What is fatty liver disease?
Does your doctor say you have or may have Fatty Liver Disease? When someone is diagnosed with Fatty Liver Disease or hepatic steatosis, they may often wonder how it happened – why exactly did their liver get fat and what does this mean for their quality of life?
First, you should know that this is an increasingly common health problem, and you don’t have to drink a lot of alcohol to get it – in fact, the majority of cases have nothing to do with drinking.
More and more people are developing this condition every year as a result of their lifestyle habits. Surprisingly, an estimated 20% of people living in India have some form of fatty liver – and most of them don’t even know it.
Many doctors refer to Fatty Liver Disease as: “The fat you can’t see.”
Put simply, it is a condition characterized by an abundance of fat in the liver. Livers with a higher percentage of fatty build-up are more prone to serious health problems as a result.
Having too much fat in the liver is called steatosis, which by itself, isn’t a huge cause for concern as it is generally a benign condition.
However, if the steatosis worsens over time, the liver can enlarge and start to develop scarring. This can lead to cirrhosis of the liver which is very serious indeed – causing all sorts of problems, up to and including death at its most violent stages.
Complications usually arise when fat comprises more than 5% of a person’s total liver weight.
As the fat cells develop, they push the liver cells further away from each other, placing strain on the organ.
Being diagnosed with a fatty liver is often an indication of future health problems to come if it is not dealt with right away, so it is important to monitor your liver health closely.
After all, your liver is critical for detoxifying your body, aiding in digestion, converting food into energy, breaking down fat, and many other vital processes that your body depends on to maintain a state of optimal health and well-being. It must be lean and healthy to perform these tasks well… meaning you MUST take proper care of it.
TYPES OF FATTY LIVER DISEASE (HEPATIC STEATOSIS)
Fatty Liver Disease is generally separated into two categories – alcoholic and nonalcoholic. These terms are often used to describe a range of conditions and have various levels of intensity (i.e., stage 1, stage 2, etc..). Let’s take a closer look at some of them now.
1. Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)
Fatty deposits of the liver are not caused by alcohol. Patients are usually (but not always) overweight and sedentary, have a poor diet, have high cholesterol, or have diabetes. Rapid weight loss can also cause it. The disease can progress to cirrhosis just like AFLD if left untreated. Note that individuals with healthy lifestyles can also get NAFLD for unknown reasons, but this is rare.
2. Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (AFLD)
Damage to the liver is caused by excessive drinking, usually (but not always) over many years. It’s the first development of liver disease that can turn into cirrhosis and eventually liver failure.
3. Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH)
While having a fatty liver may not cause lasting harm, NASH occurs when the liver progresses from having too much fat to actually being inflamed. This is much more serious and can lead to complications if not treated.
4. Alcoholic Steatohepatitis
Chronic and progressive liver disease is caused by an over-consumption of alcohol. If left untreated, it will progress to cirrhosis, liver cancer, liver failure, or liver-related death. Patients are urged to stop drinking immediately.
WHAT CAUSES FATTY LIVER DISEASE?
There are various factors that contribute to a decline in liver health and some of them may be out of your hands. However, more often than not, the disease is primarily self-induced by poor health choices concerning diet and exercise.
Eating a nutrient-deficient diet or drinking copious amounts of alcohol over an extended period of time are common culprits.
While there isn’t a concrete answer as to why the liver gets fat specifically, the current theory points towards complications arising from insulin resistance (a precursor to diabetes).
This can cause a cascade effect of excess glucose and fatty acids entering the bloodstream. These fatty acids then begin to accumulate in the liver. As more and more fat accumulates, the liver enlarges, and permanent scarring can result.
General causes of Fatty Liver Disease include:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Genetic inheritance
- Celiac disease
- Sudden weight loss
- Metabolic syndrome
- Hepatitis C
- High Cholesterol
- Side effects to prescription medications
EARLY WARNING SIGNS OF FATTY LIVER DISEASE
Your liver is unable to feel pain, so spotting warning signs can be difficult. Although many people who suffer from Fatty Liver Disease do experience abdominal pain or discomfort, this is caused by the inflammation of the liver and not by actual pain in the liver.
It may also be attributed at least in part to poor digestion, since having a fatty liver that cannot digest food properly can certainly lead to indigestion and abdominal symptoms.
