals (unstable electrons and oxygen molecules) move through the liver causing inflammation and scarring. The formation of free radicals happens naturally in the body, especially when the immune system attacks a disease-causing organism like a virus or bacteria. With chronic (long-term) infections the continuing presence of these free radicals without an optimal supply of the antioxidants that can counter this process can cause significant liver damage. Studies have shown that the amount of damage caused by oxidative stress is related to both the grade of liver fibrosis and to the overall level of liver damage.

Unfortunately, research has shown that in people living with chronic hepatitis C, the levels of the antioxidants that the body needs to counter oxidative stress, including glutathione (the most important intracellular antioxidant), vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, and selenium, are much lower compared to people without the infection. There are many negative consequences from these low levels of antioxidants. For example, too-low levels of glutathione can reduce the liver’s ability to break down drugs, chemicals, and other toxins. Too-low levels of glutathione and other antioxidants also leave the liver unprotected from the high levels of oxidative stress and susceptible to ongoing damage from the free radicals. The end result of all of this is liver damage. Countering these disease processes with antioxidants is very helpful.

These low levels of antioxidants have been shown to be tied to high levels of the blood markers that indicate oxidative stress. Very importantly, the levels of oxidative stress have been shown to be closely correlated to the amount of liver fibrosis. The higher the level of oxidative stress, the more advanced the fibrosis. The amount of fibrosis has also been shown to be tied to the levels of antioxidants. The lower the blood levels of antioxidants, the greater the fibrosis. Lower levels of selenium are also tied to a higher risk for the development of liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma), and long-term supplementation with optimal doses of selenium has been clearly shown to yield much lower rates of liver cancer.

It is important for anyone living with chronic liver disease to know that the oxidative stress and inflammation are not problems that just occur late in the disease process. In fact, even people in early stages of liver disease, with minimal fibrosis and no cirrhosis (Ishak scores of 0-2), have been shown to have significantly higher levels of oxidative stress.

This underlines the importance of beginning a complete nutrient supplement program that includes antioxidants (N-acetyl-cysteine, alpha-lipoic acid, vitamins E and C, selenium, SAMe, and others) and natural anti-inflammatories (especially fish oil) very early with any liver disease. The researchers who have studied this have suggested that antioxidants might play an important role in slowing the progression of chronic hepatitis C disease and delaying the onset of cirrhosis. Researchers who have looked at people living with chronic hepatitis B have made the same observations. For people with other forms of liver disease, including alcoholic liver disease and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, there may also be substantial benefits from using antioxidants and natural anti-inflammatories, along with the herbs known to help stimulate liver repair, including milk thistle.

In some people, it may also be important to supplement with certain amino acids, including glutamine and S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe), in order to increase the chances for full protection from oxidative stress. Glutamine is an amino acid that is often deficient in people living with chronic hepatitis B or C, and may be especially low in people coinfected with HIV and one or both of these hepatitis viruses. Lack of glutamine can result in inadequate production of glutathione, even when other antioxidant supplements are being used. The reason is that glutamine is the factor that determines how much glutathione the body can produce if a sufficient amount of cysteine is available. So even in someone supplementing with N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) to provide cysteine, the amino acid that is initially rate-limiting for the production of glutathione, it won’t be possible to produce glutathione without adequate glutamine.

SAMe is another amino acid which has long been used as a treatment for liver disease in Europe. Research there has shown that optimal supplementation with SAMe may actually be effective enough to delay the need for liver transplantation in some people with alcoholic cirrhosis. Other research has shown that SAMe may provide some protection against developing liver cancer. SAMe has also been shown to help normalize bile secretion by the liver, a process commonly affected by chronic liver diseases. Several studies have shown that SAMe may be an effective treatment for the chronic skin irritation and resulting itching (pruritus) that is a common symptom of hepatitis C and many other chronic liver diseases. Studies in people with hepatitis B and C and other chronic liver conditions have shown that SAMe helps reduce chronic skin irritation and itching, jaundice, and fatigue, while also lowering liver enzymes and bilirubin levels.

Lark has long been appalled that there is so much information out there on how to help support the liver with nutrient supplements and herbs and, yet, it is too often not taught to those who could greatly benefit from this knowledge. Lark has put together information on ways to help maintain health and prevent the worsening of liver disease, and has worked with many clients who have benefited from this type of comprehensive program. Her fundamental belief is that when you give the body what it needs to help protect the liver and boost liver cell repair, you can greatly help to prevent disease progression, especially when you use such alternative or complementary therapies along with the appropriate medical therapies. In addition, with an optimal combination of therapies it may be possible to greatly reduce the miserable symptoms like chronic fatigue and skin irritation and itching that too many people with liver disease experience.

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Lark Lands does over-the-phone individual health education consultations for those living with liver disease. The ultimate aim of doing the consults is to assist each person in creating and fine-tuning an individualized, integrated program based on each person’s particular needs, and ensure that each person has a full understanding of all the components of an aggressive, comprehensive, integrated approach to liver disease.

The intent of the consult is to help each person narrow down the flood of information that many people find online into a carefully designed program that is individualized specifically for them. Information will be provided on antioxidants, amino acids, fatty acids and other nutrients and herbs that can help support liver health, address current symptoms, and provide the base needed for long-term health.

Based on the case history and other information given to her either in advance or during the consult, Lark will discuss with each person the components that should be considered for a total approach, including the nutrients and other therapeutics that might be appropriate for that person, whether the goal is addressing current problems or simply creating a long-term health maintenance plan, along with recommendations for discussions with the person’s physician about any drug or medical care issues. NOTE: no medical recommendations can or will be made. Those are appropriately obtained only from your physician.

Please see the “Consults” link for more information on how to arrange a personal consultation