Fatty Liver Disease Archives

Non alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) wasn’t even on our radar screen 30 years ago. Today, it affects as many as 1/3 of Americans and is the leading form of liver disease in the United States.

Worse yet, it shows no signs of slowing down and threatens to overwhelm liver transplant programs in the coming decade.

According to Dr. Michael Curry, a hepatologist at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, about 80% of people with non alcoholic fatty liver disease will not develop a significant form of liver disease. In the other 20%, the condition will progress to non alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and about 20-30% of NASH patients will progress to liver cirrhosis and end stage liver disease.

In the United States that means as many as 6 million people could be looking for liver transplants in the near future.

The fatty liver epidemic is a silent, but very real threat to the health of many Americans and one Dr. Curry believes could overwhelm liver transplant programs and create a situation where we’re simply unable to treat so many patients.

But non alcoholic fatty liver disease isn’t just an American problem. Recent reports out of England, Malaysia, and other countries show similar signs that fatty liver could quickly become a worldwide epidemic.

Let’s take a closer look at the disease.

What is non alcoholic fatty liver disease?

Doctors and medical professionals once believed fatty infiltration of the liver leading to liver damage and liver cirrhosis was caused by excessive alcohol consumption. They termed this condition alcoholic fatty liver disease.

While it’s true excessive alcohol consumption CAN and DOES cause liver damage, doctors soon realized there was something else going on when they started seeing patients with the same signs of liver damage, but who had no history of alcoholism. This condition soon became known as non alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Put simply, non alcoholic fatty liver disease is the accumulation of fat (triglycerides) in liver cells due to non-alcohol related causes that can eventually lead to liver inflammation, liver scarring, liver cancer, complete liver failure, and death.

Some of the contributing factors to fatty liver disease include obesity, type II diabetes (diabetes mellitus), metabolic syndrome, high fat, high fructose, and high glycemic diets coupled with a sedentary lifestyle, hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol, medications and toxins, and insulin resistance.

Non alcoholic fatty liver disease generally progresses through the following stages:

  • Simple steatosis (fatty liver)
  • Fatty liver with inflammation (non alcoholic steatohepatitis, NASH)
  • Fatty liver with liver hardening and liver scarring (liver cirrhosis)
  • Liver cancer and/or complete liver failure
  • Death unless a liver transplant is performed

When too much fat accumulates in the liver, it clogs the spaces surrounding hepatocytes (liver cells), causes the liver to become larger and heavier, impairs the livers ability to filter toxins and other harmful substances from the blood, and reduces its ability to metabolize fats.

The earliest stage of fatty liver disease, simple steatosis, is usually easily reversed by dietary and lifestyle changes. However, as liver damage becomes more severe, it can lead to cell death and scarring (liver cirrhosis), at which point it often becomes irreversible and requires a liver transplant to save the life of the patient.

Why is non alcoholic fatty liver disease so dangerous?

Fatty liver disease is closely associated with obesity and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, two-thirds of Americans are either overweight or obese. This means it’s a very real threat for almost everyone.

The disease is so dangerous because it is what the National Institutes of Health refers to as a “silent disease”. Non alcoholic fatty liver disease develops over a long period of time, but many people experience few, if any, symptoms until the condition worsens to non alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) or cirrhosis.

Some people may experience a dull or aching pain on the right side of their abdomen, but most don’t. This pain is generally associated with the liver growing larger due to inflammation and stretching the lining of the liver or pressing against other organs. Other fatty liver symptoms include a swollen stomach or ankles, vomiting blood, general fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, and jaundice.

Since the condition has few symptoms, it sneaks up on you and many people fail to seek fatty liver disease treatment early on when the condition is often reversible through a proper fatty liver diet and exercise.

The Fatty Liver Diet Guide can show you exactly which foods to eat and which to avoid if you have a fatty liver and provides precise fatty liver diet plans and even fatty liver diet recipes for those who want to be proactive at slowing and reversing the condition before it becomes untreatable.

To make matters worse, doctors can easily miss the disease even with the help of ultrasounds and CT scans, and even tests for elevated liver enzymes in the bloodstream aren’t 100% reliable. Many times the disease is first noticed during routine checkups or during blood tests for other conditions. A liver biopsy is the best way to get a definitive diagnosis.

Annual checkups with your doctor are important to help increase the chance a fatty liver is caught early.

If left untreated, NAFLD can bring about much more severe symptoms including brain changes (hepatic encephalopathy) that result from harmful toxins reaching the brain. A healthy liver filters these toxins from the blood so they never reach the brain. A damaged liver is unable to do so which can result in things like memory lapses, trouble sleeping, lack of coordination and balance, and damage to other organs of the body.

