The Liver In Health And Disease

Like any other organ of the body, the liver is balked in performing its normal duties through dietetic errors in the main, though any factors of living that produce a general toxemia will have a direct or indirect modifying or disturbing effect upon this organ. The liver is subject to different types of disorders, but whatever may be the disease or the part of the liver involved, wrong habits of living usually have produced the trouble. Acute diseases of the organ are not to be considered in this article, and only the common ones will receive attention.

Cancer of the liver is the most serious affection of this organ. Once this condition develops it is unlikely that any treatment will spare the patient. I believe there is no doubt that it can be prevented, but a cure of such a deep-seated ailment is another thing.

Cirrhosis of the liver is a condition in which the cells of this organ are dried up or hardened. The usual cause is alcohol. However, it is known to a very insignificant number of us that vinegar will cause this "gin-drinker's liver" twice as rapidly as will gin itself. Many persons consume vinegar and pickled foods as a part of their daily diet and may develop an atrophied liver without ever tasting an alcoholic beverage. Nevertheless, gin and other alcoholic beverages do frequently cause it. The entire liver shrinks in this disease, and this decrease in size is readily detected by a physician. There usually are biliousness and jaundice, frequently an ascites or dropsical condition of the abdomen, and gastric and intestinal catarrh; also a dry skin, failure of appetite and vomiting, sometimes including blood. Some degree of fever develops, and delirium and coma may attend the final stages.

A "hob-nail" liver results from this cirrhotic shriveling of the liver, and when the liver is examined out of the body it is found to be covered with small flat protuberances, resembling the heads of hob-nails, which give rise to its name. The symptoms, correction and treatment are the same as for cirrhosis.

Fatty degeneration of the liver is a condition in which some of its cells are replaced by fat-cells. Among the symptoms are loss of appetite, vomiting, pain in the region of the liver, very light-colored stools and a generally fat condition. The over-consumption of sugar and sugar-forming foods (starches) is a frequent cause or contributing factor.

Treatment. The chronic conditions of the liver briefly described above cannot be completely "cured" or eradicated. Still, as with the kidneys, the liver can be aided in its function so that it can continue to perform sufficient of its duties that life can be continued for a considerable length of time. If any acute symptoms involving the liver directly or indirectly develop, it usually is possible to prevent the development of chronic liver disease; and if we were always careful to give the liver no more work than it can handle with ease this organ would not fail us.

The complete fast should be used in all of these cases, for this is the quickest possible way in which the blood and the liver can be unburdened and in which normal functioning can be re-established, in some measure at least. There should be an abundance of water taken during the fast, preferably hot water and with the juice of one lemon to each quart of water. This is an excellent means of flushing the liver and is not likely to be overdone. The daily enema of two quarts of warm water should be used. Heat may be applied over the liver area with benefit, if continued for an hour or more daily. This may be employed by any heat lamp, electric heat pad or hot packs. Instead of or following this heat treatment a cold abdominal girdle may be applied, amply covered with dry flannel to insure quick reaction to warmth.

The fast should be terminated by the fruit diet, which should be continued for several days if conditions permit. The fast itself may continue for from one to two weeks or even longer.

The milk diet with fruit juice would be very desirable to follow the fruit diet, but in these diseases it is better to use skim sweet milk or sour milk from which cream has been removed. It may be possible to work up gradually to five or six quarts of milk daily. If the milk diet cannot be taken, then a diet mainly of raw foods should be used, comprised practically wholly of fruits and vegetables and milk without cream.

Only limited amounts of any starch food or of fats should be taken. However, almonds and ripe olives may be added to the diet. Considerable water should be taken regularly between meals. Overeating should be strictly avoided. It is better to have less than is actually required than more, at least for some time.

The sitz-bath is very beneficial in liver disorders also. The alternate hot and cold sitz-bath may be taken daily for two or three weeks with benefit.

Fresh air is necessary in abundance day and night. Massage and spinal therapy may be of appreciable benefit. Nude air-baths, short sun-baths, dry-friction baths, electric light baths all will prove of decided benefit. Care must be taken not to chill the body, but otherwise one should take air-baths frequently and develop the ability to react favorably from cool baths.

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