Jaundice is the most common of all liver disorders resulting from an obstruction in the bile duct, or the loss of function of the bile-producing liver cells. There are several forms of jaundice but all of them are marked by yellow discoloration of the skin and the whites of the eyes.
The liver, located under the diaphragm just above the stomach, is a vast chemical laboratory which performs many important functions. It inactivates hormones no longer needed, synthesizes many amino acids used in building tissues, and breaks proteins into sugar and far when required for energy. It produces lecithin, cholesterol, bile and blood albumin, vital to the removal of tissue wastes. It also stores vitamins and minerals.
Bile is a vital digestive fluid which is essential for proper nutrition. It exercises a most favourable influence on the general processes of digestion. It also prevents decaying changes in food. If the bile is prevented from entering the intestines there is an increase in gases and other products. Normally the production of bile and its flow is constant.
The symptoms of jaundice are extreme weakness, headache, fever, loss of appetite, undue fatigue, severe constipation, nausea and yellow coloration of the eyes, tongue, skin and urine. The patient may also feel a dull pain in liver region.
Jaundice is indicative of the malfunctioning of the liver. It may be caused by an obstruction of the bile ducts which discharge bile salts and pigment into the intestine. The bile then gets mixed with blood and this gives a yellow pigmentation to the skin. The obstruction of the bile ducts could be due to gall stones or inflammation of the liver, known as hepatitis, caused by a virus. In the later case, the virus spreads and may lead to epidemics owing to over-crowding, dirty surroundings, insanitary conditions and contamination of food and water. Other causes of jaundice are pernicious anaemia and certain disease affecting the liver such as typhoid, malaria, yellow fever and tuberculosis.
The simple form of jaundice can be cured rapidly by diet therapy and exercises. Recovery will, however, be slow in serious cases which have been caused by obstruction or pressure in the bile ducts. The patient should rest until the acute symptoms of the disease subside.
The patient should be put on a fruit juice fast for a week. The juice of lemon, grapes, pear, carrot, beet, and sugarcane can be taken. A hot enema should be taken daily during the fast to ensure regular bowel elimination, thereby preventing the absorption of decomposed, poisonous material into the blood stream. The fruit juice fast may be discontinued after the severity of the disease is over and a simple diet may be resumed on the following lines :
On rising: A glass of warm water mixed with two teaspoons of lime juice.
Breakfast: One fresh juicy fruit such as apple, papaya, grapes, berries and mangoes. One cup wheat dalia or one slice of whole wheat bread with a little butter.
Mid-morning: Orange juice.
Lunch: Two small chappatis of whole wheat flour, a cup of strained vegetable soup, a steamed leafy vegetable such as spinach, fenugreek or carrot and a glass of buttermilk.
Mid-afternoon : Orange juice or coconut water.
Dinner : Two whole wheat chappatis with a little ghee or butter, baked. Baked potato and one other leafy vegetable like spinach and fenugreek, a glass of hot milk with honey if desired.
All fats like ghee, butter, cream and oils must be avoided for at least two weeks, and after that their consumption should be kept down to the minimum. Digestive disturbances must be avoided. No food with a tendency to ferment or putrefy in the lower intestines like pulses, legumes, etc. should be included in diet.
The juice of bitter luffa (karvi torai) is regarded as an effective (home) remedy for jaundice. It is obtained by pounding and squeezing through cloth. The juice should be placed on the palm of the hand and drawn upthrough the nostrils. This will cause a profuse overflow of the yellow coloured fluid through the nostrils. The toxic matter having been evacuated in a considerable quantity, the patient will feel relieved. It is, however, a strong medicine and may cause in the patients will delicate nature, side effects like giddiness, migraine and at times high fever for a short duration. Its use should, therefore, be avoided by such patients.
If the green juice of bitter luffa is not available, it can best be substituted by two or three drops of the fluid obtained by soaking its dry crusts overnight in water. This produces an identical effect. Seeds of bitter luffa which are easily available can also be used for the same purpose after rubbing in water.
Another valuable food remedy for jaundice is the green leaves of radish. The leaves should be pounded and their juices extracted through cloth. One pound of this juice daily is sufficient for an adult patient. It should be strained through a clean piece of muslin cloth before use. It provides immediate relief. It induces a healthy appetite and proper evacuation of bowels, and this results in gradual decrease of the trouble. In most casse a complete cure can be ensured within eight or ten days.
Drinking a lot of water with lemon juice will protect the damaged liver cells. Alternate hot and cold compresses should be applied to the abdomen. Maintain the hot compress for one minute at 120oF. Alternate with a cold compress at 60oF for few minutes. The treatment may be continued for an hour or 10 repetitions. The procedure should be repeated at five-hourly intervals. A hot immersion bath at 104oF for 10 minutes daily will be helpful in relieving the itching which sometimes accompanies jaundice and in the elimination of the bile pigment from the system through the skin and kidneys. Cold friction twice a day will be beneficial for general tone-up. Certain asanas such as uthanpadasana, bhujangasana, viparitkarani and shavasana, and anuloma-viloma, pranayama will be helpful in the treatment of jaundice.
The jaundice patient can overcome the condition quite easily and build up his sick liver until it again functions normally with the above regime. With reasonable care in the diet and life style, and regular, moderate exercise and frequent exposure to sunshine and fresh air, a recurrence of liver trouble can be prevented.