Organic treatment consists of the following:
- In some cases, medium-chain triglycerides may be prescribed as a supplement. This is a type of fat, found primarily in coconut oil, that may actually help reduce the buildup of harmful fats in the liver. Supplementing with vitamins and minerals depleted by alcohol — especially vitamins B-1, B-2 and B-6 and calcium and iron — also is key.
- Lifestyle changes. Quitting smoking and maintaining a healthy weight can help improve liver function. Smoking has been shown to increase the rate of liver scarring in people with alcoholic hepatitis, and obesity contributes to fatty liver.
- Drug therapies. People with severe alcoholic hepatitis may benefit from treatment with corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and with pentoxifylline, a drug that prevents the body from making tumor necrosis factor-alpha, a powerful substance linked to inflammation. Other therapies that inhibit tumor necrosis factor also may be considered.
- Antioxidants. Harmful oxygen molecules called free radicals play a major role in alcoholic hepatitis by causing extensive damage to liver cells. Treatment with antioxidants can help prevent this damage. The supplement SAM-e may be of some benefit. Other natural supplements, such as the herb milk thistle, also may be helpful. In Europe, milk thistle has been used for centuries to treat jaundice and other liver disorders. The chief constituent of milk thistle, silymarin, may aid in healing and rebuilding the liver by stimulating the production of antioxidant enzymes.
- Liver transplant. When liver function is severely impaired, a liver transplant may be the only option for some people. Although liver transplantation is often successful, the number of people awaiting transplants far exceeds the number of available organs. For that reason, liver transplantation in people with alcoholic liver disease is controversial. Some medical centers won't perform liver transplants on people with alcoholic liver disease because they believe a substantial number will return to drinking after surgery, won't take the necessary anti-rejection medications or will require more care and resources than will other patients. Most of these objections have not been borne out in practice, however, and many doctors now feel that some people with alcoholic liver disease are good candidates for transplant surgery. But requirements are still stringent, including abstinence from alcohol for at least six months before surgery and enrollment in a counseling program.