Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is a term used to describe a range of liver conditions that affect people who drink little or no alcohol. It is also called NAFLD.

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease affects more women than men and is found in all age groups, including children. Usually, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is diagnosed in middle-aged people who are overweight or obese, and who may also have diabetes and elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Essentially, fatty liver means your liver fills with fat, which increases your risk of developing chronic disease and inflammation.

Fatty liver disease is a big problem

In America, it affects 90 million people and 17 percent of American children. People with a fatty liver have several other health problems, including inflammation, which triggers insulin resistance and pre-diabetes, and increases your risk of heart disease.

Unfortunately, a fatty liver develops slowly and without symptoms, Most people are unaware that they have a fatty liver. Children as young as 12 years old are diagnosed with fatty liver disease and recommended for a liver transplant.

Causes?

The exact cause of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is unknown. Researchers believe a cluster of disorders that increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke may be a factor. Studies also indicate excess consumption of fructose, the primary sweetener in most sodas, as one of the causes of fatty liver disease.  

Types of Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

There are several types of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

The mildest type is simple fatty liver, also called steatosis. Simple fatty liver is an accumulation of fat within the liver that usually causes no liver damage.

A serious type, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, is associated with liver-damaging inflammation and, sometimes, the formation of fibrous tissue. In some cases, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis can progress to either cirrhosis, or liver cancer.

Symptoms?

Early-stage nonalcoholic fatty liver disease rarely causes any symptoms. If symptoms are present in the early stages, some common symptoms are fatigue, malaise, and a dull ache in the upper right abdomen.

Symptoms present in advanced stages are:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Nausea
  • Small, red spider veins under your skin or easy bruising
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Jaundice
  • Bleeding from engorged veins in your esophagus or intestines
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Fluid in your abdominal cavity
  • Itching on your hands and feet and eventually on your entire body
  • Swelling of your legs and feet

How is Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease Diagnosed?

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is usually detected because of abnormal results of liver tests done for unrelated issues.

Treatment options?

To prevent or reverse fatty liver disease, talk with your doctor about eliminating processed carbs from your diet. You’ll need to replace processed carbohydrates with healthy saturated fats from foods like coconut and grass-fed beef. Other treatment options include weight loss, exercise, improved diabetes control, and the use of cholesterol-lowering medications.

Specific tips to cure a fatty liver

  1. Stop consuming high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
    • This can be tricky because pretend ‘healthy foods’ like salad dressings contain it. Brands will use it to sweeten foods like tomato sauce to induce cravings and keep you hooked. For example, one serving of commercially made tomato sauce might contain more fructose than a serving of Oreo sandwich cookies.
  2. Stop eating white, processed flour and eliminate or greatly reduce starch. 
    • White processed flours can increase your blood sugar levels, stress your liver and resulting in high triglycerides, which promotes a fatty liver.
  3. Add healthy fats. 
    • Add anti-inflammatory, liver-healing foods like low-sugar fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds to your diet. Lean animal proteins like free-range chicken and wild-caught fish are also beneficial. Cook with good, healthy fats like olive oil, macadamia nut oil, avocados, coconut oil, grass-fed butter and fish oil. Stay away from any type of oil that is not pressed from a nut (palm, canola, vegetable).
  4. Exercise to boost your metabolism. 
    • Start out with something simple like walking for 15 minutes a few times a week. Slowly increase your walking time each week. If you already exercise, incorporate high-intensity interval training, swimming, and weight lifting.
  5. Protein, protein, protein
    • Portion controlled protein eaten with every meal will help balance blood sugar and insulin, limit cravings and supply your liver the raw materials it needs to detoxify optimally. 

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