Can cirrhosis be reversed? Of course not they say, but what if

Sometimes what everyone knows is just wrong.  Can cirrhosis improve? Care to join me for a walk down cirrhosis lane?

First what is cirrhosis? In simple terms, it is the formation of scars everywhere in the liver which causes it to fail.

OK, what then are scars?  We all know them, we can see scars on our body where we have been wounded.

When liver cells are injured the same process occurs as when you cut yourself.  Scar forming processes move in and try to repair the wound. This happens at the cell level so scar tissue forms everywhere within the liver and when it gets bad enough to disrupt the normal function of the liver we call it cirrhosis. That leads to ESLD, end stage liver disease, and death.


So what is a scar really? In the liver, inflammation is a typical culprit.  Something, lets say too much fat or alcohol for example, damage liver cells and some of them die. That degeneration of cells causes clotting processes to start and platelets and the other wound healing chemicals move into the area.  This process is crucial to your health but it is a balancing act.  If the debris removal systems are able to clear out the dead cells all is well and that brief episode of cell death and inflammation is gone and all is well.  Liver cells die by the millions every day and this is the normal process.


When you do something that overwhelms the repair systems the wound processes keep going and form strings of fibrous tissue which are the first step in forming the scars you are familiar with.  When you think about whether scarring in the liver can be moderated the thing you need to understand is that the formation of the fibrosis is a multi step process. There are several steps that happen as a scar is built.  The initial long molecules that become scars are manipulated in several steps and it gets harder to remove them as each one happens.  In the final step 3 in the picture above the long fibers are wound into a tough helix, like a rope, and a mass of those helical fibers is what you think of as a scar.

When we talk about reducing the scar tissue through diet we are mostly affecting the earlier steps in the formation of the scar.  Once the mature helical form is constructed it is very difficult to reverse so when people say that cirrhosis is irreversible they are really speaking about those tissues.  If you can break the cycle of inflammation your liver does have tools for resolving early stage fibroid fibers and it will try.  Success will vary but some people have done very well.  Up to 18% of Hepatitis C patients who are cured have seen at least one stage improvement in their fibrosis.

The message in this is that even with a cirrhosis diagnosis you are not helpless and there is a chance to improve your situation by learning how to stop the cycle of inflammation that is driven mostly by your diet. There are many ways to harm your liver but with our modern lifestyle fatty liver is one of the most common. If you want to follow this up here is a link to our view of a liver supportive diet.

An anti-inflammatory diet to reduce diet driven liver stress

As we look down the road to therapies, many of them focus on stopping that formation of the finished fiber or in finding ways to unwind it.  We know that can be done because you can buy over the counter creams that will reduce scars, but getting that to work inside the liver is a hard thing to do.

One thing to keep in mind, no treatments will become available without clinical trials and there are not enough patients participating in trials today to test the number of potentials treatments. If you or someone you know might be interested here is a link to a tool to connect with the trial system.



We are also seeking patients who would be willing to tell their story in a short video interview.  The patient voice is the most effectivel tool we have to improve education and understanding of the disease.  If that interests you here is a link where you can enter your story so that TV producers who want to tell patient stories can find you.

Volunteer to be contacted about doing a video interview

We hope you are well.

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  • Libby B
    commented 2020-02-20 08:55:27 -0700

    Here is a link for an article dated 2006 about the drug sulphasalazine being used in the UK to reverse cirrhosis.

    Unfortunately, I was unable to find any clinical trials of sulphasalazine for cirrhotic livers.
  • Libby B
    commented 2020-02-20 08:38:01 -0700
    The liver is an organ that can regenerate itself, so it makes perfect sense that it can heal itself too. I have a bit of experience with healing fatty liver in felines. My first experience (15 years ago) was reversing hepatic lipidosis caused by rapid weight loss from not eating. Refeeding is the treatment in this case. I syringe fed the cat (male dsh, 4 years old) an rx canned food and supplemented with liver supporting supplement SAM-e. His liver values quickly returned to normal and he began eating on his own within a few days.

    My second experience is more recent. Back in December 2018, My 15-year-old female DSH developed hepatic lipidosis from loss of appetite due to grieving the loss of her male companion in the previous month. The vet gave me pain, anti-nausea, and appetite-stimulating meds and I syringe fed her the RX canned food along with milk thistle and SAM-e. She recovered quickly. Then 6 months later she had a relapse. But it wasn’t hepatic lipidosis according to the vet’s interpretation of the labs. I suspect it was exposure to the tea tree oil I used nightly on my face (she sleeps with me right next to my pillow every night). In addition to the meds from the vet (pain, anti-nausea, appetite-stimulating) and rx canned food, I began giving her heavy doses of milk thistle extract (alcohol-free) 125mg 4x day, lecithin granules ( 1/4 tsp 4x a day which improves the efficacy of the milk thistle’s silymarin), SAM-e (72mg 4x a day), and Co-Q10 (200mg a day) along with medicinal mushrooms (10 mushroom blend formula by Jetsu – Amazon, 1tsp 2x day ~ 220mg of each of the 10 mushrooms 2x a day). Much to the surprise of the vet, her liver values steadily dropped and returned to normal.

    Fortunately, my cat’s liver never became cirrhotic but she did become jaundiced. I suspect that even in a cirrhotic state, the above liver supporting supplements would prove to be helpful as well. I also suspect that taking proteolytic enzymes would reverse the scarring since that is what these enzymes do.

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