These more severe fatty liver disease symptoms can often be rather alarming. For example, hepatologists such as Dr. Kevin Mullen from the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and Dr. Michael Curry from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston report seeing patients who have:

  • Exhibited symptoms very similar to Alzheimer’s and dementia
  • Mistakenly put their laundry in the refrigerator
  • Forgotten events that just took place the same day
  • Found themselves in a scalding hot shower and forgot how to turn it off
  • Walked around the neighborhood naked

Although seldom talked about, the liver performs over 500 known functions and is a bigger workhorse than even the heart. Thus, maintaining liver health should be a primary concern for everyone. Failing to do so is a true death sentence.

Who is at risk of getting non alcoholic fatty liver disease?

The short answer to this question is: everyone.

Fatty liver disease can affect men, women, and children of all ages and nationalities. It is most commonly found in people who suffer from type II diabetes and those who are overweight and/or obese (particularly around the mid section).

A recent study out of England suggests as many as 500,000 children between the ages of 4 and 14 in that country could be at risk of developing life-threatening liver disease in the future due to being overweight. A poor diet coupled with a lack of exercise are the leading culprits.

Some experts believe non alcoholic fatty liver disease will become a silent killer for this generation of children if the obesity epidemic is not kept under control. Most experts also agree that the biggest risk factor to developing non alcoholic fatty liver disease is being overweight. This is true for both children and adults.

How to treat non alcoholic fatty liver disease

Currently there is no single fatty liver treatment for ridding the body of non alcoholic fatty liver disease. However, if you suffer from a fatty liver or feel you are at risk of developing fatty liver disease, then here are a few guidelines you should follow to help prevent and reverse the condition:

  • Lose weight gradually and keep it off long-term. Stay away from fad diet programs that recommend starvation diets or extreme gastric bypass surgeries that can actually further exasperate a fatty liver. Instead, try programs like Fat Loss Factor and Paleo Burn to target fat in your mid section.
  • Stay active and exercise at least 30 minutes per day. Recent studies show resistance exercises can help improve a fatty liver and may be easier for people who are overweight and/or obese because they put less demand on the cardio-respiratory system.
  • Make dietary changes that limit fat consumption to less than 30% of the daily caloric intake. Be cautious of generalized diet advice such as “eat more fruits and vegetables” as some fruits (particularly those containing large amounts of fructose) can be harmful for people with non alcoholic fatty liver disease. See the Fatty Liver Diet Guide and Fatty Liver Bible for specific diet plans and foods that can be used to reduce liver fat and improve fatty liver disease.
  • Smaller, frequent meals are often better than large feasts for fatty liver patients.
  • Antioxidants such as silymarin (found in milk thistle) and vitamins C and E can help improve liver health when taken in the right ratios and dosages.
  • Don’t miss annual health checkups and stay in touch with your doctor on a regular basis. These are important for catching fatty liver disease early and giving you the best chance of beating the disease before it progresses to liver cirrhosis or liver cancer.
  • Reduce strain on the liver by treating related conditions such as type II diabetes and hypertension.
  • Most importantly, if you’re overweight chances are you already have a fatty liver or will develop a fatty liver in the near future. Be proactive in treating non alcoholic fatty liver disease early on and don’t wait for it to worsen before you take action. By then it may already be too late.

Fatty Liver Symptoms Explored

Fatty liver symptoms often go unnoticed by both liver patients and doctors. There are several reasons for this.

First, since the liver is an internal organ, you won’t be able to see any inflammation or scarring that may be occurring with the naked eye. As fat accumulates in the liver, it takes over the spaces normally used by healthy liver cells (hepatocytes) and the liver becomes larger and heavier. However, in most circumstances, you won’t notice any symptoms as fatty infiltration causes your liver to slowly enlarge over time. Fatty liver disease and its corresponding stages can take years or even decades to fully develop.

Fatty liver diseaseSecond, fatty liver disease symptoms can be difficult to detect because the liver lacks the sensitive pain receptors found in other areas of the body. Therefore, you may not experience liver damage as pain. When pain does occur it usually results from the stretching of the peritoneum (a membrane that forms the lining of the abdominal cavity and covers most of the intra-abdominal organs including the liver) or from an enlarged liver that puts pressure on other internal organs and other areas of the body.

Third, non alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) progresses through several different stages: fatty liver (simple steatosis), nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), liver cirrhosis (permanent scarring, fibrosis, and liver hardening), and eventually complete liver failure. You’ll experience few, if any, signs of liver damage when fat first starts to accumulate in the liver during the first stage (fatty liver). Read the rest of this entry

Fatty Liver And Obesity – Cause For Concern If You’re Overweight?

fatty liver and obesityThe terms fatty liver and fatty liver disease (FLD) are often used interchangeably. However, technically speaking, fatty liver disease is a broad term that describes many different liver conditions including fatty liver (steatosis), non alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), and cirrhosis.

