Ascites is an accumulation of protein-containing (ascitic) fluid within the abdomen. It is considered a frequent complication at the last stage of liver disease as well as other fluid retention conditions like peripheral edema. The fluid accumulated may also travel to the chest and cause difficulty in breathing.
Ascites can occur due to kidney failure, liver cirrhosis, pancreatitis & tuberculosis. Liver Cirrhosis is responsible for 85% of ascites. There are Refractory ascites that recur after treatments, in this the fluid buildup cannot be reduced by a low sodium diet or diuretics, non-complicated Ascites wherein a symmetrical distention and swelling of the abdomen occurs and an ultrasound detects the presence of fluids and Chylous ascites which is caused by leakage of lymph from a ruptured lymph vessel.
Ascites can occur in children too and are most commonly associated with liver, kidney and heart disorders.
Causes of Ascites
- The protein leaks from the kidney leads to accumulation of fluids in abdominal cavity. Ascites occurs due to improper functioning of the liver. Portal hypertension or increased pressure in the blood flow to the liver is the main contributor of Ascites.
- Certain cancers like liver, stomach, breast, colon and pancreas, also lead to ascites.
- Too much alcohol consumption leads to ascites.
- Other causes include kidney problems, pancreatitis and clots in the veins of the liver and heart.
Symptoms of Ascites
- If Ascites is mild, there are no symptoms associated with it. The fluid buildup causes swelling that usually develops over a few weeks or it may happen in just few days.
- The most common symptoms of Ascites are shortness of breath and abdominal pain.
- Other symptoms may include large belly / enlarged abdomen, feeling of fullness/bloating, indigestion, urine urgency, constipation, vomiting, heartburn, nausea, loss of appetite, swelling in the ankles and legs, fever, jaundice.
Diagnosis of Ascites
Diagnosis of Ascites is based on physical examination of the patient along with detailed medical history.Ultrasound is done to detect small amount of fluids. CT scan is done to evaluate other conditions. Blood work plays an essential role in determining ascites. A procedure called paracentesis is performed to withdraw some fluid for testing in the lab.Other tests like urine analysis, kidney function analysis, liver function analysis, electrolyte level tests may be performed.
Treatment and Home Remedies of Ascites
Treatment of Ascites is based on the underlying cause. A change in diet and proper medication helps in managing the symptoms of Ascites. In some cases, surgery and liver transplant are the only options. The diet recommended for Ascites patients is low in sodium and they are prescribed diuretics or water pills as diuretics increase water and salt excretion from the kidneys and prevent further fluid retention. It is advised to consume high blood pressure diet that includes fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits, pineapples and healthy fats, sprouted whole grains and oats. Salt intake should be minimal by the patients. A diet rich in potassium and magnesium is recommended as they reduce water retention and lower the blood pressure. One should consume bananas, beets, mushrooms, avocados and dark leafy vegetables.
It is recommended to consume smaller meals throughout the day. It is very important to consume organic foods as with Ascites, the liver functioning gets reduced and the body is not able to detoxify blood properly.
Home Remedies for Ascites
Some simple home remedies also help in managing the symptoms of Ascites. These include:
1. Dandelion Root Tea
Drinking Dandelion Root Tea increase urine frequency and volume which helps in reducing the edema and fluid retention. Dandelion is loaded with potassium, vitamin A, C and K and minerals like calcium, iron and magnesium. Dandelion Root tea may be prepared by steeping the root in hot water for 10 minutes and then strained and cooled down. One may add some honey for taste. Dandelion aids in digestion and has anti-inflammatory effects on the affected liver.
2. Consumption of Coconut Water
Coconut water is high in potassium and electrolytes. It helps one stay hydrated while being on the limited liquid diet.
3. Fenugreek seeds
Drinking water which had Fenugreek seeds soaked overnight helps in reducing inflammation and eliminating the free radicals that cause damage to the body.
4. Ginger and Garlic
Ginger tea may be prepared by adding crushed or grated ginger to boiling water, a little honey may be mixed to it for taste. Ginger is an excellent diuretic and it removes excess water from the body through urine and thus treats edema naturally. Same way garlic may be crushed and its juice is taken on an empty stomach to help reduce bloating and tenderness associated with Ascites.
5. Mixture of Carrot and Radish Juice
A very simple and effective home remedy to treat Ascites is to take fresh carrot juice and fresh radish juice daily. It helps to relieve pain and swelling in the body. It also aids in healthy digestion. Carrots and Radishes have a cleansing effect on the liver and aids in releasing excess bile and fats. They are natural detoxifiers.
It is must to include onions in the diet to get rid of fluid buildup. Onions help in eliminating toxins and excess fluids from the body.
To get rid of swelling in the feet, it is advised to soak feet in water with Epsom salt mixed in it. Epsom salt detoxifies the body and relaxes the body at the same time.
7. Important Tips
It is necessary to avoid processed foods, fried /oily foods, starchy foods, and milk products for faster recovery.
Practicing Yoga asanas also helps Ascites patients. Asanas alike Lolasana or Pendant Pose, Mayurasana or Peacock pose and Baddha Padmasana or Locked lotus pose are very beneficial in relieving the pressure on the abdomen.
Ascites causes a lot of discomforts and if not treated on time, it can lead to several organ failures. Ascites significantly impact the quality of life and there is no permanent cure to it. The natural treatments are best to relieve symptoms of pain and discomfort.