Ann does a lot of health consulting and recently learned one of her clients, who’s mostly vegan and hardly eats any junk food, was diagnosed with a fatty liver. We thought that since 1 in 3 people in this country will be diagnosed with this in their lifetime, we wanted to share with you more information about this incredibly prevalent issue facing our society.
Contrary to popular thinking, fatty liver is not necessarily caused by excessive alcohol consumption. There is another disease of the liver called Alcoholic Liver Cirrhosis that is caused by excessive alcohol.
Fatty liver is just what it says—a buildup of fat in the liver. While it’s normal to have some fat in your liver, in the case of a fatty liver, more than 5 percent of liver weight is known as NAFLD or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. It is considered the most common liver disorder in the Western world. This growing percentage parallels the frequency of obesity, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
Fatty liver is a mostly reversible condition that can be resolved with changed behaviors. It often has no symptoms.
The liver is the second largest organ in the body. The liver’s function is to process everything we eat or drink and filter any harmful substances from the blood. This process is interrupted if too much fat is in the liver. The liver commonly repairs itself by rebuilding new liver cells when the old ones are damaged. When there’s repeated damage to the liver, permanent scarring takes place. This is called cirrhosis.
Fatty liver is common. Around 10 to 20 percent of Americans have too much fat in their liver, but no inflammation or damage is present. Most cases of fatty liver are first detected in people between ages 40 and 60. Although the increase of childhood obesity in this country has caused a significant increase in pediatric non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. When fatty liver is caused by an underlying condition, it can become harmful to the liver if the cause is not recognized and treated.
There are a number of risk factors that increase your chances of developing NAFLD; they include:
- High cholesterol
- High levels of triglycerides in the blood
- Type 2 diabetes
- Metabolic syndrome
- Sleep apnea
- Polycystic ovary syndrome
- Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)
- Underactive pituitary gland
- Endocrine disrupting chemicals such as BPA
- Gastric bypass surgery
A 2006 review published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology states that NAFLD is extremely common among patients undergoing bariatric surgery, ranging from 84 percent to 96 percent. The review also noted that the disease seems to be most common among men, and it increases with older age and after menopause in women.
Some of the known root causes include:
- Certain prescription medications
- Viral hepatitis
- Autoimmune or inherited liver disease
- Fast weight loss
- Too much bacteria in the small intestine
- Taking more than the recommended doses of certain over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen
Foods to avoid while fighting this disorder:
- Starchy vegetables
- White flour
- High fructose corn syrup
- White sugar
- Saturated fats
From our research we believe the strong connection to insulin issues and fatty liver is due to the over consumption of sugar. Remember, simple sugars are not just from candy, but from breads, white rice, white potatoes, and starchy vegetables as well.
A diet laden with simple sugars can lead to fat build-up in the liver. While this fat may not always cause any problems, in some cases it can cause the liver to become inflamed (swollen) eventually leading to the development of scar tissue (cirrhosis). The technical terms for this progression are: fatty liver (simple fat buildup), non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (inflammation), non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (severe inflammation & scarring). In its severest form, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis – or NASH for short – can lead to cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer. In the U.S., NASH is becoming a frequent cause of liver transplants.
Foods that will help improve fatty liver disorder include:
- Raw vegetables
- Sweet potatoes
- Ginger root
- Dandelion root
Supplements That Can Support Your Liver:
- Vitamin E
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids
- Silymarin (Milk Thistle)
One of the most important aspects to remember if you're dealing with NAFLD is this: eating right and exercising can often prevent this condition and may even reverse it in its early stages. The person who Ann works with who showed early symptoms has a pretty clean diet and does some exercise. This disease isn’t just hitting the SAD consumer. It is also touching the lives of those who are clean eaters but consume too much food in general, especially sugar and fats, has an endocrine disrupting issue caused by exposure to many chemicals that influenced their hormones, and may not be exercising enough. There may even be a heavy metal overload that can increase the chances of developing this liver disorder. Sadly, there just isn’t enough evidence from quality research to pinpoint an exact cause. Chances are that it is likely several areas that create a negative synergy in the development of this.
By choosing a healthy lifestyle, you may prevent obesity—the number one reason for fatty liver disease. Please remember that a healthy diet and exercise are vital components in losing weight.
In addition to eating quality foods and discreet supplementation consider these lifestyle habits:
- If you are overweight, strive for a gradual and sustained weight loss
- Eat a balanced diet that is low in saturated fats and high in fiber
- Minimize sugar consumption
- Avoid alcohol
- Introduce exercise as part of your daily health regimen
Fatty liver disorder, like Type-2 diabetes as well as all auto-immune disorders are the result of a lifestyle problem more than anything else. Not only do we need to ensure our young children are living without a weight problem and consuming minimal amounts of sugars, but as we age, we must be ever vigilant of our own weight and eating habits.