Fatty liver disease is a very common disease that so many people are not aware of. Approximately one in five people in the Western world has a fatty liver. If you carry excess weight over your abdomen-whether you are overweight or not-you probably have some degree of fatty liver disease.
Fatty liver disease is usually associated withabdominal obesity and insulin resistance and is more common in people with type 2 diabetes. Most people don’t realize that fatty liver disease is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart attacks and strokes. In fact, people with a fatty liver have a more than eight times greater risk of early cardiac death.
What is Fatty Liver Disease?
A person has a fatty liver when fat makes up at least 5-10% of the liver. Simple fatty liver can be a completely benign condition and usually does not lead to liver damage. However, the buildup of simple fat, makes the liver vulnerable to further injury, which may result in inflammation and scarring of the liver. Medically speaking fatty liver is known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) because the damage caused to the liver by foods is similar to that caused by alcohol.
This fatty infiltration slows down the metabolism of body fat stores, which means that the liver burns fat less efficiently, resulting in weight gain and inability to lose weight. However some people can have a fatty liver without being overweight.
What are the Symptoms of Fatty Liver Disease?
Abdominal obesity is the predominant symptom of fatty liver disease, and unfortunately the usual low fat, low calorie diets won’t work to get the weight off or reverse the fatty liver. Fatty liver disease may also be associated with one or more of the following symptoms:
- Overweight, especially in the abdominal area
- Difficulty to lose weight
- High blood cholesterol and triglycerides
- Diabetes type 2
- Indigestion and intolerance of fatty foods
- Abdominal bloating and gas
- Reflux and heart burn
- Itchy skin and skin rashes
- Immune dysfunction
- Discomfort over the right abdominal area
- Overheating of the body
- Excessive sweating
If the fatty changes in the liver increase, inflammation and fibrous tissue may build up and cause more serious symptoms to occur. Proper nutrition intervention is recommended as early as possible to halt fatty liver disease and reverse symptoms.
What are the causes of Fatty Liver Disease?
The most common cause of fatty liver disease in Canada is obesity caused by a poor diet. It is estimated that 75% of obese individuals are at risk of developing a simple fatty liver. Up to 23% of obese individuals are at risk of developing fatty liver with inflammation.
Besides obesity, nutritional causes of fatty liver disease include starvation and protein malnutrition, intestinal bypass surgery for obesity, rapid weight loss.
Certain conditions that often accompany and may contribute to fatty liver disease are type 2 diabetes mellitus, hyperlipidemia (elevated lipids in the blood), insulin resistance, alcohol and excessive use of or toxicity of prescribed medications and pain killers.
What are the tests done by your doctor to diagnose Fatty liver Disease?
- Abdominal Ultrasound- This test is an accurate method to diagnose and non-invasive method to diagnose fatty liver.
- A CAT (Computerized Axial Tomography) scan can show more accurately the percentage of your liver that has been replaced with unhealthy fat.
- Blood Liver Function tests – The liver enzymes are often raised, but not always.
- Blood Lipid studies including cholesterol and triglycerides – these are often elevated in fatty liver and they help to predict your risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Liver biopsy- This is the most conclusive way of not only diagnosing fatty liver but also determining the degree of it.
How to manage Fatty Liver Disease with Holistic Nutrition
There are no medications that can fix a fatty liver, only diet changes and some nutritional supplements can restore the liver back to health. In the vast majority of cases, it is possible to clear the fat from within the liver and enable the liver cells to function normally again.
Here are my top 5 nutritionist-proven tips to help your fatty liver with nutrition:
- Eat more raw vegetables-raw foods help to cleanse and repair the liver, so that it can trap and remove more fat and toxins from the bloodstream. Eat a big plate of green salad daily.
- Eat healthy fats such as extra virgin olive oil, organic coconut oil, raw nuts and seeds. Avoid processed oils and fried foods.
- Be active –Try to get some form of daily movement as walking, jogging or swimming. Exercise is very important to reduce the tendency of your liver to convert carbohydrate into fat.
- Practice prayer and meditation-Feelings of supressed anger are known in naturopathic medicine to be stored in the liver causing poor function and disease. Daily prayers and meditation can help you in releasing these supressed negative emotions.
- Consult a holistic nutritionist for herbs and natural supplementsto support your liver function and help digestion. This should be taken under supervision of your nutritionist to avoid any adverse reactions or interaction with medications.
If you need more help with your nutrition and health call us at 416 876 4634 to book an appointment or sign up for a FREE Clarity Session with holistic nutritionist Dr Maha Nasr to discuss your health concerns and see how we can help you.
Amarapurkar D, Kamani P, Patel N, et al. Prevalence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: population based study. Ann Hepatol. 2007 Jul-Sep;6(3):161-3.
Canadian Liver Foundation, liver.ca