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.
Second, 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).
During this stage, the liver often functions normally which can be both a blessing and a curse: a blessing because you’re not in pain and a curse because not experiencing liver damage symptoms means you probably won’t realize your liver is in danger of progressing to a more serious, and potentially life threatening, condition such as liver cirrhosis or liver cancer.
If you’ve already been diagnosed with steatosis or feel you are at risk of having a fatty liver due to other health problems or genetic factors such as having a family history of obesity, then it is important to get started with improving liver health sooner rather than later. Once liver cirrhosis sets in, permanent scarring occurs which makes the condition extremely difficult to reverse.
Dorothy Spencer’s, “Fatty Liver Diet Guide”, can show you how to improve liver health through a proper fatty liver diet plan and popular programs like the “Fat Loss Factor” (for general weight loss) and “Paleo Burn” (for weight loss targeted more specifically to your belly region) can help you lose weight to combat obesity and reduce strain on you liver.
If you’re the type of person who understands the basic principles of eating healthy, but struggles with knowing what to eat and how to prepare it to maintain a healthy weight, you might benefit from the Fitness Cook, Dave Ruel’s, recently released guide, Metabolic Cooking. Although not specifically designed with fatty liver disease patients in mind, the metabolic and fat burning properties of Dave’s more than 250 delicious meals can still be beneficial by helping to eliminate the fat that clogs liver spaces.
Many liver experts agree fatty liver can be improved and fatty liver symptoms can be reduced by gradually reducing your weight by just 10%. Dave’s meals are designed to burn fat without starving the body, which leads to the exact type of weight loss recommended for people with fatty liver disease.
How Liver Problems Symptoms Are Generally Discovered
Fatty liver (the accumulation of fat in the liver) and NASH (a fatty liver with inflammation) are often considered “silent” liver diseases because patients normally feel well and often don’t experience any noticeable symptoms. However, this doesn’t mean these conditions should be taken lightly. If you suspect you may have a fatty liver or NASH, it’s important to talk to your doctor and seek professional medical help to prevent liver cirrhosis and permanent liver damage from occurring.
According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearing House (NDDIC), approximately 2 to 5% of Americans have NASH and another 10-20% have fatty liver. Over the last decade the rate of obesity has doubled in adults and tripled in children so liver diseases and liver problems continue to be an increasing area of concern. Unfortunately, many people know very little about their liver and how to maintain liver health which only exacerbates the problem.
Most often fatty liver and NASH are discovered in people during routine blood tests for other health related conditions. High liver enzymes, such as alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST), occurring in the bloodstream are usually the first indications something may be wrong.
Elevated liver enzymes in the bloodstream often indicate some sort of liver damage is occurring. When risk factors such as medications or excessive alcohol consumption can be ruled out as possible causes, then fatty liver and/or NASH are suspected.
To get a definitive diagnosis, a liver biopsy must be performed as blood tests and scans are often unreliable at detecting fatty liver, NASH, and liver cirrhosis. A biopsy involves inserting a specialized needle through the skin and into the liver. A small piece of the liver is then removed and examined under a microscope for signs of fat, inflammation, and tissue scarring.
Other Symptoms Of Liver Disease That Can Alert You To The Presence Of Fatty Liver
If you haven’t had a blood test to identify a high liver enzyme count, then there are some other fatty liver symptoms that can give you an indication of whether or not you are suffering from a liver problem. Some of these include:
Symptoms Of Fatty Liver And NASH
- Feeling tired and weak
- Weight gain (especially in the mid section) and a difficulty losing weight
- Abdominal and back pain
- Lower torso discomfort
- Feelings of nausea
- Loss of appetite
- Jaundice (a yellowing of the skin and white areas of the eyes caused when a damaged liver doesn’t remove enough bilirubin from the blood)
As fatty liver progresses beyond NASH to cirrhosis of the liver, the following additional cirrhosis symptoms may also become evident:
Symptoms Of Liver Cirrhosis
- Fluid retention
- Muscle wasting
- Intestinal bleeding
- Liver failure
Not every person with NASH develops cirrhosis, but once advanced cirrhosis of the liver does set in, there are few treatment options available for patients. In virtually all cases, a liver transplant is the only treatment available to prevent complete liver failure and death. Some patients are finding hope with resources such as Debra Elkin’s, “Fatty Liver Bible And Ezra Protocol”.
Currently, experimental treatments are underway focused on antioxidants and anti-diabetes medications. Some of the antioxidants being researched are vitamin E, vitamin C, selenium, and betaine. Anti-diabetes medications make the body more sensitive to insulin since insulin resistance is a common problem for people with fatty liver and NASH. These include medications like metformin, rosiglitazone, and pioglitazone.
The Importance Of Maintaining Liver Health
The importance of keeping your liver strong and healthy cannot be overstated. In her book, the “Fatty Liver Bible And Ezra Protocol”, author Debra Elkin states, “Fatty liver is the single most underappreciated disease of the western world.” Although the brain and heart often get the most attention when it comes to organs, the liver may be the most important of all, performing over 500 vital functions for the body.
The truth is scary: if your liver fails, you die. Plain and simple.
Here are some tips to help maintain the health of your liver:
- Maintain a healthy weight (for help, try the “Fat Loss Factor”)
- Avoid alcohol (especially if you have alcoholic fatty liver disease)
- Follow a well balanced diet with liver friendly foods (Dorothy Spencer’s “Fatty Liver Diet Guide” can be a big help with flavorful fatty liver diet recipes)
- Avoid medications you don’t need (because the liver processes everything you ingest, good or bad, medications and chemicals can further stress an already damaged liver)
- Increase physical activity
- Further your education about fatty liver symptoms and stay up to date on the latest fatty liver treatment options
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