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The liver is one of the largest organs in the human body. It performs multiple important functions like producing bile for the absorption of nutrients in the small intestine, storing glycogen in the body, detoxifying the body and breaking down old red blood cells. This last process leads to the formation of a compound called bilirubin, which is normally excreted through faeces. 

Jaundice occurs when the liver becomes damaged or is unable to expel the extra bilirubin from the body. The accumulated bilirubin then causes yellowing of eyes, skin and mucous membranes such as the gums.

So, jaundice is not a disease but a symptom of an underlying liver condition. If you have jaundice, it is best to check with a doctor to find out the underlying cause and get treated for it. 

However, if you are already being treated for the condition, you can try some easy home remedies to promote your overall health and the health of your liver.

  1. Home remedies for jaundice
  2. Home remedies for jaundice in infants

The following home remedies have been shown to be effective in reducing the symptoms of liver diseases. Always check with a doctor before taking any remedy since certain foods and herbs may counter the effects of medicines.

Fibre is good for jaundice

Fibres are complex carbohydrates that promote digestion. There are two types of fibres: insoluble and soluble. Insoluble fibre is present in whole grains and wheat bran. It adds bulk to your food and makes you feel full for longer.

Soluble fibre, on the other hand, gets dissolved and forms a gel inside the intestines, this is what promotes digestion. Some fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, barley and oat bran are good sources of soluble fibre.

If you have jaundice, it is best to add more soluble fibre to your diet. Studies show that soluble fibre increases the rate at which the body gets rid of bile. Fibre also reduces inflammation and helps in reducing total cholesterol levels, which would promote liver health.

Herbs for jaundice

Here are some herbs that are traditionally used to manage jaundice. These herbs are thought to be good for liver health:

  • Kutki: Kutki (Picrorhiza kurroa) is a natural hepatoprotective agent (it prevents liver damage) and is traditionally used for the treatment of jaundice.
    A randomised, placebo-controlled clinical trial showed that 375 grams of kutki powder, when taken three times a day, can reduce both the bilirubin levels and the levels of the enzymes SGOT and SGPT in the body. SGOT (serum glutamic oxaloacetic transaminase) and SGPT (serum glutamic pyruvic transaminase) are both markers of liver damage.
    Kutki is also said to be effective against liver fibrosis and in chronic liver injuries such as by alcoholism.
  • Giloy: Giloy or Tinospora cardiofolia is yet another herb that is traditionally used to promote liver function. Just like Kutki, giloy is loaded with hepatoprotective compounds that prevent liver damage and improve liver health. Clinical studies indicate that four tablets of giloy taken thrice a day over four weeks can significantly improve liver health.
  • Amla: Traditionally, amla (Emblica officinalis) is known as a liver tonic. It is a good source of antioxidants, which reduce inflammation and reduce free radical damage.
    Free radicals are singlet oxygen molecules that are produced as a natural byproduct of all the metabolic processes in your body. However, most of these free radicals are normally neutralised by the antioxidants present in the body.
    Compounds like flavonoids, tannins, vitamins (especially vitamin C and vitamin E) and carotenoids have antioxidants properties.
    Increase in free radicals levels in the body, such as due to stress, poor lifestyle or excess alcohol, can create a condition called oxidative stress. Oxidative stress eventually deteriorates organ function and make you prone to diseases.
    Experts say that the antioxidant activity of amla can slow down liver fibrosis and even reverse the process to an extent.
    Amla also promotes liver detoxification and is shown to be useful in reducing the harmful effects of certain drugs and heavy metals on the liver.
  • Turmeric: In India, turmeric consumption is believed to be bad for jaundice patients since it supposedly increases the yellow pigmentation in body. However, turmeric has long been used to treat liver diseases in the world. It has a compound called curcumin, which is indicated to be an excellent antioxidant and especially effective against oxidation-induced liver damage (that is, damage caused by free radicals).
    In vivo (animal studies) show that curcumin reduces the levels of bilirubin and alanine aminotransferase (ALA), a marker of liver damage, in the body. Curcumin also reduces inflammation in the liver, which usually occurs in most liver conditions.
    However, it is best to consult a doctor before taking turmeric supplements since the consumption of these supplements has been linked to liver injury.
  • Punarnava: In folk medicine, punarnava (Boerhavia diffusa) is used to treat almost all liver conditions. Lab studies show that punarnava (also known as tar vine, spreading hogweed and red spiderling) can reduce the levels of ALA in the body.
    Some experts say that to get maximum benefits from punarnava, it should be harvested when its roots are about one to three centimetres in length (which usually happens in May).
    Also, to avoid the side-effects, it is important to take punarnava in the right dosage and only after consulting a doctor - an ayurvedic medicine called Punarnava mandur is associated with liver toxicity.

