Fatty Liver: What It Is, and How to Get Rid of It
- 7th December 2020
Author,Dr. Pankaj Kumar
Liver is the largest solid organ in the human body. It is responsible for carrying out a variety of operations like enzyme activation, bile production and excretion, synthesis of plasma proteins, etc.
It is one of the most important organs in our body. Therefore any damage to it can cause serious implications to the overall functioning of our body.
One of the most common and fatal condition that harms liver is “Fatty liver”.
What is fatty liver?
Fatty liver (Hepatic Steatosis) is a condition in which excessive fat cells develop in the liver. Generally, liver is said to be ‘fatty’ if there is more than 5% of fat in it. Our lifestyle and habits have made this disease very common, affecting more than 10 million people every year (in India).
Causes of fatty liver
Fatty liver develops when our body produces too much fat that may be either due to calorie mismatch or due to bad dietary habits or doesn’t metabolize fat efficiently. These excess fat is stored in liver cells, where it accumulates and causes fatty liver disease.
There have been many factors that may cause or contribute to developing fatty liver:
Excess belly fat
High intake of refined carbs
Simple sugar and sugary beverage consumption
Impaired gut health
Based on the cause, fatty liver can be further categorized into:
- Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (ALDF)
- Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NLDF)
Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (ALD)
This condition is caused by years of overconsumption of alcohol. It majorly damages the liver, giving a rise to fats, inflammation and scarring.
Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NFLD)
In this condition, alcohol is not the root cause. It usually happens due to genetics or environmental factors. There are 2 types of NLDF:
Simple fatty liver: it happens when there is excessive fat in the liver but no inflammation.
Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH): it causes inflammation and damage to liver cells which induces the threat of fibrosis, cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Symptoms of Fatty Liver
There are various signs and symptoms of fatty liver, although not all of these may be present in all individual suffering from this disease.
Loss of appetite
Nausea and vomiting
Moderate to severe abdominal pain and distention
Yellowing of eyes and skin
- Medical history- Patient is asked about family’s medical history, alcohol consumption, habits, lifestyle, etc.
- Physical exams- Proper physical examining is done to check for signs such as liver enlargement, jaundice, etc.
- Blood tests- Patients are advised to do the alanine aminotransferase test (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase test (AST) to check their liver enzymes.
- Imaging- this includes Ultrasound, CT scan and MRI to check for excessive fat or scarring in liver.
- Liver biopsy- it is used to diagnose NASH. In this process, a needle in inserted to take a sample of tissue from the liver. This sample is then sent to labs for testing purpose.
Prevention and modification
Till date there is no fixed cure to fatty liver disease. However it still can be treated. Lifestyle modification is considered to be the best treatment for fatty liver. Self care plays a highly vital role in this treatment.
Also, the points mentioned below must be adapted as preventive measures by all those who want to keep this disease at bay.
1. Alcohol Consumption:
The amount of alcohol one consumes in a day must be limited.
One drink per day for women and
two drinks per day for men.
Those who are in treatment phase must quit alcohol.
- Avoid processed foods as much as you can.
- Limit the consumption of red meat and animal products.
- Try to include more plant-based foods in your diet.
- Limit the consumption of refined carbohydrates, saturated fats and trans fat.
- Avoid alcohol
3. Physical activity & Weight loss:
Try to indulge in routine exercise or workout for at least 30 minutes per day. Researchers suggest that loosing 3% - 5% of weight can do wonders by cutting fat built up in the liver.
4. Other measures:
Do not take alcohol if you are on some medication. It can cause serious damage to the liver.
Keep your blood-sugar level controlled
Keep a check at your cholesterol
Take supplements for vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids or berberine
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