As the second-largest organ in the body and the organ responsible for processing nutrients from your diet (plus filtering out toxins from your blood), your liver is absolutely vital. But lots of people have livers with a big problem: non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
We’re all taught the dangers of over-consuming alcohol, which can destroy your liver at the cellular level. But non-alcoholic fatty liver disease proves that your liver can also be damaged through other means.
Today, let’s take a look at non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and break down the things you can do to alleviate its symptoms and heal your liver over time.
What is Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease?
NAFLD or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is, in a nutshell, a condition characterized by fat buildup in the liver. More specifically, NAFDL means that you have a number of liver conditions associated with increased fat content but either drink only a little alcohol or not at all.
NAFDL’s primary characteristic is that too much fat is stored in your liver’s cells. Because many Americans eat a modern diet with lots of processed food, NAFDL is becoming increasingly common.
If left unchecked, NAFLD can lead to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis or NASH. This is a very aggressive type of fatty liver disease and includes excessive liver inflammation. In the worst cases, it can lead to liver scarring or liver failure.
Causes of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease?
Medical professionals aren’t exactly sure what the single biggest cause of NAFLD is. But they do know that certain people are more likely to accumulate fat in their liver cells even if they don’t drink alcohol excessively.
At the moment, it’s thought that NAFLD is linked to the following risk factors:
- Obesity or being overweight.
- High insulin resistance. With this condition, your cells don’t absorb sugar when they detect the presence of insulin, a major form.
- High blood sugar or hyperglycemia. This could indicate type II diabetes or “prediabetes”.
- High levels of fats in the blood, especially triglycerides.
In short, an unhealthy diet is most likely the major culprit behind NAFLD. This is why many Americans and other Westerners now get NAFDL more frequently.
Because of these risk factors, many people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease are also at risk of or have conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.
What Symptoms Can You Expect?
In the early stages, NAFDL doesn’t have very many visible symptoms. But some people can experience symptoms like:
- Cirrhosis or scarring of the liver (fibrosis), is a very serious condition characterized by fluid retention, internal bleeding, mental confusion, and even loss of liver function or excessive liver damage (which can eventually lead to death).
- Pain in the abdomen.
- Weakness, loss of appetite, nausea, rapid weight loss.
- High blood pressure.
- Swelling in the abdominal or leg area edema.
- Liver enlargement.
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin).
- Enlarged blood vessels.
Of course, if NAFDL is not treated before total liver failure, death can result. Without your liver, your body can’t absorb adequate nutrients from your diet and it can’t filter toxins from your blood.
Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease Fixes
While non-alcoholic fatty liver disease can be quite serious, there are several measures you can take starting today to limit its symptoms or start repairing your liver. In general, taking steps to become a healthier person and correct any unhealthy habits you have will go a long way toward lowering the likelihood of you developing NAFLD.
Lower Insulin and Triglycerides
The major goal should be lowering insulin resistance in your body and getting rid of high levels of triglycerides in your blood. In other words, you need to get rid of excess fat and sugar in your diet!
Therefore, it’s a good idea to follow a low carbohydrate nutrition plan. Eliminate processed carbs and other carb-heavy foods like pasta and bread. Replace that stuff with healthy vegetables, fruits, and lean meats harvested from non-GMO, open-pasture sources.
A healthy diet will gradually produce a number of serious benefits for your body, including:
- Improving your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
- Boosting your energy.
- Improving your body weight if you are under or overweight.
By following a healthy diet, you’ll be less likely to develop insulin resistance and the level of triglycerides in your blood will drop sharply. Plus, you’ll feel better overall!
By exercising regularly, you help your body burn through its stores of fat and carbs regularly, which lowers the likelihood of weight gain. You’ll also feel better, have more energy, and enjoy greater cardiovascular health, which lowers the risk of heart disease.
Everyone should exercise regularly, but individuals at risk of NAFLD should especially start an exercise routine fast!
Control Your Cholesterol and Blood Sugar Through a Healthy Lifestyle
Lastly, take steps to control your cholesterol levels. Too much cholesterol means you are at a greater risk of heart disease and your liver has to work overtime to filter toxins from your blood.
Again, this can be corrected by following a nutrient-rich diet and cutting back on fatty or overly processed foods like cake, bread, and even fatty meats like beef.
Diagnosis, Treatment, Lifestyle changes and Transplants
More often than not, an ultrasound is used to confirm the Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease diagnosis. There are imaging tests like special ultrasound and MRI scans, which can help diagnose the illness and spot scar tissue in the liver. But the only way to be certain that fatty liver disease is the only cause of liver damage is with a liver biopsy.
Although there are no medical treatments yet for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, in the event you need a liver transplant due to cirrhosis, hepatitis c, or any other related illness, it consists of removing your unhealthy liver and replacing it with a whole or portion of a healthy liver.
There are some medications and supplements you and your doctor may want to discuss. Treatment for NAFLD is mainly through weight loss by dietary changes and exercise. Choose healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats to maintain a healthy weight.
As you can see, NAFLD may be a serious condition, but it is far from untreatable. In fact, you may not need to visit a doctor and take a specific medication for this condition if it isn’t too far developed already.
Make some major life changes, especially in terms of your diet and your activity level, and your liver will be less likely to store too much fat in its cells. A healthy liver literally means a healthy you, so take these steps now before you put yourself at risk for major complications.