Fatty liver disease is becoming a common problem in modern society. Yet it is not often spoken about, as it can remain dormant and undiagnosed for many years. Our diets are packed with saturated fats, trans fats and sugars, leading to an intake of excessive calories. This excess slowly builds up fat content in the body. We often see the obvious side effects of weight gain, skin-related issues, and hormonal imbalances. We can easily forget that this buildup of excess calories also damages our organs. In fact, visceral fat or fat around the waist is considered dangerous for exactly this reason. It is a sign that fat is building up inside and around our organs, which can lead to serious health issues.
Fatty liver disease is a buildup of fat in the liver. It is normal to have some fat in this organ but no more than 5%. The liver is one of the 5 vital organs and keeping it healthy should be as a big of a concern, as keeping our heart healthy.
Fatty liver disease has been linked to type two diabetes, obesity, and insulin resistance. If you have any of these metabolic conditions you have a higher risk of developing this silent disease. It is treatable and preventable through dietary changes and an active lifestyle. This is especially important to remember because you may never display any symptoms and have an unhealthy liver.
There are two types of Fatty Liver Disease.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFL) is the most common type of liver disease and it is the initial reversible stage. However, it often goes undiagnosed and it can lead to a more serious condition known as steatohepatitis or NASH. NASH entails greater fat accumulation and inflammation which can damage the liver cells. This can lead to fibrosis and scar tissue. Liver scarring is known as liver fibrosis and if you develop severe scarring it is known as cirrhosis of the liver.
Cirrhosis does have symptoms, and this may include:
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Itchy skin
- Yellow skin and eyes
- Web-like clusters of blood vessels under your skin
- Abdominal pain
- Swelling of your legs
- Breast enlargement in men
Alcoholic fatty liver disease is self-explanatory. It is a buildup of fat cells caused by excessive alcohol consumption. The liver’s main function is to filter out our blood. Alcohol is absorbed in the stomach, then transported through the body in our blood, and filtered through the liver. The liver gathers the fatty byproducts and it begins to swell and accumulate toxins over time.
The liver is responsible for metabolizing drugs and it produces bile. Bile ends up again in our small intestine and it helps to digest and breakdown fats as well as process worn-out red blood cells. When there is too much fat in the liver the organ is impaired, and it is not able to function properly. Consequently, fat and toxins build up faster in the body as the liver is not able to “filter” our blood and process toxins as efficiently, and the liver becomes clogged. The organ becomes damaged and scarring may occur, leading again to cirrhosis.
A happy liver is a happy you!
The liver is a regenerative organ. It can heal itself. This is greatly beneficial as it can detoxify easily and recuperate. This is fantastic! However, if the organ is constantly under stress and it must rebuild itself continuously excess scar tissue will develop, and this is what fibrosis is, a formation of an abnormal amount of scar tissue.
What can you do to prevent Fatty Liver Disease?
This disease is all about lifestyle. We cannot underestimate the impact of a diet rich in fats and sugars combined with a sedentary life, on our bodies. It is so important to be actively aware of your health. It is a choice you make every day. Having a healthy diet rich in vegetables and fruits that are low in natural sugars, complex carbohydrates such as legumes and meats low in fats like turkey or chicken, can make all the difference on our health in the long run.
We also cannot forget the impact of drugs on our liver. Anything that we take whether it is a medication for high blood pressure, cholesterol, or a sleeping pill, needs to be processed by the liver. Consequently, we can help our liver detoxify by drinking lots of water and managing our intake of prescription drugs.
What are some preventative measures that can help your liver?
Exercise and a healthy diet are the cornerstones of a balanced lifestyle. It is incredibly important to reiterate this. Clinical trials have shown that aerobic exercise and strength training can reduce hepatic fat. Exercise is a good treatment for a fatty liver. There are also various supplements and natural products that can stimulate the liver and assist it to function.
Supplementing with zinc over long periods has shown to aid in liver detoxification through cell detoxification. Zinc is an essential trace element that plays a fundamental role in cellular metabolism. Zinc helps to synthesize proteins in the body. This means that zinc is involved when cells are dividing, growing, and differentiating. It is an incredibly powerful mineral involved in one of the basic building blocks of your body, protein. The liver needs to detoxify and reproduce cells continuously and zinc is exactly what it needs for a little help.
Milk thistle is a herbal extract which stimulates liver enzymes. Vitamin B6 deficiency has been found to be common in patience with cirrhosis. Vitamin B6 is crucial to help the body get rid of unwanted toxins.
Overall, your liver’s health is in your hands and there are various steps one can take to make sure it continues to filter toxins and unwanted byproducts from our bodies.
Remember, prevention is better than a cure!
Fatty Liver Disease