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Three windows show, from left to right: a night sky, a cloudy midday sky, and a sunny morning. In front of the night sky is one spoonful of medicine; in front of the cloudy sky are three spoonfuls with medicine, and in front of the sunny sky are two spoonfuls of medicine.

Lactulose for My Hepatic Encephalopathy

When I was hospitalized with liver failure, my doctor prescribed a liquid drug called Lactulose. Because of hepatic encephalopathy, I didn’t even know I was sick with Hep C. My normal state had slowly become kind of a drunken stupor. The hep C had gone undiagnosed and untreated for too long. All of this was causing toxins to build up in my brain. While I didn’t like the side effects, Lactulose was very useful in helping me to think straight. Here’s my experience taking lactulose for my hepatic encephalopathy.

When Lactulose is needed

With advanced cirrhosis, our liver is unable to filter our blood. Toxins, including ammonia, will pass through our liver and bind to the colon. The result is that we’re are walking around in a brain foggy state. Even though the liver is doing all it can, it’s getting clogged and doesn’t do it’s job well.

How Lactulose works

It’s basically a sugar that the body will not properly digest. It goes straight through our stomach, and into the small intestine. Once there, it still doesn’t digest, because our enzymes won’t break it down. It draws water from our body and moves through toward the large intestine.

Because it has a laxative effect, it spends some time in the colon where the fermentation process take place. Your stool begins to move, but the fermenting causes gas. This means  most people on Lactulose for hepatic encephalopathy have a noisy stomach.

Our colon uses bacteria to help metabolize food. Here is where our body begins to make proteins. The gut and liver work together to produce protein, minerals, and vitamins. It also helps our body to absorb them. Protein is vital for healing every cell in our body, and carbohydrates help to give us energy.

My personal experience

I resisted taking Lactulose for my hepatic encephalopathy. Initially, I was brain foggy and argumentative. I was a mess, and just didn’t believe that my liver was failing because of hep C. While in the hospital, they gave me regular doses. When I got home, I promptly quit because I didn’t like the everything that went with it.

Side effects

Here are some of the possible side effects of Lactulose:

Soft stools – In the beginning, I was up and down constantly going to the bathroom. I ended up wearing a feminine pad just to protect myself. The poop came out like liquid. It was humiliating. In time, I was able to try and control my dose. This allowed me to plan my day (and night) around the soft stools.

Gas – This was one of the problems that I liked the least. It meant excusing myself from the room frequently. I finally just gave up and did my best to be silent with my gas.

Cramping – Here is another dose and diet related issue. I had to be careful to avoid too much gas producing foods, because they seemed to increase the cramping also. Although it’s caused by the squeezing of your intestines as it moves food through, the Lactulose speeds that process up a bit and can be pretty intense.

The results

When I spent an entire day sleeping, my family grew concerned. I was babbling on and on and my daughter made me take a dose of Lactulose. My hepatic encephalopathy went away. I promised them, and myself, that I would take a regular dose.

It took time for me to find the dose and timing that worked for me. I hope you are patient with yourself during the process of clearing up your hepatic encephalopathy with Lactulose. Once I cleared the virus, I was able to wean off of it. There is more to my story, and I hope you treat soon enough that you won’t have to take it for life.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The HepatitisC.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • Emma Currie moderator
    5 months ago

    Hey Karen, great article. If I didn’t work in the HCV field I never would have known about the use of lactulose in treating hepatic encephalopathy.
    One of my clients took lactulose for the very same thing before receiving a life-saving liver transplant.
    I am sorry you had such a serious and life-threatening experience but I am glad you are here to share your experiences with everyone.
    I appreciate all you share and do!

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