The largest organ in the human body, the liver weighs approximately three pounds and conducts about 200 different functions. From filtering blood of toxins and waste products, to assisting with maintaining hormonal balance and digestion, this organ is literally a lifesaver. If a disease affects the liver, the whole body can suffer. Symptoms of liver disease can occur suddenly or slowly over a period of years or decades and diarrhoea can be one of the symptoms associated with some liver diseases.
Some of the most common diseases of the liver are cirrhosis, usually caused by alcoholism, infectious hepatitis, fatty liver disease and liver cancer. Many diseases of the liver are caused by lifestyle choices, especially drinking alcohol and engaging in risky behaviours like sharing needles, but others are genetic and occur in infants and even the most health-conscious individuals.
Since the liver is responsible for filtering toxins and waste products out of the body, when it is not functioning properly, the effects of toxic overload are often the first symptoms. Many people with liver diseases develop jaundice, a yellowing of the skin due to an excess of bilirubin in the blood. Bilirubin is a waste product of red blood cells and is typically filtered out by the liver.
Other symptoms usually include digestive ailments such as sudden weight loss, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, dark urine and pale-coloured stools. Alcoholic hepatitis and early liver failure can cause diarrhoea.
Sometimes liver diseases can cause fatigue, fever, loss of sex drive and even depression.
Alcoholism is the number one risk factor associated with adult diseases of the liver. Avoiding excessive alcohol consumption will help prevent some alcohol-induced diseases such as cirrhosis and fatty liver disease.
Vaccines are available to prevent some forms of hepatitis. The best ways to avoid infectious liver diseases is to practice good hygiene, like hand washing, avoid unprotected sex and the sharing of personal hygiene items like toothbrushes and razors.
Drinking water in underdeveloped countries can also lead to infectious liver disease. Take care when visiting countries with limited infrastructure and try to drink purified or bottled water whenever possible.
Per the National Institute of Health, if symptoms such as nausea, diarrhoea or weight loss are present, immediate treatment is necessary to prevent malnutrition and dehydration, which could become life-threatening. Consult a doctor immediately if a liver disease is suspected. A doctor will initially likely prescribe bed rest, additional fluids, avoidance of medication or alcohol, and adhering to a well-balanced diet that reduces the amount of protein the liver must process and increasing carbohydrates to increase glycogen stores. Dietary requirements vary for different diseases and individuals so consult a doctor or dietitian for optimal results.
If the liver is severely damaged, surgery to remove the damaged portions or a liver transplant may be necessary.
When to See a Doctor
Because the liver is a regenerative organ, meaning it can repair itself, some liver diseases can go away without medical treatment. However, if liver disease is suspected, it is best to see a doctor as soon as possible to avoid complications or worsening of symptoms. Self-diagnosis is not recommended.