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Ascites: Causes, Symptoms, Treatments, And Home Remedies

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ISSA Certified Specialist in Fitness & Nutrition
Ascites: Causes, Symptoms, Treatments, And Home Remedies April 22, 2019

Our body is a machine, and like any other machine, it goes through its share of wear and tear. But just like other machines, most of the problems plaguing our body can be easily fixed with a little tweaking and oiling here and there. Ascites is one such problem. The swelling and pain can cause a lot of discomfort, and if not treated on time, ascites can lead to other organ failures as well.

Keep reading to know a little more about this gastrointestinal problem and how you can use ingredients found in your kitchen to treat it.

What Is Ascites?

In simple words, ascites is a bodily disorder caused due to the build-up of fluid in the abdominal cavity. This fluid can also travel to the chest cavity and cause difficulty in breathing. by putting pressure on the diaphragm, which then presses on the lungs (1, 2).

What Are The Types Of Ascites?

Liver cirrhosis is responsible for 85% of ascites. The table below lists the other types of ascites and what organ they are associated with (3).

Type Of AscitesAssociated Body Organ/Part
HepaticLiver, Inferior Vena Cava
CardiogenicHeart
NephrogenicKidneys
MalignantMost organs of the body (with cancer)
PancreaticPancreas

Some of the uncommon types of ascites are:

  • Refractory ascites – These are ascites that recur after treatment. The patient is prone to developing various hepatic complications in such cases (4).
  • Chylous ascites – This is an uncommon type of ascites. It is caused by leakage of lymph from a ruptured lymph vessel (5).

What Causes Ascites?

Ascites most commonly occurs due to structural damage of the liver, leading to improper function. A liver disease like cirrhosis is primarily accountable for ascites. Apart from this, cancers that affect different organs like the colon, stomach, liver, breast , and pancreas are another major cause that can lead to ascites. Other causes include:

  • Excessive alcohol intake, causing alcoholic liver disease leading to cirrhosis.
  • Excessive intake of sucrose and fructose, leading to nonalcoholic liver disease leading to cirrhosis.
  • Clots in the veins of the liver and heart
  • Pancreatitis
  • Kidney (nephrotic) issues (1, 2)

Note: There is an epidemic of nonalcoholic liver disease in younger people from the overconsumption of sucrose (table sugar) and fructose (from high fructose corn syrup sweeteners in soda).

Symptoms Of Ascites

Common symptoms of ascites are:

  • Enlarged abdomen
  • Swollen legs
  • Weight gain
  • Bloating
  • Indigestion, nausea, and/or vomiting
  • Problem in breathing while lying down (1, 2)

Diagnosis Of Ascites

After a basic physical exam and investigation of your symptoms, ascites is diagnosed mainly by two methods.

  • Fluid sample – With a needle and syringe, a sample is taken from the abdomen, this fluid is tested for infection and cancer.
  • Imaging – MRI, CT scan, and ultrasound are done to get a better picture of what exactly is happening inside the body and causing the ascites.

Other tests that may be done are:

  • Urine analysis
  • Kidney function tests
  • Liver function tests
  • Varied blood tests depending on other symptoms
  • Electrolyte levels (1, 2)

There are several home remedies that can provide relief from ascites and its associated symptoms. We are not saying that you can cure ascites with these remedies – because the damage is already done. A person would have to change their lifestyle completely to begin to heal the liver. The best home remedies that can help you with relieving symptoms are listed below.

Home Treatments For Ascites And Useful Remedies

    1. Epsom Salts Bath
    2. Fenugreek Seeds
    3. Garlic Juice
    4. Ginger
    5. Carrot Juice
    6. Castor Oil Pack
    7. Massage
    8. Radish
    9. Bitter Gourd
    10. Onions
    11. Punarnava Herb
    12. Dandelion Tea
    13. Horse Gram Soup
    14. Buckthorn Roots
    15. Milk Thistle

1. Epsom Salts Bath For Ascites

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You Will Need
  • 1 cup Epsom salt
  • A bucket of warm water
What You Have To Do
  1. Add the Epsom salt to the water and mix well.
  2. Soak your feet in this water for 15 to 20 minutes.
How Often Should You Do This

Do this every alternate night (or every night).

Why This Works

Epsom salts detoxify the body and soothe the swollen legs that are usually seen during ascites. They reduce the swelling and relax you (6). The magnesium ions in Epsom salts can be absorbed through the skin and assist the body in many of its metabolic functions.

