Sleep Apnea And Liver Disease
December 22, 2009
Here’s another "dot" that connects to the central concept of my sleep-breathing paradigm: That poor breathing and frequent obstructions and arousals can negatively affect EVERY organ or system in your body, and that all modern humans are susceptible to various degrees of breathing problems while sleeping.
We’ve known for a long time that untreated obstructive sleep apnea can lead to hypertension, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, heart attack, or stroke. Recently there are even studies suggesting a link to inflammatory bowel diseases such as Chron’s disease and ulcerative colitis. I’ve written numerous blogs about the link between Alzheimer’s and sleep apnea. One study showed that creating hypoxic states in mice similar to what occurs in sleep apnea creates amyloid plaques in brain tissue. Now, there’s a study linking oxygen deprivation to chronic liver disease in mice.
Researchers showed that keeping mice in low oxygen levels for a week resulted in increased levels of fat and inflammation in the liver. Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is a common, often silent liver disease that occurs in up to 40% of the population. It’s like alcoholic liver disease (alcoholic steatohepatitis, or ASH), but occurs in people who drink little to no alcohol. NASH can be severe and lead to cirrhosis.
Interestingly, we know that obesity predisposes to both fatty liver and obstructive sleep apnea. Alcohol also predisposes to obstructive sleep apnea by relaxing throat muscles, leading to more frequent obstructions and low oxygen states. In this particular study, the mice exposed to low oxygen were also less sensitive to insulin.
This study brings up an interesting question: are NASH and ASH the same condition, where alcohol aggravates more hypoxia by causing more frequent obstructions? If you’re obese, the chances that you’ll have obstructive sleep apnea are much higher, and if you add alcohol, it’ll add further to your risk of developing chronic liver disease.
If you have any type of chronic liver disease, do you snore, or suspect that you may have a sleep-breathing problem? Please enter your responses below in the comments box.