Cholestasis is a serious liver condition in which the flow of bile from the liver stops or slows down. Bile is a fluid that aids the digestion of fats. Normally, bile binds with a waste product called bilirubin and is eliminated from the body. But when the flow of bile is impaired, bilirubin leaks into the bloodstream, gets accumulated, and leads to the many symptoms of cholestasis, including jaundice.
Causes Of Cholestasis
Cholestasis can be of two types — intrahepatic cholestasis and extrahepatic cholestasis. Intrahepatic cholestasis occurs within the liver and can be due to the following factors:1
- Alcoholic liver disease
- Primary biliary cirrhosis ( a condition in which the small bile ducts are slowly damaged)
- Cirrhosis due to viral hepatitis B or C
- Acute hepatitis
- Bacterial abscess in the liver
Extrahepatic cholestasis occurs outside the liver and can be caused due to:
- Stones in the bile duct
- Pancreatic tumor
- Bile duct tumors
- Narrowing of the bile duct
Symptoms Of Cholestasis
If you’re facing an irresistible itch on the hands and feet, cholestasis might be at play. Such itching is one of the most common and noticeable symptoms of cholestasis and is caused by the interaction of bile and bile salts with the skin.2 However, the symptoms of cholestasis vary based on the causal factor and may differ from person to person. Symptoms of cholestasis include:
- Dark urine
- Light-colored stools
- Upper abdominal pain
- Inability to digest foods
Natural Remedies For Cholestasis
Depending on the underlying cause of cholestasis, doctors may recommend surgery or medications to treat the condition. However, herbs and supplements are known to be effective in relieving cholestasis symptoms.
1. Milk Thistle
Milk thistle is a detoxifying herb that can improve liver health. It can increase the production of bile, reduce inflammation, and repair damaged liver cells.3 Milk thistle can be taken in the form of a liquid extract, tincture, or capsule. However, pregnant or breastfeeding women must consult a doctor before using milk thistle.
2. Guar Gum
Guar gum is a soluble fiber that is extracted from the seeds of the guar plant. It is commonly used to treat diarrhea, diabetes, and to reduce cholesterol levels. But, studies suggest that guar gum can also help with cholestasis by increasing the elimination of bile acid and relieving pruritis or itching.4
3. Dandelion Root
Dandelion has been used for several years to treat problems associated with the liver, bile ducts, and gallbladder. Dandelion root is also used to strengthen the liver and stimulate the production of bile.5 It is available in the form of capsules or extracts.
Cholestasis during pregnancy is harmful to both the mother and the baby as the condition reduces the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins such as D, E, A, and K. Supplementing with vitamin K during this period is of utmost importance as it will regulate blood clotting and improve bone formation. In addition, vitamin K will also reduce the circulation of bile acids in the blood, thus treating cholestasis.6
5. Vitamin D And Calcium
When you suffer from cholestasis, vitamin D is poorly absorbed in the body due to a lack of bile. This, in turn, affects your calcium levels as vitamin D plays an important role in calcium absorption. To prevent deficiencies, eat calcium-rich foods and get some sunlight.
Note: Avoid alcohol and drugs as they can worsen the symptoms of cholestasis and cause liver damage.
|↑1||Cholestasis. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑2||Bergasa, Nora V. “Pruritus of cholestasis.” Itch: Mechanisms and Treatment (2014): 61.|
|↑4||Gylling, Helena, Seija Riikonen, K. Nikkila, Hannele Savonius, and Tatu A. Miettinen. “Oral guar gum treatment of intrahepatic cholestasis and pruritus in pregnant women: effects on serum cholestanol and other non-cholesterol sterols.” European journal of clinical investigation 28, no. 5 (1998): 359-363.|
|↑5||Dandelion. University of Michigan.|
|↑6||Maldonado, Maria, Ali Alhousseini, Michael Awadalla, Jay Idler, Robert Welch, Karoline Puder, Manasi Patwardhan, and Bernard Gonik. “Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy Leading to Severe Vitamin K Deficiency and Coagulopathy.” Case Reports in Obstetrics and Gynecology 2017 (2017).|