What is fatty liver?
The liver is the largest organ in the human body. It plays a major role in assisting metabolism and detoxification. Fatty liver is a condition in which there is excess fat deposition in the liver. This could lead to inflammation of the liver, scarring, and liver failure. The technical name for fatty liver is hepatic steatosis. Fatty liver can develop in individuals who consume excess alcohol and those who do not. Accordingly, the conditions are referred to as alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD) and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
What are the types of fatty liver disease?
The two main types of fatty liver disease are nonalcoholic and alcoholic fatty liver disease. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease may in-turn be of three types: simple nonalcoholic fatty liver, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), and acute fatty liver of pregnancy (AFLP). Alcoholic fatty liver disease can be classified as simple AFLD and alcoholic steatohepatitis (ASH).
What are the risk factors for fatty liver?
The following are the most common risk factors for fatty liver:
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Type 2 diabetes
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
- Abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels
The causality of risk factors has not been established. What we know is that certain risk factors are associated with fatty liver. It may be that fatty liver actually causes these health conditions.
Stages of fatty liver
Fatty liver disease can pass through four stages:
- Simple fatty liver. Build-up of excess fat in the liver.
- Steatohepatitis. Build-up of excess fat along with inflammation in the liver.
- Fibrosis. Inflammation in the liver has caused scarring.
- Cirrhosis. Severe scarring
What are the symptoms of fatty liver disease?
Symptoms of fatty liver disease are usually difficult to notice. Some of the symptoms include:
- Persistent tiredness
- Pain or discomfort in the upper right side of the abdomen
A more severe form of fatty liver disease is liver fibrosis that results from scarring of the liver. This may eventually lead to liver cirrhosis.
What are the symptoms of liver cirrhosis?
Symptoms of liver cirrhosis are:
- Loss of appetite
- Fatigue and weakness
- Loss of weight
- Yellow skin and eyes
- Abdominal pain and swelling
What are some of the causes of fatty liver?
Fatty liver occurs when the body cannot metabolize fat well, or if there is excess production of fat. Excess fat is usually stored in the liver where it accumulates over time and causes fatty liver. Excess fat in the liver can be a result of excess carbohydrate intake. Consumption of high fructose corn syrup, refined carbohydrates, fruit juices, and other high glycemic foods can lead to fat accumulation. Much of fructose is metabolized in the liver and can convert to fat. Drinking too much alcohol causes alcoholic fatty liver disease, while in individuals who do not drink too much alcohol, the cause can be related to excess carbohydrate consumption or diseases.
Some common causes for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease are given below:
- High blood pressure
- High levels of fat in the blood (especially triglycerides)
- Insulin resistance
Some lesser known factors that cause non-alcoholic fatty liver disease are:
- Side effects from certain types of drugs
- Genetic causes
- Weight loss
What are some home remedies for fatty liver?
Making a significant lifestyle change is a starting point to self-treat fatty liver. The following lifestyle changes may help:
- Losing weight
- Reducing consumption of alcohol
- Switching to a diet that is low in saturated fat and trans fat.
- Getting sufficient physical exercise
Although some research indicates that vitamin E supplements could prevent or treat fatty liver disease, more research is needed to prove this association. Also, before starting a new supplement or making significant changes to your lifestyle, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional.
What is a good diet to treat fatty liver?
Adjusting diet is an important lifestyle change that could help in the treatment of fatty liver and prevent its complications.
Quick Fact: Diet that is rich in plant-based foods, vegetables, and legumes, can help treat fatty liver
Other recommendations include:
- Limiting intake of refined carbohydrates
- Limiting intake of saturated fats, which are found in red meat.
- Avoiding trans fats. Trans fat is commonly found in many processed fast foods.
- Avoiding alcohol.
How can you prevent fatty liver?
The following precautions can help prevent fatty liver:
- Limiting or avoiding alcohol
- Diet that is balanced and rich in nutrients
- Regular exercises
- Taking steps to maintain healthy blood sugar, triglyceride and cholesterol levels.