Have you been diagnosed with hepatic encephalopathy (HE)? This liver-related brain condition can cause various symptoms like lack of focus, confusion, and personality changes. It can result from various conditions but is closely linked to liver cirrhosis. This is one of the various complications linked to cirrhosis of the liver. It’s critical to know different facts about this condition including the signs/symptoms, causes, treatments, and prevention. Besides mental changes, HE can also cause other symptoms like sluggish movement, problems moving hands, and even bad breath. The good news is the hepatic encephalopathy diet can help to treat the condition. This involves knowing what to eat and avoid in order to treat the condition effectively.
There are various traditional ways to treat HE. They include prescription medicines to reduce the amount of ammonia the body produces. Meanwhile, there are also certain treatments to avoid like sedatives/tranquilizers due to their stress on the liver. Meanwhile, you can also use diet changes like less protein to help treat HE effectively in a natural/holistic (whole-body) way. This is a safe and effective way to deal with serious cirrhosis complications without using treatments with strong chemicals. Good protein sources include well-cooked white meats and beans.
What Exactly Is Hepatic Encephalopathy?
Hepatic Encephalopathy (HE) is a liver-related mental disorder that can change how people behave and feel. It can cause symptoms like slurred speech, memory loss, brain fog, and even difficulty moving. This is one of the most common complications of liver cirrhosis. This disease is a late-stage liver disease and can affect a person’s mind, body, and emotions.
Some of the most noticeable symptoms are related to brain function. They can affect memory, speech, focus, and personality. There are other physical changes like problems moving hands or body. These symptoms are due to the brain/body connection. There are also some unexpected effects like breath.
HE results from toxin buildup in the brain. This takes place due to late-stage liver disease. It can affect many factors including speech, movement, behavior, mood, and sleep. All of these factors can, in turn, affect your day-to-day life and make it more difficult.
Like other cirrhosis complications sometimes there are mild symptoms that can be difficult to pick up. However, if you notice big/small changes in your physical/mental/emotional state you should contact your doctor immediately.
It’s worth noting that HE is a serious condition. So it’s important to get treatment quickly to deal with the condition and any main causes like liver cirrhosis. Meanwhile, you should avoid trying to avoid self-treatment since this is a much more serious condition compared to brain fog due to lack of sleep, for example.
Fun Fact: The liver is the largest solid organ in the human body. It has several key tasks including cleaning the blood. This is done by ridding it of harmful chemicals produced by the body. HE happens when the liver becomes damaged due to long-term diseases like Hepatitis B/C or cirrhosis.
If the liver isn’t functioning properly then toxins enter the bloodstream and get to the brain. They can build-up in the body and cause HE’s mental/physical symptoms.
Hepatic Encephalopathy Diet
This is a basic yet effective way to deal with HE. If you’ve been diagnosed with this condition then it’s critical to make some dietary changes to help deal with the condition effectively. For example, you should reduce your protein intake. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consume protein.
The key is to go with the “right” protein sources. A good option is a fully-cooked chicken and fish. It’s important for the meat to be fully cooked and white meats are better options. That’s because these options are easier for the liver to digest if it’s not functioning well.
On the other hand, if you go with under-cooked/raw or red meats like beef/pork, it will cause the opposite effect. These options could cause your liver to work overtime, which can make a bad situation worse. A related issue is that it’s better to go with small portions since it’s another way your body can process the meat easier.
Another hepatic encephalopathy diet option is to go with plant-based proteins. This includes:
In fact, options like soybeans are actually “complete” proteins. In other words, you can get all the essential amino acids (EAAs) you need for the day from these foods. Most complete proteins are animal-sourced but there are also some plant-based ones.
It’s also a good idea to reduce your salt intake. The reason is when salt combines with water it can cause fluid retention that can cause another cirrhosis-related complication known as ascites. This is fluid buildup in the abdomen. Treatments for this condition include water tablets, fluid extraction, and low-salt diets.
It’s also important to consume a well-balanced diet. This isn’t directly related to HE but can certainly help to improve the overall health of your brain and body. Some good options include:
- Whole Grains
Make sure to reduce your overall protein intake and go with white meats, plant-based protein, etc.
Most Common HE Triggers
Certain medicines could also trigger Hepatic encephalopathy. They include pain relievers, sleeping pills, and water pills. Make sure to check with your doctor to find out whether or not the ones you’re taking are HE-safe. If not then you should look for alternatives.
This can include various types of bleeding like stomach, intestines, and esophagus. If you experience bleeding in these body parts make sure to contact your doctor ASAP. This is especially critical if you’ve been diagnosed with liver conditions like cirrhosis since it might trigger Hepatic Encephalopathy.
Even if you’re not dehydrated you might not be drinking enough water. Health experts generally recommend 2 to 3 liters. Besides drinking water you can also get it from various high-water foods. This can decrease how much you need form H2O but both sources are good ones.
The kidneys and liver are both important for removing toxins/waste from the body. Thus, if you have kidney problems it could also trigger liver-related issues like HE.
This is a very common digestion problem that can result from various factors including lack of water or fiber. However, one possible symptom is a buildup of wastes/toxins in the body. That, in turn, can cause digestion issues and even trigger HE episodes.
There are various ways to avoid this condition. They include consuming a healthy diet, eating fiber, and drinking water. This will help to improve digestion and help to prevent digestion issues related to constipation.
This can include various ones like Hepatitis A/B/C. In fact, these are serious infections that can lead to liver cirrhosis. However, if you already have liver problems then infections can also trigger HE episodes.
It’s important to take steps to help prevent such infections. There are vaccines for Hep B/C but not Hep A. You should also avoid risky behavior that includes casual sex, illegal drugs, etc., which can also help like hepatic encephalopathy diet.