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From MayoClinic.com

Complementary and alternative medicine

A number of complementary and alternative therapies — many of them herbs and nutritional supplements — are available for liver problems. Some of these therapies, such as milk thistle, have been intensively studied. Others, including the antioxidants alpha lipoic acid (thioctic acid), vitamin E, and N-acetylcyteine — an amino acid byproduct — are under investigation.

Some of the more well-known and studied alternative therapies include:

  • Milk thistle (Silybum marianum). In Europe, the herb milk thistle has been used for centuries to treat jaundice and other liver disorders. Today, scientific studies have confirmed that the chief constituent of milk thistle, silymarin, may aid in healing and rebuilding the liver. Silymarin seems to stimulate the production of antioxidant enzymes that help the liver neutralize toxins. It also seems to increase the production of new liver cells and may even improve the severe scarring of cirrhosis. Milk thistle is available in capsule or alcohol-free extracts at many natural food stores and some drug stores. Check with your doctor before trying this or any other herb to make sure it won't interact with other medications you're taking.

  • Adenosylmethione (SAM-e). Found in abundance in healthy livers, this naturally occurring compound plays a role in a number of biochemical processes. It has been used in Europe to treat depression and liver problems for nearly 30 years. One study found that large daily doses — 1,200 milligrams — decreased the death rate in people with alcoholic cirrhosis. Lower amounts may improve liver function in other types of cirrhosis. SAM-e seems to work by preventing the loss of glutathione, an antioxidant that's essential for detoxifying harmful substances in the liver. Side effects of SAM-e therapy include dry mouth, nausea and restlessness. SAM-e may also interact with certain antidepressants, leading to headache, irregular heart rate and anxiety. It should be used to treat liver problems only under medical supervision.

  • Antioxidants. Molecules in your body are made up of atoms held together by chemical bonds. Each bond consists of a pair of electrons. When these bonds are broken — by stress, disease, even normal metabolic processes — molecules that contain only one electron (free radicals) are created. These unstable fragments try to acquire another electron by breaking up other bonds, damaging cells and even DNA in the process. Free radicals may be responsible for much of the damage that occurs in cirrhosis. But there's some evidence that antioxidants such as alpha-lipoic acid, N-acetylcysteine and selenium may help prevent free radical damage. Studies are ongoing.

  • Omega-3 fatty acids. Found primarily in fish such as salmon, in fish oils and in evening primrose oil, omega-3 fatty acids may help protect the liver.




Cirrhosis > 1 > 2 > 3 > 4

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