The Silent Disease You Need to Watch Out For
Did you know that your liver is the largest organ in your body? Most people associate the liver with removing toxins from your body–like when you drink alcohol and it is filtered through your liver. However, removing toxins is only one function of the liver. The liver also assists the body in the digestive process and energy storage. Fatty Liver Disease happens when too many fat cells accumulate in the liver which can affect your liver’s ability to function properly.
There are two different types of fatty liver disease: non-alcoholic and alcoholic fatty liver disease. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is the most common form of fatty liver disease–it affects an estimated 80-100 million people in the U.S. alone. Sometimes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease doesn’t necessarily progress to a severe level–where the liver becomes inflamed and liver cells are damaged. This type of fatty liver disease is called simple fatty liver. Most people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease have simple fatty liver. However, sometimes the extra fat in your liver can cause inflammation and damage your liver cells. This type of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH. NASH can lead to scar tissue build-ups around your liver and certain types of liver cancer.
The second type of fatty liver disease is alcoholic fatty liver disease. As the name implies, alcoholic fatty liver disease is developed through the overconsumption of alcohol. Typically, alcoholic fatty liver disease will resolve on its own if you stop consuming alcohol. However, if you continue drinking, alcoholic fatty liver disease may lead to serious issues such as an enlarged liver (giving you pain on your right side near your belly), alcoholic hepatitis (swollen liver that causes fever, nausea, pain, and yellow-tinted eyes/skin), and alcoholic cirrhosis (causing fluid buildup enlarged spleen, internal bleeding, or liver failure).
While fatty liver disease can be bad (even fatal in extreme cases), it is far too common that it goes unnoticed. In fact, doctors sometimes refer to fatty liver disease as a silent disease because people with simple fatty liver disease typically show no symptoms. So, it is entirely possible to have fatty liver disease and never even know it. Then why is it such a big deal? Because fatty liver can progress into something far worse, and it could lead to a number of other diseases all while going undiagnosed. Fatty liver disease is also generally avoidable with small lifestyle changes. The even better news is that simple fatty liver (the most common type of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease) is reversible–even if you already have it– with a healthier approach to diet and exercise. Below we've outlined 3 simple steps you can take to reverse fatty liver disease or avoid it in the future.
Lose weight. Fatty liver disease is definitively linked with obesity. That doesn't mean fatty liver disease only affects obese adults or children, but obesity is a major contributing factor. According to a study, losing weight by dietary changes or exercise is an excellent way to decrease the fat in your liver. It doesn't even matter which method you choose. While losing weight can certainly be a daunting task, particularly with all of the trend diet programs that are readily available online. We would never downplay how challenging it is to lose weight; however, to decrease your liver's fat you may only need to do something as simple as consuming 500 fewer calories per day. In one study consuming 500 fewer calories per day caused a significant decrease in liver fat over a 3 month period and an 8% decrease in weight over the same period.
Workout. While it may seem like exercise and weight loss go hand-in-hand, when it comes to fatty liver disease that is not the case. Studies show that regular exercise significantly reduced liver fat whether the participant actually lost any weight or not. In fact, the best way to reduce liver fat with exercise is through a High-Intensity Interval Training program (HIIT). Refer to our post outlining the specifics and benefits of HIIT here ***need link*** for all the information you need to get started on a HIIT program immediately.
Adjust your diet. There are also certain foods you can target to lower your liver’s fat percentage. For example, a Mediterranean diet, or other diets that are low in carbohydrates are perfect for reducing the fat in your liver because fatty liver is shown to develop when excess carbs are turned into fat cells. Combining a low-carb diet with natural anti-inflammatories such as Green Tea has proven to fight fatty liver disease in a very effective way.
Take Care of Your Gut. Gut health is essential to your body's ability to function properly. Maintaining healthy gut bacteria allows your digestive system to run smoothly, and part of your digestive system’s job is to filter out what your body doesn’t need. A healthy gut also helps fight inflammation in different parts of your body that are caused by consuming inflammatory foods. You want to avoid inflammation in your liver cells, especially if you have simple fatty liver disease because inflammation can cause simple fatty liver disease to progress to a more severe version.