Some early warning signs of Fatty Liver Disease include Nausea, chronic fatigue, diarrhea, and a feeling of uncomfortable fullness in the upper abdomen.
As you can see, these symptoms could be hard to differentiate from many things, so if you suspect that you’re having any warning signs and symptoms of Fatty Liver Disease, you should consult a medical professional and begin making the lifestyle changes necessary to stop the damage in its tracks.
COMMON SYMPTOMS OF A FATTY LIVER
Many people who have the nonalcoholic form of the disease never suffer any ill effects, while others do. The fact is there are rarely physical symptoms of the fatty liver until it is quite advanced.
This is a disease that is insidious and people who have it are often unaware of the problem until serious symptoms occur, if ever. This makes it a “silent” disease.
This is why it is so important to take good care of your body and always monitor your health. Don’t skip your yearly check-up and report any abnormalities to your physician.
Any manifestation of the following symptoms and you should not waste any time getting to a doctor. This is particularly true of pain in your upper right side, which is where your liver and gallbladder are both located.
General symptoms of Fatty Liver Disease include:
- Increased bruising
- Fluid buildup in the stomach and legs
- Unexplained weight loss
- Pale stools
- Jaundice or yellowing of the skin and eyes
- Mental confusion
- Dark patches on the skin
- Pain in the liver area
MEDICAL TESTING TO DIAGNOSE FATTY LIVER DISEASE
Since there aren’t normally any symptoms for this health problem, you should simply go to the doctor if you are experiencing unexplained weight loss, unusual fatigue, or pain in your upper right quadrant.
Needless to say, if you are showing any yellowing in your eyes or skin, you should see a doctor immediately as this can be a sign of serious liver failure.
There are several diagnostic tests that may be performed to identify this condition. Your doctor might want you to have one or all of them, depending on the findings. Sometimes one test will show something that another test didn’t. For example, a liver biopsy furnishes an actual piece of the liver for examination.
Tests to diagnose fatty liver:
Blood tests will show if there are elevations in liver enzymes, which can include alanine aminotransferase, or ALT, and aspartate aminotransferase, or AST.
This can be an MRI, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or a CT scan, which is computerized tomography. Sometimes, the doctor will want an ultrasound of the liver, also.
This one is the only test that can definitely and conclusively diagnose the disease. A long needle is inserted through the abdominal wall into your liver and a little piece of liver tissue is removed and then examined under a microscope.
Depending on your doctor and your resources – whether or not you have insurance, for instance – you might opt for skipping the first two diagnostic tests and going straight for the liver biopsy. This test gets right to the heart of the matter with a definite diagnosis right away.
If you are diagnosed with it, there are homeopathic treatments that have proven effective in many people at treating, and even reversing, the course of the disease. You can also try a special and effective liver cleansing diet that will improve the disease if followed properly – more on this below.
CAN FATTY LIVER DISEASE BE REVERSED?
By this point, you’re probably wondering if the fatty liver can be reversed? Well, let’s talk about that. The answer to this question depends on the amount of damage your liver has sustained thus far. Advanced stages of liver disease may not be reversible, unfortunately.
If caught early, a fatty liver can be made lean again through vigorous diet and exercise.
It is hard work to reverse fatty liver disease and will require your full attention. The first step is to commit yourself to eating a healthy, liver-friendly diet along with plenty of water.
Avoid alcohol, high-glycemic carbohydrates, and foods with added sugar. Lastly, if you are overweight, immediately start working on slimming down in a slow and controlled manner.
Treatments vary depending on the severity of the condition. Cirrhosis, liver cancer, and liver failure are serious medical conditions that can be life-threatening. Treatment options can be more limited for these advanced stages.
This is why it’s important to spot the symptoms of liver disease early, in the inflammation and fibrosis stages. If you are treated successfully at these stages, your liver may have a chance to heal itself and recover fully.
Fortunately, there are medical and herbal treatments that can slow, halt, reverse and even eliminate fatty liver disease depending on how advanced it is.
Currently, treatment strategies for NAFLD consist of:
- Identifying and treating associated conditions such as diabetes and/or hyperlipidemia
- Improving insulin resistance either by means of weight loss, exercise or medications
- Using antioxidants to protect against further damage to the liver
In recent years, there has been much progress in a holistic approach to treating fatty liver disease with such things as a liver cleanse, detox or flush.
