- Largest organ in our body that helps process nutrients from food and drinks and filters harmful substances from your blood.
- The liver secretes bile, which is later stored in the gall bladder. Bile is needed for the breakdown of fats in the body. It also plays a role in burning of fat.
What is Fatty Liver?
- Also known as hepatic steatosis
- It happens when fat builds up in the liver.
- Excess fat can cause inflammation called steatohepatitis (steato=fat + hepar=liver + itis=inflammation), although there is no relationship between the amount of fat present and the potential for inflammation. Steatohepatitis can lead to cirrhosis (fibrosis, scarring and hardening of the liver). There is also an association with liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma).
- When fatty liver develops in someone who drinks a lot of alcohol, it’s known as alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD).
- In someone who doesn’t drink a lot of alcohol, it’s known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
What Causes Fatty Liver?
- Obesity: Obesity involves low-grade inflammation that may promote liver fat storage. It’s estimated that 30–90% of obese adults have NAFLD, and it’s increasing in children due to the childhood obesity epidemic
- Excess belly fat: Normal-weight people may develop fatty liver if they are “viscerally obese,” meaning they carry too much fat around the waist
- Insulin resistance: Insulin resistance and high insulin levels have been shown to increase liver fat storage in people with type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome
- High intake of refined carbs: Frequent intake of refined carbs promotes liver fat storage, especially when high amounts are consumed by overweight or insulin-resistant individuals
- Sugary beverage consumption: Sugar-sweetened beverages like soda and energy drinks are high in fructose, which has been shown to drive liver fat accumulation in children and adults
- Impaired gut health: Recent research suggests that having an imbalance in gut bacteria, problems with gut barrier function (“leaky gut”) or other gut health issues may contribute to NAFLD development
Symptoms of Fatty Liver
- Fatigue and weakness
- Slight pain or fullness in the right or center abdominal area
- Elevated levels of liver enzymes, including AST and ALT
- Elevated insulin levels
- Elevated triglyceride levels
What are some lifestyle changes that can help with fatty liver disease?
If you have any of the types of fatty liver disease, there are some lifestyle changes that can help:
- The most important part of treating alcohol-related fatty liver disease is to stop drinking alcohol.
- Eat healthy diet, limit salt and sugar, plus eat lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- Get vaccinations for hepatitis A and B, the flu and pneumococcal disease. If you get hepatitis A or B along with fatty liver, it is more likely to lead to liver failure. People with chronic liver disease are more likely to get infections, so the other two vaccinations are also important.
- Get regular exercise, which can help you lose weight and reduce fat in the liver