Cirrhosis occurs when the liver is scarred. The liver is unable to function properly due to long-term damage. The disease presents slowly after months or even years and is classified as irreversible in the Western Medicine paradigm. Cirrhosis can even be fatal in certain cases, if it results in liver failure. It is also known to be one of the biggest risk factors for liver cancer.
What causes cirrhosis?
Excessive alcohol consumption over years and infections of Hepatitis C are common causes of cirrhosis. An excess of fat build-up in the liver that is caused by non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is another cause of cirrhosis, although other causes such as Hepatitis B and haemochromatosis also exist.
Symptoms of cirrhosis
Signs and symptoms of cirrhosis vary from person to person. Initially symptoms include a loss of appetite, nausea and itchy skin. In later stages, the disease may present with jaundice, vomiting blood, and dark, tarry-looking stools. There may be oedema, which is a build-up of fluid in the legs, or ascites, a build-up of fluid in the abdomen.
During the early stages, cirrhosis may seem asymptomatic. Consequently, it is often diagnosed during tests for other unrelated illnesses. It is important to see your GP if you present with symptoms such as fever and shivering, bloating, black tarry stools or vomiting blood.
Treatment of cirrhosis according to Western Medicine
According to the Western Medicine paradigm, there is no cure for cirrhosis; however, it is possible to manage the symptoms and complications, as well as slow its progression. Depending on your health and lifestyle, you may be advised to cease drinking alcohol, or lose weight if you are overweight. In further stages of the disease, the scarring of cirrhosis may cause your liver to stop functioning. At this stage, you might be advised to undergo a liver transplant.
TCM perspective of cirrhosis
According to TCM, the causes of cirrhosis include an invasion of exogenous pathogens, excessive drinking, and emotional upset or contaminated food. These factors may result in damage of the liver and spleen, as well as stagnation of blood and Qi. In chronic cases, the kidney is also involved, which results in failure of Qi to discharge water, as well as retention of water in the interior.
When treating cirrhosis with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), two courses of action are pursued. First, the underlying cause is treated. Second, further damage is prevented from occurring.
How TCM can help treat cirrhosis
According to Chinese Medicine, it is essential to differentiate excess and deficient types of cirrhosis. Excess types can be due to liver Qi stagnation, accumulation of damp-heat and obstruction of the meridians by blood stasis, or blood stagnation in the liver and spleen. While deficient types mainly present with spleen and kidney deficiency.
Cirrhosis can be successfully treated with the use of acupuncture and Chinese Medicine. TCM also entails dietary therapy to assist with the condition.
Helped at the centre
One male helped at our centre suffered a fever in late 2015 that lasted for four days. He then had bloating sensations in early 2016 after drinking alcohol and consuming too much meat. This was accompanied by jaundice in his eyes. He was hospitalized, and a full blood test, ultrasound and CT scan led to the diagnosis of biliary cirrhosis, with multiple dilated and beaded ducts on the liver. A further ultrasound revealed multiple unusual lesions throughout the liver. He presented at the clinic with fatigue, dull complexion, as well as bloating and abdominal pain after meals.
Over the next few months, with consistent acupuncture and herbal treatment, the patient felt better in general. He feels less tired, has less bloating and less pain in his abdomen. His liver condition also saw a noticeable improvement, confirmed by ultrasounds, CT scans and blood tests.
Dr Xing has developed a great interest in treating this condition, and has travelled to China on several occasions to visit a well-known traditional Chinese professor in Sichuan province, who specialises in treating diseases relating to the liver and kidneys. Through studying with and keeping in contact with Professor Zhou, Dr Xing has been able to broaden his knowledge on this condition, and as a result, has seen a great level of improvement and success in his clients’ treatment.