Liver disease is a serious disease that causes several symptoms. In fact, it can affect the physical and mental wellbeing of people. This includes a condition caused by liver malfunction known as hepatic encephalopathy. This condition can cause various symptoms. It’s critical to learn key facts about this condition including symptoms, causes, and hepatic encephalopathy life expectancy. The average life expectancy for liver disease itself can vary greatly. For example, among cirrhosis patients without complications, the average life expectancy is 12+ years. However, it depends greatly on the disease’s causes (alcoholic/non-alcoholic) and the stage of the disease. There are similar issues related to the life expectancy of certain conditions related to liver disease.
As with other complications related to liver disease, it’s important to get tested for hepatic encephalopathy. This will help to determine whether you have this condition or the symptoms are due to another health condition. It can produce various symptoms like forgetfulness, confusion, and personality changes. There are also different types of the condition, which can involve different symptoms. Due to the seriousness, it’s critical to have a medical professional evaluate your condition. The doctor will also order tests that will help to verify whether or not you have a liver disease-linked brain condition.
What Is Hepatic Encephalopathy?
This is an important issue to take up first. It’s a decrease in brain function that occurs because of major liver disease. This condition is related to the liver being able to effectively clear the blood of toxins. The result is toxin buildup in the patient’s bloodstream. This can cause various conditions including brain damage.
There are different types of hepatic encephalopathy including short-term and long-term. Sometimes a person with this condition might go into a coma. The condition happens in people with various health conditions including certain types of hepatitis or serious liver failure.
The chronic version of this brain condition that includes different frequencies. It can come and go or be permanent/long-term. The recurrent type results in periods of hepatic encephalopathy during their entire lives. Treatments are needed to help prevent worsening symptoms. This version usually happens in people with liver scarring known as cirrhosis.
Meanwhile, permanent cases of this condition are quite rare. They happen in patients whose bodies don’t respond positively to medical treatments. They also have permanent mental conditions including spinal cord injuries and seizures.
This condition can cause various general conditions like:
- Personality changes
- Sweet/musty breath
- Lack of focus
- Bad judgment
- Problems with hand movements (handwriting)
- Problems thinking
Meanwhile, there are various symptoms of serious aversions of this condition including:
- Shaky hands
- Slow movements
- Personality changes
People with the above-mentioned symptoms should get medical attention ASAP so they can get immediate treatment.
Scientists are not sure about the exact cause of hepatic encephalopathy. In most cases, it’s triggered by toxin buildup in the patient’s bloodstream. This happens when the liver is unable to do toxin breakdown correctly.
The human body’s liver removes various toxins like ammonia. When the body breaks down proteins the toxins remain. The kidneys then convert the toxins into less unhealthy substances then urine removes them from the body.
Hepatic Encephalopathy: Life Expectancy
The key is how hepatic encephalopathy develops. For example, if the condition requires hospitalization, then the chance of survival is about 40% at the 1-year follow-up and nearly one-quarter for a 3-year follow-up. Research shows that 30% of liver disease patients who pass away due to the disease’s end-state have major encephalopathy and near a coma.
This condition is usually diagnosed due to various tests including blood (sodium/potassium/ammonia), and liver/kidney function. Other possible tests are for MRI/CT scans. This helps to determine whether or not the symptoms are caused by physical injury. There are other tests that are conducted to figure out the root cause of the condition.
Patients with a chronic version of the condition of possible treatments include lowering dietary protein to boost liver function and taking medicines to lower the body’s ammonia production.
It’s important to avoid certain medicines like tranquilizers/sedatives so the organ is protected. The key is to slow down the patient’s health decline to prevent comas. A doctor will review a patient’s condition to determine the best treatment to use.
One of the main treatments is to lower protein intake. This macronutrient is critical for proper body function. A doctor/dietician and make a lower-protein diet that provides enough of the nutrient without worsening the hepatic encephalopathy symptoms.
The most important high-protein sources to avoid include pork, beef, chicken, fish, and eggs.
The doctor might also prescribe medicines to slow down how fast the blood takes in toxins. Medicines like antibiotics might be prescribed in order to move ammonia to the colon. This ammonia is made by bacteria found in the blood. The patient’s body then filters out the blood from the colon.
In some cases, patients qualify for a liver transplant. However, this is an expensive and complex process so a better option is to take steps to prevent the condition from getting worse.
Foods/Supplements to Treat Hepatic Encephalopathy
This is a possible natural treatment for the condition. Yogurt is loaded with “friendly” germs that can help boost gut health and increase your body’s ratio of good/bad bacteria. It’s important to go with plain yogurt, whether it’s the regular version or thicker Greek yogurt. You can also add healthy ingredients like fresh fruit, seeds/nuts, and unsweetened chocolate.
You can find high amounts in meat like chicken and beef. However, these are protein sources that aren’t good options if you have hepatic encephalopathy. So it’s better to go with plant-based sources or supplements to boost your zinc intake. More research is needed about whether zinc can help to treat this liver-related condition.
Some studies show that lactose foods including milk, cream, and cheese might be helpful when treating this brain condition. More research is needed. However, dairy is certainly healthy food. It has nutrients like protein, healthy fats, and vitamins/minerals.
4. Fermented Foods
They might have the same effects on the brain condition as yogurt. Options include sauerkraut, miso soup, kimchi, and kefir (fermented dairy). We often think of germs as being unhealthy. However, there are trillions in the body and it’s important to maintain a good balance of good/bad bacteria. You can do that by consuming fermented foods.
5. Branched-chain Amino Acids
Based on various studies these three amino acids might be effective for treating the condition. BCAAs make up one-third of all essential amino acids (EAAs). These are aminos that people must get through food and supplements since the body doesn’t produce them. You can consume BCAAs in different forms like protein powders, tablets, and even liquid aminos.
It’s important for supplements to add to a healthy/well-balanced diet. Most nutrients should be from real food. You can get BCAAs from foods like fish, milk, soybeans, and quinoa to boost hepatic encephalopathy life expectancy.