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What is the Relationship Between Jaundice and Diet?

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  • Written By: Anna B. Smith
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 17 July 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Jaundice and diet are often linked through the diseases from which this condition is a bi-product. Patients who begin to notice the signs of jaundice may also suffer from a loss of appetite and an inability to completely digest their food. Those who are eventually diagnosed with liver disease may be required to make a complete change to their diets by eliminating alcohol, which is known to damage the liver in significant quantities. Diet can also play a small role in the formation of gallstones, which are known to block bile ducts and cause a gradual yellowing of the skin and eyes.

Jaundice is the condition that causes a yellow colored tinge to develop in the pigment of the skin and the whites of the eyes. This condition is caused when the chemical bilirubin is present in large quantities in the blood stream. Jaundice is not a disease in and of itself, but can accompany a disease and is often an indicator of a more serious condition.

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Bilirubin occurs naturally in the body, and is the product that remains when old red blood cells are destroyed. This chemical is filtered out of the blood stream regularly by a properly functioning liver. It is paired with glucuronic acid and secreted from the liver and into the intestines through a substance known as bile. The bile aids in digestion as it moves through the intestines and leaves the body with other waste materials in the form of stool. Jaundice can occur when any step in this process is halted or altered, preventing bilirubin from being filtered out of the blood and into the body's waste management system.

One negative link between jaundice and diet is that when a patient is exhibiting these symptoms, his body is most likely having difficulty digesting food, and he may begin to experience abdominal pains and a loss of appetite as a result. Bilirubin builds in the blood due to its inability to move through the liver and into the intestines in the form of bile, which is necessary for the breakdown of most fats found in food. It is also responsible for releasing vitamins from those food sources so that they may be absorbed into the body. Jaundice patients typically show signs of vitamin deficiency as the condition persists, and can occasionally experience some minor bleeding due to the body's temporary inability to form blood clots.

Jaundice and diet are similarly linked negatively by the disease alcoholic hepatitis. This condition is an inflammation of the liver, typically caused by drinking large quantities of alcohol over a prolonged period of time, though it can also occur on occasion in individuals who do not drink excessively. Jaundice is a commonly occurring initial symptom of this disease, and can aid doctors in its diagnosis. The patient's doctor may wish to perform a liver biopsy, in which a small piece of tissue is removed from the organ and examined beneath a microscope, to determine the cause of the symptoms. Once the liver has become inflamed and alcoholic hepatitis is confirmed, the patient must alter his diet by ceasing to consume alcohol all together.

Gallstones are another possible condition in which jaundice and diet can be associated. These small stones are formed in the gallbladder from the accumulation of cholesterol and other substances found in bile. As they grow, they have the potential to block bile ducts and prevent it from exiting the body properly. Large stones are often removed from the gallbladder surgically, and individuals who have experienced this condition frequently may receive a doctor's recommendation to have the organ removed from the body completely.

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