What Is A Fatty Liver?

Fatty liver refers to the accumulation of fat in the liver. A healthy liver breaks down fats in the body. However, when certain conditions persist, more fat moves into the liver than out of it and a fatty liver occurs. Over time, fatty liver can become a silent killer.

To help fight the disease and promote weight loss, Dr. Charles Livingston of Fishers, Indiana designed the Fat Loss Factor to help heal your liver so it can burn body fat the way it’s designed to, all while allowing you to keep eating most of the foods you love.

As fatty infiltration of the liver worsens, NASH develops which refers to a fatty liver that causes inflammation. Over time, chronic inflammation leads to liver scarring which is largely irreversible and is known as liver cirrhosis. Eventually liver cancer can develop, resulting in complete liver failure and death.

FLD is generally broken down into two types: non alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFL). The principle difference is NAFLD is caused by factors unrelated to alcohol. Excessive alcohol consumption is the sole cause of AFL.

NAFLD is the most common liver disease in the United States, affecting nearly 30 million people. Approximately 25% of the world’s population is also affected by the disease. It is believed that over 6 million Americans have a fatty liver that has advanced at least as far as NASH (fatty liver with inflammation). If that isn’t scary enough, the disease is also showing up more and more often in children. Read the rest of this entry

What Is The Best Fatty Liver Diet For People With Fatty Liver Disease?

fatty liver diet guideWhat is the best fatty liver diet? If you’ve been diagnosed with or suspect you may have fatty liver disease, then one of your first questions might be, “What foods should I eat to maintain healthy liver function?”

The easiest and most accurate response to that question is, “It depends”. Finding an all-in-one solution when it comes to a fatty liver diet plan is virtually impossible. There are too many factors at play and the best diet will depend on the underlying causes of fatty liver.

For example, the best fatty liver diet for someone with diabetes may differ from the best plan for someone without diabetes. Other questions that must be considered include:

  • What is the patient’s age?
  • What stage of the disease is present? (Fatty liver disease progresses through four stages from simple steatosis to Non-alcoholic Steatohepatitis or NASH)
  • Is the cause alcoholic or non-alcoholic?
  • Are obesity and other conditions present in the patient?

With that being said, all cases of fatty liver disease do have some similarities when it comes to diet and nutrition.

First, understand fatty liver disease can’t be “cured”. It can merely be regulated and kept from progressing through a balanced, healthy diet. In some cases, the condition will even reverse or improve, but it is never “cured” in the sense of completely going away.

A healthy, balanced diet is absolutely critical if you want to reverse and improve fatty liver disease. The liver is a critical organ in the body because everything you ingest, whether good or bad, goes through the liver. When you eat a poor diet, you constantly leave your liver under attack.

Vitamins and minerals should be an important part of any fatty liver diet plan because they are needed for metabolism, growth, development, and as catalysts in energy production from fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.

They also play roles in creating hormones and red blood cells. However, not all vitamins and minerals are healthy for people with fatty liver if taken in excess. Read the rest of this entry

What Is Fatty Liver Disease And How Do I Know If I Have It?

Fatty liver (also known as fatty liver disease or FLD) occurs when there is an excess accumulation of triglyceride fat in the liver.  The triglyceride fats accumulate when cells abnormally retain lipids via the process of steatosis.

When too much fat accumulates in the liver, it takes up space within and around the hepatocytes (liver cells).  The fat takes over the spaces normally used by healthy cells and the liver becomes larger and heavier.  People experiencing fatty liver disease sometimes experience pressure due to the liver enlarging.

A normal, healthy liver is triangular in shape and has a reddish-brown appearance.  If you take a cross-section of a healthy liver, you’ll find a lot of vacant spaces and channels (sinusoids).  These are normally filled with blood and allow the absorption of essential fats, proteins, and acids, and allow for blood to be filtered.

In a fatty liver, the color is often yellowish, and you’ll often notice signs of stretching and swelling.  A cross section will reveal fewer spaces and channels as many will be filled up with fat.  In severe cases, the blood filtering process will be impaired and complete liver failure can occur.

The liver is a vital organ and performs hundreds of critical functions in the body.  It is second in size only to your skin, and it is the heaviest organ, weighing up to 3lbs.  Maintaining proper liver function is critical to living a long and healthy life.  If your liver stays healthy, much of the rest of your body will stay healthy as well.

Fatty liver by itself is not fatal.  However, if not identified early and kept under control, it can lead to more severe conditions such as cirrhosis and liver cancer. Read the rest of this entry