Foods that help reduce jaundice

What you eat has a direct impact on your health. A healthy and balanced diet provides all the essential nutrients to your body to maintain the essential functions. On the other hand, poor dietary choices may put extra stress on the liver and may worsen your symptoms. 

Here is a list of foods that are known to be good for liver health:

  • Coffee: Coffee is one of the most loved beverages in the world. The aromatic beans of coffee are rich in antioxidants such as ferulic acid and caffeic acid which also have antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties.
    Studies suggest that coffee lowers the levels of ALA and other biomarkers of liver damage.
    It has further been shown that two cups of coffee per day prevent liver fibrosis and cirrhosis and keep liver diseases from progressing.
  • Sugarcane juice: Sugarcane juice is one of the most common remedies for jaundice. While there is no proof that it expels bilirubin from the body, sugarcane juice has shown to contain anti-inflammatory properties. Drinking sugarcane juice also promotes the overall health of the liver.
  • Lemon water: Lemon water detoxifies the body and removes excess free radicals. It is found to be effective in promoting liver function. It is usually suggested that to get maximum benefits, you should take lukewarm lemon water. However, it is best to take lemon water in moderation or talk to your doctor to know how safe it is for you. This is because lemon juice, when taken with lukewarm water promotes, the expulsion of urine from the body, which can cause dehydration and harm the liver.
  • Bitter gourd: Bitter gourd or karela is said to be highly beneficial for jaundice patients. An animal study done in Bangladesh found that karela has a lot of antioxidants which can reverse liver damage and reduce inflammation and fibrosis in the liver. However, there aren’t many studies to prove the effects of bitter gourd on liver health. 

Read more: What to eat what not to eat in jaundice

Vitamin D for jaundice

While there aren’t many studies that show the benefits of vitamin D supplementation on liver health, those who have any liver disease are usually also deficient in vitamin D. 

It is suggested that vitamin D has an indirect effect on non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (one of two main types of fatty liver) since it improves glycemic control in the body (helps maintain blood sugar levels). 

Vitamin D also reduces inflammation and fibrosis and reduces the levels of liver enzymes when taken along with calcium carbonate. The presence of excess liver enzymes in the blood is a sign of liver damage.

If you are deficient in vitamin D, it is best to take it from foods (supplements can be taken if your doctor tells you to). Some vitamin D-rich foods include cod liver oil, milk, yoghurt and eggs.

Jaundice is a common condition in newborns. This is because the placenta does most of the work for the baby while he or she is in the mother’s womb. After birth, it takes some time for the baby’s liver to start functioning properly. In most cases, this jaundice goes away on its own within 14 to 15 days. However, if the baby has an infection at birth or a health condition that causes an abnormal increase in their red blood cells, jaundice can be severe and need prompt medical attention.

Treatment of neonatal jaundice usually involves administration of a lot of fluids (usually through formula milk). Intravenous fluids are given in extreme cases.

In addition to these, your paediatrician may also recommend phototherapy. There are also some traditional remedies for milder forms of jaundice in babies. Read on to know about two such therapies, backed by science.

Phototherapy and sunlight for jaundice in newborn babies

Phototherapy is one of the most common treatments for neonatal jaundice. In this therapy, the newborn is laid under a special fluorescent lamp (usually emits blue light) with his/her eyes closed. The light causes photooxidation of bilirubin (adds oxygen to it) and makes it water-soluble. This bilirubin is then easily broken down and expelled out of the body.

Though you can't do phototherapy at home, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, if your neonate does not have severe jaundice, you can just undress him/her and lay the baby down near an open window which gets ample sunlight. This would naturally decrease the bilirubin levels in their body. Make sure they don’t get direct sunlight as it may lead to sunburn

Sunlight does not benefit adults with jaundice.

Barley powder for jaundice in babies

In some countries, an application made from barley flour is used to treat jaundice in newborns. A 2017 study found that this application, when used along with phototherapy, indeed has some therapeutic benefits.

However, more studies are needed to confirm the effects of barley flour on neonatal jaundice.

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Dr. Laxmidutta Shukla

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