While diet and healthy lifestyle changes are currently the best way to reverse NALFD, your liver can also benefit from taking Liver Cleansing supplements such as Liver Forte
Milk thistle, Dandelion, Stinging Nettle, Garlic, Ginger & Turmeric are some of the herbs used in Liver Forte to help detox the liver. Scientific studies of these herbs show promising results in helping the liver.
This is an attractive prospect to a lot of people who don’t like the modern tendency of the medical profession to try and treat everything with often toxic drugs that could possibly do more harm than good.
If you stop and really pay attention to the long list of potential side effects for many prescriptions medicines that doctors prescribe, it’s a classic case of throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
You may get rid of some symptoms of your original complaint, only to get knocked with more that are far worse than what you had to begin with.
If you choose supplements, note that this will help your liver, but for completely reversing fatty liver disease you need to change your life around with diet and exercise.
OPTIMAL DIET FOR FATTY LIVER PATIENTS
There are certain dietary guidelines that will serve you well if you have been diagnosed with a fatty or damaged liver. Based on research conducted by the American Liver Foundation, eating a healthy diet is conducive to overall liver health.
“You are what you eat”
The old saying aptly applies to the health of your liver. Eating a high-fat and nutritionally deficient diet can land you with Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) if you’re not careful, which has a host of unpleasant symptoms you would probably prefer to avoid.
Here are some suggestions about your diet that can help slow or even halt the progression of the disease that might take place otherwise:
1. Eat small, frequent meals
For all practical purposes, you should eat three regular meals and two healthy snacks during the course of a day. If you are diabetic, you may also need a bedtime snack so that your glucose level doesn’t drop too low during the night.
2. Stay well hydrated
Drink at least 8 -10 cups of water or other similar nonalcoholic beverages during the day. Keeping your body hydrated is crucial for adequate functionality of the liver and supporting organs. (more info below)
3. Eat your vegetables
While you don’t have to adhere to it every day, some homeopathic experts believe that a vegetarian diet at least 2-3 days a week is helpful. If you are overweight, this practice will also help you lose weight, a benefit to your liver in and of itself.
4. Avoid fatty, fried foods and dairy products high in fat
Your liver must work harder to produce enough bile to digest fats, which causes added strain on it.
For overall health, you should be eating adequate portions of foods from all of the recommended food groups, including dairy, meat, fats, grains, fruits, vegetables, and protein.
If you have a fatty liver, then you should consider giving up red meat since it can be more difficult to process. Instead, try eating foods that are high in fiber, such as vegetables, fresh fruits, whole-grain bread, rice, cereals, and dried beans as well as a diet of common cleansing foods such as the ones listed below.
TREAT YOUR LIVER RIGHT — IT’S YOUR ONLY ONE!
Did you know that your hard-working liver is one of the most important organs in your entire body and has a big job to do in trying to keep you healthy? It’s true.
Its large size (it’s the largest organ after the skin) is in direct proportion to its role in such things as digestion, filtering harmful toxins from your body, absorbing nutrients, and other critical functions necessary to your health and overall well-being.
If your liver isn’t healthy, you are going to experience health problems. It isn’t a question of IF – it’s a question of when and what kind of problems. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. If your liver isn’t in good health, you won’t be either. It’s just that simple.
In a lot of cases, this disease is basically benign, meaning that it never causes any serious harm to your health. However, it can progress or bring on other problems that can be very serious indeed….even life-threatening.
For this reason, it isn’t a good idea to just simply go on, ignoring your condition. To play it safe and stay healthy, you need to make some adjustments to your diet and lifestyle and check in with your doctor regularly.
Here are some suggestions for home treatment of fatty liver disease, or steatosis hepatitis:
- If you drink alcohol – STOP
- If you smoke – STOP
- If you are overweight – LOSE WEIGHT (do this slowly and naturally)
- If you are out of shape – EXERCISE
- Keep your cholesterol levels at or below normal.
- Take high-quality Liver Detox Supplements
- Monitor and normalize your glucose levels.
- Avoid harmful substances such as drugs, fast food, and junk foods.
The worst-case scenario with this disease is that it could progress to the point where a liver transplant is your only option.
This may well be a classic case of an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure. So why sit back and do nothing, hoping that your condition won’t progress?