Fatty liver or, more correctly, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is just what you’d imagine from its name. It is the accumulation of fat in your liver that is not caused by drinking alcohol.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver is considered the most common liver disease in Western societies. It’s also closely linked to insulin resistance, which is a common barrier to weight loss.
Despite being so common… most people have no idea that they have it!
- Do you carry a lot of belly fat?
- Do you have trouble losing weight?
- Are you a regular soda drinker?
- Do you eat a lot of sugar and refined carbs?
If you answered one or more of these questions with ‘yes’ then there’s a good chance that you have some degree of fatty liver.
In this article you’ll learn how to tell if you have fatty liver and how to fix it!
Not only is the very important for an efficiently running metabolism but it’s also your detoxifying organ. So, when something is inflammatory or potentially damaging to your body, your liver is the organ that filters and removes those harmful compounds!
When we do things to our body like feed them processed foods, full of unnatural chemicals… we create inflammatory states! Due to poor eating or weight gain it is the liver that takes the brunt of that abuse.
In other words, a fatty liver is certainly of those hidden metabolic effects that is caused by our poor modern day diet… and unfortunately it is even showing up in children. In fact according to Boston Children’s Hospital website it affects approximately 10% of our kids.
From curable to incurable
If it’s not caught early fatty liver silently progresses in both kids and adults into inflamed an inflammatory state called NASH or non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. NASH can lead to scarring or cirrhosis of the liver. At that point the condition is no longer reversible!
According to dr. Julie Heimbach, who is a liver transplant surgeon at Mayo Clinic, this is one of the most quickly rising indications for liver transplant in the United States!
In other words, fatty liver is a problem that is caused by eating or drinking the wrong things and, if caught early enough, it is a condition that is cured by consuming the right things.
How do you get fatty liver?
So, how does a fatty liver develop? Well, a fatty liver results when your liver takes nutrients from your diet and makes fat through a process called de novo lipogenesis. ‘De novo’ means ‘from new’ the prefix ‘lipo’ means ‘fat’ and the term genesis means beginning or making. So, we are literally looking at the making of fat from new things. In other words… things other than the fat we eat!
That’s the surprising part because logically you would think that eating too much fat would cause the liver to store excess fat. Instead, what we see is that lipoenesis is driven by sugar… and more importantly fructose in the diet. This could explain why the disease is so common in children. One of the main sources of fructose in the standard American diet is high fructose corn syrup, which is found in regular soda (among lots of other processed foods). So kids and adults who drink a lot of soda have a high risk of developing fatty liver!
Now, of course soda is not the only culprit. As mentioned above refined carbs and sugar can be found in many processed foods, especially the 3 C’s or cookies, cakes, and candies, but also starchy carbs like pasta, breads, bagels, and muffins. All of these foods break down into sugar in your body and they feed that ‘fat making factory in your liver’!
The affect of a high carb diet does not take long to show up. In this study overweight individuals who were fed a high caloric high sugar diet for 3 weeks had a 27% increase in liver fat. Even being overweight contributes to fatty liver.
So, we get this vicious cylce. Inflammation increases in the body. This contributes to insulin resistance and the likelihood that fat is going to be deposited in the belly. This, in turn, creates more inflammation and more damage.
Do you have fatty liver?
So, how do you know if you have a fatty liver? Well, the challenge is that symptoms are not easy to detect and damage is often done before the disorder is discovered!
If you are concerned that you may have a fatty liver there are some tests that your doctor can run to get a diagnosis. For instance, fatty liver is associated with elevated liver enzymes which can be detected in your blood. Also evidence of fatty liver can be detected using ultrasound and a cat scan as well.
If you have the risk factors, which include carrying a lot of belly fat, you eat a lot of sugar/refined carbs or you drink a lot of soda or sweetened drinks you are likely headed down the path to a fatty liver!
It’s estimated that about 25% of the worlds population is carrying around excess fat in their liver(1)! And with our sugary diet… those numbers will probably continue to rise.
How to reverse fatty liver
So, if you do have fatty liver, what can you do about it? Well, we learned that the main cause is a poor diet. This also means it can be reversed by diet… at least in its early stages.
Here are some diet, exercise and supplement solutions that can help. As for diet, cutting out soda and other drinks sweetened with high fructose corn syrup or sugar is one of first things you should do. A healthy alternative is green tea or tea made with milk thistle. Both of these have been shown to be beneficial choices for liver health.
You can also cut out refined carbs and eat a low-carb diet. Carbohydrates are actually a non essential nutrient, meaning your body can make the building blocks of carbs even if they’re not coming in through your diet.
So, if you’re facing a diagnosis of a fatty liver you’ll do best to look at non starchy vegetables as your dietary carbohydrate source. This is because they have the best nutrient to calorie ratio. In fact, getting those non starchy vegetables in your diet is a great way to jump-start any healthy weight loss plan.
When you cut out refined and starchy carbs like pasta, bread, and bagels, don’t be afraid to replace those carbs with high-quality fatty foods and oils. These are not only great for hunger control but this low carb high fat diet will also improve your insulin sensitivity and help you lose weight… particularly belly fat, which is that dangerous fat that keeps you locked in the vicious cycle mentioned earlier.
You can also exercise to improve insulin sensitivity. All forms of exercise, whether low intensity like walking (when you do it regularly) or high intensity like Sprint’s or weightlifting have been shown to be beneficial.
There are also spices and supplements that you can add, including turmeric, which is also a great fat burning spice. Also omega-3 fatty acids (which can come from fatty fish or from a capsule) and apple cider vinegar are things to consider. Apple cider vinegar improves insulin sensitivity and it is certainly something to look into if you’re looking for an inexpensive and easily available solution.
One last supplement that is definitely worth mentioning is berberine which is a supplement that can help to lower blood sugar and improve fatty liver disease.
In this study 184 participants with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease were split into three groups. Each group received diet and exercise interventions. One group received only those interventions, the second was also given a prescription drug and the third was given the supplement berberine. The participants taking the berberine supplement outperformed the other groups. They had significant reduction in liver fat and the most weight loss.
Of course supplements are called supplements for a reason. They are intended to supplement a healthy diet… not replace it! They are not magic pills so you do have to get your diet on track first! A good low carb diet which contains plenty of whole, natural foods is the way to go for fixing a fatty liver.
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