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2. Fenugreek Seeds For Ascites

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You Will Need
  • A handful of fenugreek seeds
  • A bowl of water
  • Strainer or muslin cloth
What You Have To Do
  1. Soak the fenugreek seeds overnight.
  2. The next morning, mix the seeds and water and strain the liquid through a muslin cloth or strainer.
  3. Drink this liquid to keep yourself healthy.
How Often Should You Do This

Drink fenugreek water every day in the morning.

Why This Works

When it comes to abdomen-related issues, fenugreek is surely one of the best forms of home treatment. It has hepatoprotective and anti-cancer effects. It reduces inflammation and helps in eliminating free radicals that are causing damage inside the body (7).

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3. Garlic Juice For Ascites

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Image: Shutterstock

You Will Need
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • A small garlic press
What You Have To Do
  1. Chop the garlic and use a garlic press to extract the juice.
  2. Drink half a tablespoon of garlic juice on an empty stomach.
  3. If you don’t have a garlic press, chop the garlic fine and swallow with a few ounces of water.
How Often Should You Do This

Repeat this every morning.

Why This Works

Garlic is easily available in every kitchen. People suffering from ascites can greatly benefit from this. The regular use of this simple ingredient can help to reduce the bloating and tenderness associated with ascites. Garlic is also said to possess anti-cancer properties (8).

[ Read: Beauty Benefits Of Garlic ]

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4. Ginger For Ascites

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Image: Shutterstock

You Will Need
  • 1/2-1 inch long piece of ginger
  • A cup of hot water
  • Honey
What You Have To Do
  1. Crush the ginger slightly and put it in the cup of hot water. Steep for five to seven minutes.
  2. Strain the water and add a dash of honey.
  3. Drink this ginger tea while it is still warm.
How Often Should You Do This

Drink a cup of ginger thrice a day after every meal.

Why This Works

Ginger, being a diuretic, removes excess water from the body through urine. It has potential as a home remedy for treating edema (9). It also works as an antitumorigenic agent on the cancer-associated ascites tumor cells (10).

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5. Carrot Juice For Ascites

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Image: Shutterstock

You Will Need
  • 3-4 carrots
  • Juicer
What You Have To Do
  1. Extract the juice of fresh carrots and drink.
  2. You can add some ginger juice for flavor.
How Often Should You Do This

Drink carrot juice once every day.

Why This Works

Fresh juices can really help to bring down the pain and swelling that comes with ascites. Carrot juice has mild diuretic effects on the body and helps regulate the digestion process. It also exerts a cleansing effect on the liver by aiding it to release excess bile and fats that have accumulated (11).

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6. Castor Oil Pack

You Will Need
  • Castor oil
  • Cotton flannel or undyed wool
  • Plastic wrap
  • Hot water bottle
  • Container with a lid
What You Have To Do
  1. Soak the flannel or undyed wool in castor oil in the container. Make sure it is saturated with the oil but not dripping.
  2. Place the pack on the affected area and cover it with plastic.
  3. Keep the hot water bottle on the pack and leave it on for 45 minutes to an hour.
  4. Remove the pack and wash the area.
  5. You can store the pack in the container in the refrigerator and reuse it.
How Often Should You Do This

Do this whenever you experience pain.

Why This Works

Castor oil is known to open the lymphatic vessels and allow greater lymphatic circulation. This reduces the inflammation and pain.

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7. Massage For Ascites

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Image: Shutterstock

You Will Need

Castor oil

What You Have To Do
  1. Have a massage therapist gently massage the abdomen and the back with the oil.
  2. Massage for 15 to 20 minutes.

You can use any other oil in place of castor oil as well.

How Often Should You Do This

Repeat this daily.

Why This Works

Massages feel heavenly, don’t they? A proper abdomen and back massage can really prove beneficial for those suffering from this liver disease. It helps to get rid of the gas, giving instant relief. It also mitigates the strain on the abdomen by helping the lymph to enter the venous system again (12).

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8. Radish

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Image: Shutterstock

You Will Need
  • Fresh radishes
  • Juicer
What You Have To Do
  1. Juice enough radishes to get a 4 ounce glass of fresh juice. If the juice proves too strong, dilute half and half with water.
  2. Drink this juice to get relief from ascites.
How Often Should You Do This

Consuming a glass of radish juice once or twice a day can provide relief.

Why This Works

Radish is considered to be good for the liver because it acts as a natural detoxifier (13). Radish is considered one of the key elements in treating ascites, especially in cases due to liver problems. You can also put radishes in your salad or eat them raw as well.

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9. Bitter Gourd

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Image: Shutterstock

You Will Need

  • Bitter gourd
  • A glass of water
What You Have To Do
  1. Peel the bitter gourd and remove the seeds.
  2. Cut it into small pieces and grind to a paste. Extract the juice from this paste.
  3. Dilute about 30ml of the bitter gourd juice with water and drink it.
How Often Should You Do This

The patient needs to consume this at least thrice a day for rapid relief.

