Liver Disease and Hydration

What is liver disease?

The liver is the body’s largest organ after the skin, it is located under the ribcage (right side) and is roughly the same size as a football. This organ is essential in many of the body’s processes such as:

  • the digestion of food and the distribution and processing of nutrients.2
  •  It distinguishes waste and nutrients in the digestive system  
  • production of bile - the substance that removes toxins from the body and supports digestion.

Liver disease describes numerous conditions that affect and damage the liver.1 There are about 4.5 million adults diagnosed with liver disease each year. It can be caused by alcohol, obesity, inherited conditions, and infections.3

Over time, liver disease can lead to scarring (cirrhosis). As the proportion of scar tissue that replaces healthy liver tissue increases, the proper function of the liver is reduced. This leads to serious complications, which if left untreated can lead to failure of the liver and even liver cancer. So, it is important to seek treatment early to heal damage and prevent complications.

Here are the common types of liver disease and their probable causes:

· Fatty liver disease (non-alcoholic): obesity or being overweight, can lead to fat buildup in the liver.

· Liver disease (alcohol-related): drinking too much alcohol on a regular basis

· Haemochromatosis: DNA or genetic factors which run in families. These can be passed from parents to children.

· Primary biliary cirrhosis: difficulties and problems with the immune system can cause this condition.

· Hepatitis: consuming too much alcohol regularly and viral infections.

These causes can be prevented through the maintenance of a healthy lifestyle and consuming only moderate amounts of alcohol.1 

What are the symptoms of liver disease?

It is well known that most types of liver disease, especially non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, very rarely cause symptoms.1 However, jaundice is a common symptom in most conditions, this symptom is characterised by the yellowing of skin and eyes. Jaundice is a result of the liver’s inability to remove a substance called bilirubin.

It is important to note that once symptoms of liver disease appear, the liver is already scarred and damaged (cirrhosis). It is important to see a GP if you notice:

· Loss of libido (sex drive)

· Jaundice: yellow whites of the eyes/ skin

· Loss of appetite and weight loss

· Exhaustion and feeling weak

· Other symptoms can include feeling nauseous/ sick and having itchy skin.1

Drinking enough water is crucial for the homeostasis of all systems

Consuming adequate water each day is vital for overall health.4 Drinking water prevents dehydration, a complication that can lead to mood changes, kidney stones, overheating, constipation, and unclear thinking. One great benefit is that water has no calories: it can aid in the management of body weight and helps to reduce calorie intake.4

Water is crucial because it:

· Removes waste through bowel movements, perspiration, and urination.

· Maintains normal body temperature.

· Protects sensitive tissues such as the spinal cord.

· Cushions and lubricates joints.

Water is necessary for detoxification

Water is responsible for the blood fluid content. As the organ that filters the blood, the viscosity of blood affects the liver’s detoxification capacities.5 People who suffer from liver diseases face problems such as scarring and inflammation, these complications make efficient detoxification difficult. This is amplified by not consuming sufficient amounts of water to prevent the blood from getting viscous; as not drinking enough water increases the thickness of the blood, making it tougher to filter.6

Here is how water can benefit the liver

· Flushes waste from the body and prevents constipation

· Supports the liver by dissolving soluble fibre and fats

· Helps maintain a healthy weight, which decreases the risk of fatty liver disease

· Thins the blood, this simplifies it for the liver to process

· Helps the liver flush toxins ingested (alcohol and drugs).6

Fluid retention is a symptom of end-stage liver disease

Fluid retention in the ankles and legs (peripheral oedema) or the stomach area (ascites) are common symptoms of end-stage liver disease and the progression of cirrhosis.8

The term ascites describes abnormal fluid build-up in the abdominal cavity, around 7 in 10 cases of ascites is produced by scarring of the liver (cirrhosis).7 People with liver cirrhosis have problems with fluid exchange within the cells, this is because the liver stops working properly, leading to ascites.7 Fluid retention puts pressure on different parts of the body, such as the diaphragm, this places stress on the lungs triggering problems with breathing.

The main symptoms of fluid retention are:

· Lack of appetite

· Nausea

· Shortness of breath

· Bloating

· Swelling of the abdomen (may include discomfort and pain)


Liver disease is a term to describe several complications that damage and affect the liver. Common examples are fatty liver disease which is a result of obesity and fat buildup in the liver, as well as alcohol-related liver disease, caused by drinking too much alcohol regularly.  

Liver disease rarely causes symptoms, but one sign is jaundice. Another symptom of progressive liver disease is the abnormal buildup of fluid in the abdominal cavity, this is called ascites. 

Hydration is crucial for a healthy liver, this is because it flushes out waste from the body and helps dissolve soluble fibre and fats. Consuming an adequate amount of water each day is also important in the detoxification process.


  1. Liver disease [Internet]. NHS.UK. 2017 [cited 2022 Oct 21]. Available from: 
  2. Liver disease | niddk [Internet]. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. [cited 2022 Oct 21]. Available from: 
  3. Faststats [Internet]. 2022 [cited 2022 Oct 21]. Available from: 
  4. CDC. Water and healthier drinks [Internet]. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2022 [cited 2022 Oct 21]. Available from: 
  5. Recovery A. How water helps the liver recover from abuse [Internet]. Ashwood Recovery. 2022 [cited 2022 Oct 21]. Available from: 
  6. Ac. (NCCAOM)® NC L Ac , MTCM, Dipl. How much water does your liver need? [Internet]. 2009 [cited 2022 Oct 21]. Available from: 
  7. North N. Liver disease is the most common cause of ascites [Internet]. British Liver Trust. 2020 [cited 2022 Oct 21]. Available from: 
  8. Treatment for cirrhosis [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2022 Oct 21]. Available from: 

Iqra Khalif

Pharmaceutical Science, University of Hertfordshire

Iqra Khalif is a pharmaceutical scientist with deep roots in research and development. She has a leadership qualification in global health and is interested in strategising for innovation in the life sciences.
She currently works in data analytics and management for a health-tech startup. presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
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