WHAT IS NON-ALCOHOLIC FATTY DISEASE (NAFLD) AND WHY SHOULD WE CARE?
Fatty liver disease is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a condition where too much fat accumulates in the liver. Some fat in the liver is normal, but when fat composes 5 to 10 percent of the liver's total weight, it is known as a fatty liver. NAFLD is the most common liver disease in the U.S., affecting over 25 percent of the population.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is the mildest form of the disease. People with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease have extra fat in the liver, but there is no or little inflammation in the liver.
On the other hand, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is a more severe form of the non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. People with NASH have inflammation and damage in the liver in addition to extra fat. More than 20 percent of patients with NASH may develop cirrhosis in their lifetime.
Although the exact cause of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is still unclear, it is believed that insulin resistance or an impaired body response to insulin leads to an increased flow of free fatty acids into the liver. The free fatty acids are the building blocks of the fat in our bodies. Elevated insulin levels and insulin resistance also promote the production of triglycerides or fat in the liver.
The supersized, high-fat, high-carbohydrate American diet also isn’t gentle on the liver, and can result in non-alcoholic fatty liver.
Risk factors for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease include, but are not limited to:
Obesity, especially when the fat is concentrated in the abdomen
High blood pressure
Type 2 diabetes
Polycystic ovary syndrome
Unfortunately, NAFLD often goes undetected until organ damage has occurred. The symptoms, if there are any, can be easily downplayed.
A patient might have a dull ache or discomfort in the right abdomen or feel fatigued.
A distressed liver can lead to dry, itchy , reddened, dull and sagging skin. It can also cause skin breakouts and acne flare-ups.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is usually discovered coincidentally at the primary care physician’s office. It can be diagnosed by blood tests, abdominal ultrasounds and other tests that the doctor may recommend.
Although there aren’t any medications to treat NAFLD, a good diet, regular exercise, and correct supplementation can reverse it. Losing 10% of a current weight can dramatically decrease the amount of fat in the liver as well as reduce inflammation.
Dietary sugars such as fructose and sucrose have been linked to the development of NAFLD and NASH. Avoidance of foods with added sugar can decrease fat build up in the liver and assist with NAFLD reversal.
Certain supplements, including vitamin E, alpha-lipoic acid, phosphatidylcholine, omegas, vitamin D, glutathione might also be helpful in NAFLD management and reversal.
Steer clear of saturated fats, which lead to more fatty deposits in the liver. This includes:
Poultry, except for lean white meat
Yogurt, except low-fat
Baked goods and fried foods made with palm or coconut oils.
Sugary items like candy, regular soda, and other foods with added sugars including high-fructose corn syrup.
Remember - Liver is our body's the largest detoxification organ. Take a good care of your liver and your liver will take a good care of you.
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