Why This Works

Regular consumption of bitter gourd root juice gives instant relief from ascetic soreness. It is beneficial for treating liver disorders because of its tonic and antibilious properties (14).

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10. Onions

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Image: Shutterstock

You Will Need

Onions

What You Have To Do

Add onions to your meals and salads or eat them raw.

How Often Should You Do This

Include onions in your daily diet as it helps in getting rid of the fluid build-up.

Why This Works

Onions are considered to be diuretic and eliminate toxins and excess fluids from the body (15). If eaten continuously for a couple of days, onions can offer relief from the symptoms associated with ascites.

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11. Punarnava Herb

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You Will Need
  • Punarnava root
  • A glass of lukewarm water
What You Have To Do
  1. Grind the herbal root to get a fine powder.
  2. Take about 3g of this powder with a glass of lukewarm water.
How Often Should You Do This

Take this thrice a day.

Why This Works

This Ayurvedic remedy is also referred to as Hogweed. It is one of the world’s best-known liver healers and is commonly used to treat ascites and dropsy. It has diuretic and expectorant effects on the body (16).

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12. Dandelion Tea For Ascites

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Image: Shutterstock

You Will Need
  • 1 oz dandelion root
  • 1 pint of boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon honey
What You Have To Do
  1. Steep the dandelion root in hot water for 10 minutes.
  2. Strain the decoction and let it cool down.
  3. Add the honey to a cup of this herbal tea and drink it.
How Often Should You Do This

You can drink up to three cups of dandelion root tea in a day.

Why This Works

Dandelion root, also known as gravel root, is a natural diuretic. It helps to reduce the excess fluid in the abdomen. It also aids digestion and has anti-inflammatory effects on the cirrhosis-affected liver (17).

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13. Horse Gram Soup

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Image: Shutterstock

You Will Need
  • 1/2 cup horse gram
  • 4 cups of water
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1 chopped tomato
  • A few coriander leaves
What You Have To Do
  1. Boil the horse gram for 10 to 12 minutes in a pressure cooker.
  2. Roast the black peppercorns, garlic, and tomato in a saucepan for a few minutes.
  3. Add about half of the boiled horse gram to this and mix well. Let it cool.
  4. Once cooled, grind it to make a paste.
  5. To this, add some fresh coriander leaves and the remaining boiled horse gram.
  6. Give it a gentle stir and cook for three to four minutes.
  7. Have a cup of this soup while it is warm.
How Often Should You Do This

Have a cup of horse gram soup every day.

Why This Works

Soup made from horse gram has proven to be effective in treating ascites. When taken in proper proportions on a daily basis, it shows its effect instantly as it is a diuretic and a tonic. Compared to other diuretics, horse gram contains lesser sodium and eliminates the excess fluids that have accumulated in the abdomen (18).

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14. Buckthorn Roots

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Image: Shutterstock

You Will Need
  • 1 teaspoon buckthorn root powder
  • A glass of lukewarm water
What You Have To Do

Ingest the buckthorn root with water, preferably in the morning hours.

How Often Should You Do This

Repeat this every morning.

Why This Works

Buckthorn root hasshave diuretic and laxative agents that help treat ascites effectively (19).

Caution

Do not use this remedy if you are pregnant.

15. Milk Thistle

You Will Need
  • 1-2 teaspoons of milk thistle
  • 1 cup of hot water
What You Have To Do
  1. Add one to two teaspoons of milk thistle to a cup of hot water.
  2. Allow it to steep for 5-10 minutes.
  3. Strain the tea and drink it up.
How Often Should You Do This

Repeat this every morning.

Why This Works

Milk thistle contains a compound called silymarin that acts as an antioxidant by combating free radicals and lipid peroxidation and also prevents the binding of toxins to the liver cells (20).

Ascites can become serious without treatment. Its symptoms can be treated with the home remedies mentioned above. Most of these ingredients are easily available and can be made a part of a healthy diet.

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Diet For A Patient With Ascites

Using home remedies will work only to a certain extent, or sometimes, hardly at all, if your diet is not healthy. A diet low in fats and cholesterol is recommended for patients with ascites. Here are some diet recommendations for you:

  • Use salt substitutes instead of regular salt.
  • Citrus fruits like mandarins, oranges, grapefruits, etc. are natural diuretics and will help you to remove the excess fluid from your abdomen.
  • Pineapple is also a natural diuretic. You can eat it by itself or drink the juice.
  • Mangoes are known to help relieve symptoms of ascites.
  • Oats are not only excellent for your heart but also for treatment of ascites. They are good diuretics as well.
  • Eat whole grains and foods rich in fiber.
  • Potassium and magnesium-rich foods such as dark leafy vegetables, avocados, mushrooms, beets, and bananas should be consumed. They reduce water retention and lower blood pressure.

