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May 2023

All you need to know about fatty liver

Posted By Suborna Fermi Posted on May 11, 2023

Fatty liver is a very common condition in which excessive fat builds up in the liver. If fatty liver is left untreated, it can lead to liver failure. However, fortunately, you can treat and prevent fatty liver by having a healthy eating lifestyle. But first we need to know more about fatty liver disease.

Liver is the second largest organ of our body, which helps to remove toxins from our body and produces bile. Bile helps to break down fats into fatty acids for proper digestion. But fatty liver can restrict your liver from doing its regular activities.

Who may get fatty liver?

While fatty liver can affect anyone, however the risk of having fatty liver is more high in people:

  • Who have a obesity
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Have type 2 diabetes
  • Have metabolic syndrome
  • Have obstructive sleep apnea

What are the symptoms of fatty liver?

The symptoms of fatty liver may not appear until it turns into liver cirrhosis. However, fatty liver symptoms may include:

  • Nausea
  • Tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weight loss
  • Swelling in abdomen and legs
  • Jaundice

What are the types of fatty liver?

There are typically two types of fatty liver, including:

  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver: Non-alcoholic fatty liver or NAFLD occurs when fat builds up in the liver of people who do not drink alcohol. Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis is also a type of NAFLD. Untreated nonalcoholic steatohepatitis can lead to liver fibrosis, cirrhosis and even liver failure. The exact cause of non-alcoholic fatty liver is still unknown, however, several factors can increase the risk.
  • Alcoholic fatty liver: We all know excessive alcohol consumption can severely damage your liver. Alcoholic liver disease is the first phase of any alcohol related liver diseases. Alcoholic steatohepatitis is a type of alcoholic fatty liver. Under treated alcoholic steatohepatitis can lead to liver scarring and liver failure.

Apart from these two types, there is another type of fatty liver disease which is known as acute fatty liver of pregnancy. Acute fatty liver of pregnancy is a rare disease, occurs when excess fat builds up in the liver at the time of pregnancy.

Although the exact cause of this disease is unknown, doctors believe genetics may play a role. This type of fatty liver develops during the third trimester of pregnancy and if untreated, can have negative effects on both the mother and the unborn child.

How is the fatty liver diagnosed?

As the fatty liver may not show many symptoms, your doctor would ask you about your medical history and would run a few diagnostic tests to diagnose a fatty liver disease. If your doctor suspects that you may have a fatty liver, then they would ask you certain questions regarding:

  • Your family’s medical history
  • Your medical history
  • What medications do you take
  • You daily lifestyle and alcohol consumption
  • Whether there has been any recent change in your health

Also will ask you if you are having any sudden symptoms. Then your doctor would ask you to go through certain diagnostic tests, which may include:

  • Physical examination: With a fatty liver, your liver will be inflamed. Your doctor would press your abdomen area to feel an enlarged liver. However, a physical exam alone is not the ideal diagnostic procedure, because a liver can be inflamed without being enlarged.
  • Liver function test: Generally, liver enzymes are used to measure in order to detect a fatty liver condition. Therefore, your doctor would recommend you to go for a liver function test to measure your liver enzymes. Increased liver enzymes may indicate liver inflammation. If your test reports show elevated levels of liver enzymes, then your doctor would suggest more tests to understand the cause of the liver inflammation. Also, a liver function test price is very nominal, you find it in every diagnostic center.
  • Imaging tests: Doctors also suggest going for an ultrasound, Fibroscan, CT scan or MRI test to understand the fat buildup or any issue with the liver.
  • Liver biopsy: Liver biopsy is one of the best ways to detect any liver disease. In this procedure, your doctor would test a piece of liver tissue. A liver biopsy is also helpful to understand whether it is a fatty liver or liver scarring.

How is the fatty liver treated?

There are no specific medicines to treat fatty liver disease. As several lifestyle factors contribute to fatty liver, doctors recommend managing the lifestyle habits. Doctors highly recommend to change certain lifestyle habits to treat fatty liver, which may include:

  • Losing or managing healthy weight
  • Restrict alcohol consumption
  • Managing diabetes
  • Controlling cholesterol levels

And apart from all these, the most important step to prevent and treat fatty liver is to be mindful about what you are eating on a daily basis.

What foods should you eat with fatty liver?

  • Omega 3 fatty acids: Many studies have shown that omega 3 fatty acids can help to improve fatty liver and manage high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels. Salmon, tuna, sardines, trout, walnuts and flaxseeds are high in omega 3 fatty acids.
  • Garlic: Garlic is not only just flavourful, it has many healthy benefits as well. This helps to reduce body weight and improve fatty liver. According to studies, consuming 800 gms of garlic powder daily for at least 15 weeks, can reduce liver enzymes and liver fat.
  • Broccoli: Although eating green vegetables are the savior to prevent many healthy diseases, broccoli is one of the main green vegetables that people with fatty liver should have in their diet. Many studies have suggested that eating broccoli in the long run can prevent fat buildup in the liver.
  • Green tea: Green tea has been used for medical purposes from the ancient period. Green tea has antioxidants which helps to improve liver fat.
  • Soy and whey protein: Many studies have found that eating soy protein helps to reduce fatty liver. Soy protein has some antioxidants which helps to lower body fat, and improve insulin sensitivity. According to a study review, consuming 60 gms of whey protein everyday for 4 weeks reduces 20% of body fat in a obese women.

What foods should you avoid with fatty liver?

  • Red meat: Pork, beef and deli meats are full of saturated fats, and saturated fats can cause fat buildup in around organs including liver. This is why people with fatty liver should avoid eating red meats.
  • Alcohol: Too much alcohol consumption is one of the main causes of several; liver diseases including fatty liver. Therefore, fatty liver patients should cut off their alcohol consumption or it is even better to avoid it.
  • Sugary drinks: According to the doctors, it is highly important for people who have fatty liver to avoid eating sugary drinks or foods. As these can raise the blood sugar levels, and contribute to fat buildup in the liver.
  • Refined grains: White breads, pasta, and white rice are refined grains, which can lead to high blood sugar levels. Consuming too much of refined or processed grains can cause metabolic syndrome as well.
  • Junk foods: Fried and salty foods are flavorful but they are high in calories, which can cause weight gain and obesity. And obesity is one of the primary reasons for fatty liver.

As there are currently no specific treatments for fatty liver, it is important to take measure of the food you are eating. Remember, having an unhealthy lifestyle and food habits can cause several health complications. And in the case of fatty liver, it is very essential to have a clean and healthy diet.