The buildup of extra fat in the liver cells indicates fatty liver disease. The two different kinds of fatty liver disease are alcoholic fatty liver disease and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Alcohol abuse is the primary cause of alcoholic fatty liver disease; causes of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) are obesity, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome.
NAFLD has become more common as the prevalence of obesity and diabetes increases. In fact, it is estimated that about 25% of the world's population is affected by NAFLD. The condition is often asymptomatic and may not be detected until it has progressed to more advanced stages, such as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) or cirrhosis.
The liver is an important organ that performs many vital functions, including filtering toxins from the blood, producing bile for digestion, and storing energy as glycogen. When the liver becomes overwhelmed with excess fat, it can lead to inflammation and scarring, impairing its function.
Symptoms of Fatty Liver Disease
There may be no symptoms in the early stages of fatty liver disease. However, as the condition progresses, the following symptoms may develop:
-Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
-Swelling in the legs and ankles
-Spider veins on the skin
Diagnosis of Fatty Liver Disease
Fatty liver disease is usually diagnosed through blood tests and imaging studies. Elevated liver enzyme levels in blood testing can signify liver inflammation. Imaging studies such as ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI can show the presence of soft tissues (fat) in the liver. Liver biopsy may be needed to confirm the diagnosis and assess the extent of liver damage.
Treat fatty liver disease with lifestyle changes. The primary goal is to reduce the amount of fat in the liver, which can be achieved through:
1. Weight loss: A key risk factor for fatty liver disease is obesity. Reducing body weight can help decrease liver fat levels. The liver might function better by reducing 5 to 10% of its body weight.
2. Exercise: Exercise is essential component for treating fatty liver disease. Regular exercise can help reduce weight, reduce insulin resistance, and improve liver function.
3. Medications: Medications may be prescribed to treat fatty liver disease. They may help reduce liver inflammation, improve insulin resistance, and reduce the fat in the liver.
4. Diet modification: One of the most effective ways to treat fatty liver disease is to modify the diet. Avoid foods high in saturated fats, sugar, and processed foods. Instead, opt for a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins since they provide the liver with the necessary nutrients and help reduce the amount of fat.
Foods to Eat for Fatty Liver Disease
A healthy diet is crucial to prevent and manage fatty liver disease. Here are a few healthy options to include in the diet:
Whole grains are rich in fibre, which helps improve digestion and promotes feelings of fullness. Examples of whole grains include lentils, brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, and whole wheat bread. These grains also contain essential nutrients such as vitamins and minerals.
2. Fruits and Vegetables: They are high in fibre, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which help protect the liver cells from damage. Fruits and vegetables to opt for are apples, berries, oranges, spinach, grapes, avocado, beetroot, kale, and broccoli.
3. Lean Proteins: Protein helps maintain muscle mass and repairs tissues. However, one must choose lean protein sources, such as chicken, turkey, fish, and legumes. Avoid processed meats such as bacon, sausage, and hot dogs.
4. Healthy Fats
Healthy fats, including those in nuts, seeds, and avocados, can help the body fight inflammation. They also help the liver produce and secrete bile, which facilitates digestion. Healthy fat sources include almonds, chia seeds, flax seeds, and olive oil.
5. Coffee and Green Tea
Coffee and green tea contain compounds that have been shown to reduce the risk of liver disease. Coffee contains antioxidants and caffeine, which can help reduce liver inflammation; green tea contains catechins, which can help improve liver function.
Foods to Avoid if you have Fatty Liver Disease
Just as there are foods that can help prevent and manage fatty liver disease, there are also foods that should be avoided. The following are some of the worst foods for fatty liver disease:
1. Sugar and High-Fructose Corn Syrup
Excessive consumption of refined sugar and high-fructose corn syrup has been linked to the development of fatty liver disease. These sweeteners are found in many processed foods, such as soda, candy, baked goods and confectionaries. Read food labels carefully and avoid products that contain high amounts of added sugars.
2. Saturated and Trans Fats
Saturated and trans fats can contribute to the development of fatty liver disease by increasing inflammation in the liver. These fats are derived from animal products, including butter, cheese, and fatty meats. Trans fats are also found in many processed foods such as margarine and fried foods.
Alcohol is a contributor to the development of fatty liver disease. Every time your liver processes alcohol, some of the liver cells die. Although the liver may create new cells, drinking too much alcohol over an extended period of time can hinder this process. Your liver may suffer severe and long-lasting damage as a result. It is important to limit or avoid alcohol consumption if you have been diagnosed with this condition.
4. Processed Foods
Processed foods are often high in empty calories, sodium, sugar, and unhealthy fats. They also contain preservatives and additives that can be harmful to the liver. Examples of processed foods include chips, crackers, and frozen dinners.
5. White Bread and Pasta
White bread and pasta are high in refined carbohydrates, which can lead to fatty liver disease. These foods also have a high glycemic index, leading to rapid spikes in blood sugar levels. Choose breads made of whole grain over refined flour found in white breads.
Lifestyle changes are an effective way to cure fatty liver disease. Diet modification, weight loss, exercise, alcohol consumption, and medication are essential lifestyle changes for treating fatty liver disease. Individuals with fatty liver disease can improve their liver function and overall health with consistent and sustainable lifestyle changes.