Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is becoming increasingly more common, especially in western countries. An accumulation of fat in the liver is the culprit behind the disease. It’s normal for a healthy liver to contain some fat, however if the level exceeds 10%, the liver is considered fatty. Can non-alcoholic liver disease be reversed?
There are two types of fatty liver disease – alcoholic and non-alcoholic. The obvious cause of alcoholic fatty liver is excessive alcohol consumption. Alcohol damages the liver, reduces function and impairs the break down of fat. Virtually 90-100% of alcoholics have a fatty liver, which often resolves in a matter of weeks when alcohol consumption ceases. If a person with fatty liver disease continues to drink, it can lead to cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver.
Fatty Liver Disease Types
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), on the other hand, is not alcohol-related and is a chronic form of liver disease affecting millions of people in every age group. People over 40 are at higher risk as are those with heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. Fatty liver is commonly a manifestation of metabolic syndrome.
There are two types of NAFLD, hepatic steatosis and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Steatosis is characterized by fat deposition, whereas NASH is more severe, characterized by not only an accumulation of fat, but inflammation, and liver cell damage that may eventually progress to cirrhosis. This can lead to liver cancer and liver failure.
What Causes A Fatty Liver?
Glucose and fructose are the two main sugars in our food supply. Each are metabolized differently. All cells in the body can utilize glucose for energy. Fructose, however, is a major player in fatty liver, because liver cells are responsible for metabolizing it. Too much fructose damages, not only the liver, but also the circulatory system.
High fructose corn syrup is consumed today at a rate of five times what it used to be. It is highly refined and used in low-quality processed foods. It turns on lipogenesis, or fat production, in the liver. Adding insult to injury, HFCS also contains toxic chemicals, and is a genetically-modified food. Stay away from it. It is very damaging to your health. Fructose consumption should not exceed 15 grams per day, and should be eaten in the form of fruits and vegetables.
Soft drinks, consumed in massive amounts, are also full of HFCS. Processed foods, sedentary lifestyles, and environmental toxins – GMOs, plastics, pollution, chemicals, and preservatives – all promote fatty liver. Is sugar just as bad as alcohol? Some studies are now showing that it is! Fat deposits in the liver dysregulate blood-sugar, increase inflammation, and lead to insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, obesity, and eventually, diabetes. Tissues become inflamed and metabolically active with hormones being released into the blood, causing insulin resistance within the liver itself.
Metabolic syndrome is characterized by a group of risk factors that include high-blood pressure, high-blood sugar, elevated cholesterol and triglycerides, and fat accumulation in the abdomen. To complicate matters, if the liver isn’t functioning properly, the blood becomes toxic. As this toxic blood travels throughout the body, it produces miserable symptoms.
Other Causes Of Liver Disease
Obesity – fatty liver is more prevalent in those that are overweight or obese. Prescription medications are filtered through the liver placing an additional burden on this already overworked organ. Acetaminophen in over-the-counter painkillers like Tylenol are especially hard on the liver, especially when taken with alcohol. If you must take acetaminophen, always use within the recommended guidelines.
Hypothyroidism is another extenuating factor in fatty liver disease because thyroid hormones are critical in the regulation of body weight and lipids, as well as insulin resistance. Hypopituitarism, a condition of sluggish pituitary function, puts people at a increased risk for the disease. Interestingly, acute fatty liver can occur in the third trimester of pregnancy. Symptoms include vomiting, nausea, and jaundice.
[Read More: 5 Tips To Reduce Alcohol Induced Liver Damage]
Fatty Liver Disease Diagnoses
Seek a diagnoses if signs and symptoms persist. The liver is responsible for so many functions in the body that keeping it healthy should always be top priority. Because the symptoms of fatty liver are so varied, and can be implicated in other conditions, it is often misdiagnosed. Find a doctor who will take your symptoms seriously, and not just hand you a prescription, which will likely exacerbate the problem.
A thorough medical history, along with a physical examination, are both important diagnostic tools. Elevated lipids and triglycerides, high-blood sugar, high-blood pressure, and a high BMI, are all potential markers for fatty liver disease. Elevated liver enzymes – AST and ALT – tested on a routine blood chemistry panel, are also cause for concern – especially if hepatitis is ruled out.
Certain genetic markers can point to an increased risk for the disease. The snp (single-nucleotide polymorphism) associated with fatty liver is MTHFD1. Contact 23andMe for more information regarding genetic testing and analysis. A lot of beneficial information can be gleaned from the test, and all that’s needed is a simple saliva swab.
Symptoms are not always present, especially in the beginning stages of the disease. They include:
- Physical fatigue and weakness
- Mental fatigue and confusion
- Bloating and constipation
- Poor appetite and digestive disturbances
- Inflammation and joint pain
- Sleep apnea and insomnia
- Blurry vision and sensitivity to light
- Jaundiced eyes or skin
- Weight-loss resistance
Prevention And Treatment Of Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver
A healthy lifestyle can prevent fatty liver. Strategies include:
1. Maintain a healthy weight by eating nutrient-dense, low-glycemic, and fiber-rich foods.
2. Track and maintain your blood sugar within a healthy range. Aim for levels below 100 and ideally below 90.
3. Exercise consistently and find ways to manage your stress.
4. Reduce exposure to environmental toxins.
5. Detoxify your liver by using targeted supplements and detoxification strategies.
[Read More: Burn Fat By Activating These Hormones ]
The following herbs and supplements support liver health:
- Milk Thistle – is liver protective and contains the powerful antioxidant flavonoid, silymarin
- Dandelion Root – is rich in antioxidants, is anti-inflammatory, and promotes healthy blood sugar
- Chanca Piedra – cleanses, detoxifies, and protects the liver
- Schizandra – protects the liver and may prevent fatty liver disease
- Probiotics – prevents fat accumulation in the liver by supporting the health of the GI tract
- Antioxidants – decreases damage caused by free radicals and promotes detoxification
- Omega 3 fatty acids – polyunsaturated fats decrease fat in the liver and lower triglycerides
- Liver Pills – stimulates the liver to detoxify and contains beneficial B vitamins
Fatty liver, although a common condition, can be reversed. If allowed to progress, it can lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer, and even liver failure. If you have any of the symptoms above, and suspect you may have fatty liver, please implement these strategies, to reverse this condition, and regain your health!
Do you or someone you love have fatty liver disease? Let me know in the comments:)
(1) Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
(2) Fatty Liver (Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver) Symptoms, Causes, and Complication
(3) MedicineNet: What Is Metabolic Syndrome?
(4) Health USA: Hepatic Steatosis Definition Causes, Symptoms & Treatment
(5) Rense.com: The Harmful Effects Of Sugar On Mind And Body
(6) NCBI: Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acid in Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: A Meta-Analysis
Disclaimer: This article is strictly for informational purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice.