Flex your muscles to fight liver ailment

More than 2 lakh people in India need a liver transplant every year. Less than 2% get it. For those who don’t, there is a new hope.

Durgesh Nandan Jha | TNN
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NEW DELHI: More than 2 lakh people in India need a liver transplant every year. Less than 2% get it. For those who don’t, there is a new hope.

Indian doctors are working on a therapy that focuses on strengthening such patients’ muscles so they can partially support the liver in metabolism. It involves appropriate nutrition and exercises, said Dr S K Sarin, director of the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS).

In patients suffering from liver cirrhosis or afflicted with an advanced-stage liver disease, he added, muscle strength is heavily compromised.

“In a diseased liver, because of lack of liver cells, ammonia levels become high. It affects brain function, damages the muscles and even bones. Currently, we give them anti-ammonia treatment to neutralise the effect. However, if we add muscle strengthening to the therapy, the chances of recovery are much higher,” he said. Muscles, Sarin added, can clear the ammonia and, thus, support its functioning.

ILBS, on the occasion of the World Liver Day, launched ‘Li-hab’ or a liver rehabilitation centre where the new therapy for liver patients will be conducted. It will involve putting patients on special, protein rich diet and resistant exercises.

This therapy has been tried in other countries and, last week, scientists from Denmark shared its success story in Paris in the European Association for Study of the Liver, Sarin said.

The scientists claimed that an hour-long resistance training, three times weekly for 12 weeks, improved muscle size and muscle strength in patients with liver cirrhosis. Experts say muscle strengthening can prolong the life of patients suffering from liver disease and help them maintain physical fitness while waiting for a transplant and, possibly, reduce the need for it.

“It is an emerging science. We need to gather more evidence before claiming success, but we are happy to be making an attempt. You will be surprised to know that the liver cirrhosis patients can do exercises with some help and training. We have enrolled a few for the same already,” Sarin said.

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