Jaundice – Causes, Symptoms, and Diet Management
Jaundice is one of the common diseases which affects infants, children, and adults alike. Jaundice is a term used to define a state of the body wherein yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes occurs. Jaundice occurs when the blood contains an excess of the pigment called bilirubin – a natural product arising from the normal breakdown of Red Blood Cells (RBCs) in the body and excreted through the bile by the liver.
Before we go into the further details of jaundice, let us try to understand how bilirubin gets generated in our body and what the function of the liver is in maintaining the level of bilirubin in the body.
Red Blood Cells (RBCs) in our blood carry oxygen to various parts of our body. RBC is expected to have a lifespan of 3 to 4 months. Upon reaching their lifespan, they are broken down and removed from the circulation by special cells called phagocytes. RBC on breaking down may again get separated into amino acids, Fe, and bilirubin, out of these amino acids and Fe are useful to the body, whereas bilirubin needs to be excreted out.
Most of the waste products from the body get excreted either through the kidney in the form of urine or through the liver in the form of bile. When bilirubin is generated from RBC breakdown, it passes through the blood to the liver, where it gets converted into bile juice. This bile juice comes out of the liver and then joins the first part of the small intestine (duodenum). It then passes through the small and large intestine and gets expelled out with the stool. Once there is a disturbance in this process, the amount of bilirubin inside the body can increase and turn the skin color to yellow.
What Causes Jaundice?
We have observed that the inability of our body to expel out the bilirubin leads to jaundice. There are various causes which suddenly makes the bilirubin to pile up inside the body. They can be:
- Increased rate of RBC breakdown resulting from the prevailing health issues, such as malaria, sickle cell Anemia, Gilbert syndrome, etc.
- Infection of the liver from prolonged exposure to a harmful substance, such as alcohol.
- Obstructive Jaundice resulting due to an interruption to the drainage of bile in the biliary system. This could be due to pancreatic malfunction or the presence of a gallstone in the common bile duct.
Symptoms of Jaundice:
The common symptoms which a person suffering from jaundice experiences are:
- Yellow discoloration of the eyes and skin
- Dark-colored urine
- Pale-colored stool
- General fatigue
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Diagnosis of Jaundice:
An experienced medical practitioner can identify the onset of jaundice from the primary symptoms exhibited by the patient. The patient may have to undergo certain laboratory tests such as:
- Blood Test: It helps to ascertain the level of bilirubin in the blood. Bilirubin levels above acceptable norms are an indication of jaundice.
- Urine Test: Urine test helps to identify the level of urobilinogen. Inside the digestive system, when bacteria break down bilirubin, it leads to the production of urobilinogen.
Diet and Management of Jaundice:
Diet management plays a crucial role in the treatment of jaundice and even post jaundice rehabilitation. Improving the health of the liver is the prime motive here. Let us have a glance at the ideal diet chain one needs to follow during jaundice treatment and rehabilitation.
- Have Vegetables: All leafy green vegetables are ideal for jaundice patients. One can also opt for some starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, pumpkins, acorn, etc. Legumes, such as green beans, black-eyed peas, lentils, etc. can be avoided during the initial phase of jaundice treatment.
- Opt for Fresh Fruits: Try to have fresh fruits, such as oranges, lemon (citrus fruits), kiwi, apples, pears, peaches, etc.
- Eat Meat and Fish: Poultry, such as chicken, turkey, lamb, etc. are good for the patients rehabilitating from jaundice. Preferably, all fish items are also good for patients recovering from jaundice. Avoid meat items, such as pork and beef, during the medication and further during the recuperation period.
- Devour Dairy Products: Goat and sheep milk are ideal for jaundice patients. Yogurt and cheese are also preferred milk products.
- Drink Beverages: Jaundice patients are to keep themselves self-hydrated. Make sure that you have 10 to 12 glasses of water. Unsweetened juices, filtered water, green tea, or herbal tea are ideal beverages that can be consumed during this period. Make sure that you avoid coffee or caffeine-based items.
- Limit Wheat-Based Products: During the initial days of jaundice treatment, it is ideal to curb the rate of wheat-based or cereal intake. The best-recommended foods will be rice and rice cakes, corn, wheat grains, cornbread, yeast-free bread, etc.
- Avoid Condiments: It is ideal to keep away condiments, such as vinegar, pickles, mayonnaise, olives, ketchup, etc., from your diet till one completely recuperates from jaundice-related problems.
- Do Not Have Alcohol: One needs to completely avoid alcohol of any form for quite a bit of time if you are diagnosed with jaundice and other liver-related problems. All the hard work done by the patient will go for a toss if they go back to alcoholic ways.
Diet management becomes more important in jaundice than any other disease. A balanced and restricted diet helps in the early recuperation of the liver and its associated functions. It becomes all the more important because jaundice is the disease that can recur if we don’t adopt proper rehabilitation techniques.
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