A 23-year-old woman needed a liver transplant on Christmas Day after hers stopped working because of a herbal supplement, according to her doctor.
Emily Goss, from Amarillo in Texas, had been taking four pills per day of a $50-per-bottle (£38) supplement sold by American company Alani Nu.
But in November she started to notice pain in her torso, she felt exhausted and the whites of her eyes began to turn yellow.
Doctors quickly realised her liver was failing and she was bumped to the top of a transplant waiting list in urgent need of a donor.
She was lucky to get a new liver quickly and had the operation on December 25. Her doctor believes the supplement she was taking was the cause of the critical illness.
Emily Goss, pictured with her partner Tre Norton, first developed symptoms of acute liver failure in November and had to have a transplant just a month later
Miss Norton said: ‘I just couldn’t believe that a supplement could cause something so life threatening’
‘I have my life because someone gave me their liver and I’m just so thankful,’ Miss Goss, a credit analyst for a bank, told NBC 5, a Texas news station.
Her doctor at Methodist Hospital in Dallas is convinced the supplement destroyed her liver, NBC 5 reported.
‘Many of these are advertised as natural [and] healthy,’ said Dr Jeffrey Weinstein, the medical director of liver transplantation at the hospital.
‘I view them all as drugs and I view them all as chemicals, so there should be good caution into how you use them and why you use them.’
Miss Goss had been taking the Balance supplement by Alani Nu and her doctor told NBC 5 he was convinced this was what had caused her liver failure
Dr Weinstein claimed that between three and four out of 10 cases of acute liver failure – in which the organ fails without liver disease – are caused by supplements.
Miss Goss had been taking a women’s herbal supplement called Balance produced by the company Alani Nu.
On the company’s website it claims the supplement, to be taken four times a day, can be used to ‘support hormonal balance, weight management, complexion and fertility’.
Balance contains chemicals intended to improve blood sugar control and limit weight gain and promote female fertility.
Acute liver failure is a loss of function of the organ within just days or weeks and without an obvious cause.
It is a medical emergency which can cause deadly complications including internal bleeding, pressure inside the head and infections.
Possible causes, according to the Mayo Clinic, include some antibiotics or anti-inflammatory drugs; herbal supplements or hepatitis.
WHAT IS ACUTE LIVER FAILURE?
Acute liver failure is loss of liver function that occurs rapidly — in days or weeks — usually in a person who has no pre-existing liver disease.
It is less common than chronic liver failure, which develops more slowly. Figures suggest it affects one in 100,000 people.
Acute liver failure can cause serious complications, including excessive bleeding and increasing pressure in the brain.
Depending on the cause, acute liver failure can sometimes be reversed with treatment.
In many situations though, a liver transplant may be the only cure.
Signs and symptoms of acute liver failure may include:
- Yellowing of your skin and eyeballs
- Pain in your upper right abdomen
- Abdominal swelling
- A general sense of feeling unwell Disorientation or confusion
Source: Mayo Clinic
‘I just couldn’t believe that a supplement could cause something so life threatening,’ said Miss Goss.
It is possible a biopsy of her liver will reveal what chemical damaged the organ and where it came from.
After having the transplant, Miss Goss now has to check her own vital signs every day to make sure her body isn’t rejecting the liver.
It can take more than a year to fully recover from the transplant but most people are able to go back to normal life.
They may, however, have to take medication to keep the immune system under control and stop it rejecting the liver, and have regular check-ups.
Supplement manufacturer Alani Nu told NBC 5: ‘
‘We certainly wish the best for Ms Goss.
‘That said, it would be premature for us to respond to a suggestion that her illness was caused by a specific dietary supplement. Such a suggestion is highly speculative.
‘During our nearly 2 years of operation, we have had no previous similar suggestions involving our customers.
‘Safety of our customers is – by far – our number one priority. All of our products are manufactured inside a GMP-certified facility. And we partner with a licensed pharmacist in the customization of our supplements.
‘While we take this inquiry very seriously and hope to learn more about the true cause of Ms. Goss’s condition, we stand by the safety of our products.’