Foods To Avoid With Ascites

  • Reducing table salt intake is important to treat ascites. Salt leads to liquid accumulation. However, sea salt, with its 72 minerals, can help by pulling water into the cells to help dilute these minerals and drive cellular metabolism.
  • Alcohol is one of the major causes of ascites. It should be avoided entirely.
  • Avoid high fructose corn syrup.
  • Milk and its derivatives may become difficult for the body to digest and are best avoided for ascites patients.
  • Avoid starchy food like rice, potato, corn, etc.
  • Stay away from items that cause flatulence.

It is always better to consult your doctor before making any drastic changes to your diet.

Yoga For Ascites

The benefits of yoga are known to all. It stimulates blood and lymph flow in the body and helps in treating multiple ailments. For ascites, these three asanas or poses are recommended by yoga specialists.

  • Baddha Padmasana – Also called as the Locked Lotus Pose or Bound Lotus Pose, this asana stimulates chest development and also internally massages the abdominal organs. The circulation improves and excess fluid is directed either out of the body or back to the venous system.
  • Lolasana – Known otherwise as the Pendant Pose, this asana is a little higher on the difficulty level. However, it activates the body’s core excellently and helps to relieve the pressure in the abdomen.
  • Mayurasana – The delicate Peacock Pose, like the Pendant Pose, activates the abdominal muscles of the body and improves blood and lymph flow. It is a difficult pose and beginners can use some support to do it.

If you are a beginner, please do not attempt the yoga poses by yourself. Practice them under a specialist’s supervision to avoid any complications.

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

What is ascites in medical terms?

Ascites is the accumulation of fluid in the peritoneal cavity, causing abdominal swelling.

This happens when there is an imbalance in the levels of plasma that flows in and out of the blood and lymph vessels (1, 2).

Why does ascites occur in cirrhosis?

In cirrhosis, the liver’s functions are impaired due to scarring of the liver tissue. There is high blood pressure in the venous system of the liver, i.e., there is portal vein hypertension. As a result of this, fluid accumulates in the abdomen. It is a complex process (20).

What is ascites fluid?

Ascites fluid is protein-containing serous fluid that collect in the abdominal cavity.

What color is the abdominal fluid?

The accumulated abdominal fluid is usually clear to pale yellow in color.

What are the complications of ascites?

Ascites, if left untreated, can lead to severe complications. These complications are related to infections or are due to the excess pressure that has built-up on the abdominal organs:

  • Bacterial peritonitis (infection of the ascitic fluid)
  • Kidney failure
  • Protein malnutrition
  • Hepatic encephalopathy
  • Severe liver complications (21)

Can ascites be prevented?

Measures that aim at keeping your liver healthy work towards preventing ascites. Some preventions tips are listed below:

  • Stop drinking alcohol.
  • Stop using high fructose corn syrup sweeteners.
  • Exercise on a regular basis.
  • Eat healthy food.
  • Avoid smoking.
  • Lower your table salt intake.
  • Practice safe sex.

What is the outlook (prognosis) for ascites?

Patients with ascites do not usually have a good prognosis. There is a mortality rate of 15% at a one-year interval. However, this outlook greatly depends on the underlying cause (22).

What is malignant ascites?

Malignant ascites is due to cancer and there ares malignant (cancer) cells in the ascitic fluid. These cancer cells are usually secondary malignancies of primary tumors of ovarian, colorectal, pancreatic, and uterine origin. Such patients have a very poor prognosis, and their treatment options need to be carefully weighed to avoid further complications (23). Cancer accounts for about 10% of ascites cases (24).

What is an ascitic drain?

When medications do not work in removing the fluid build-up, doctors opt for the ascitic drain. It is a process in which a tube is carefully inserted into the abdomen, and the ascitic fluid is drained out into a bag. This process is also called paracentesis (24).

To stay healthy, we need to make sacrifices sometimes. Though eliminating your favorite foods and drinks may feel like a punishment, if you want to stay healthy, you need to learn to say NO. Now that you know about ascites, its causes and symptoms, it’s time to try these home remedies to either treat or prevent ascites. You will likely already be under a doctor’s care, but you can also use these remedies as part of your protocol.

Hope this article was helpful. Do share your views with us in the comments section below.

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Kushneet Kukreja