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Note From the Author
If you have been diagnosed with fatty liver disease, you might be feeling afraid and somewhat bewildered at the thought of it.
I know I sure was whenever my doctor gave me the news. I wanted to understand all aspects of the condition so that I could begin to get my health back on track.
Of all the reading and research I did, I never came across a resource that answered all of my questions in one place.
This is what I have attempted to do with this website -- to provide you with a comprehensive explanation of what fatty liver disease is, what causes it and what the available treatments are.
It is my sincerest hope that this information is able to help you come to terms with and take control of this disease. Remember, it is never too late to begin living a healthy lifestyle.
In Good Health,
Watch this video for a better understanding of how the liver functions within your body:
What is Fatty Liver Disease?
Does your doctor say you have or may have Fatty Liver Disease? When someone is diagnosed with Fatty Liver Disease, or hepatic steatosis, they may often wonder how it happened – why exactly did their liver get fat and what does this mean for their quality of life?
First, you should know that this an increasingly common health problem, and you don’t have to drink a lot of alcohol to get it – in fact, the majority of cases have nothing to do with drinking.
More and more people are developing this condition every year as a result of their lifestyle habits. Surprisingly, an estimated 20% of people living in the United States have some form of fatty liver – and most of them don’t even know it.
Many doctors refer to Fatty Liver Disease as: “The fat you can’t see.” But, what exactly is Fatty Liver Disease?
Put simply, it is a condition characterized by an abundance of fat in the liver. Livers with a higher percentage of fatty build-up are more prone to serious health problems as a result.
Having too much fat in the liver is called steatosis, which by itself, isn't a huge cause for concern as it is generally a benign condition. However, if the steatosis worsens over time, the liver can enlarge and start to develop scarring. This can lead to cirrhosis of the liver which is very serious indeed – causing all sorts of problems, up to and including death at its most violent stages.
Complications usually arise when fat comprises more than over 5% of a person's total liver weight. As the fat cells develop, they push the liver cells further away from each other, placing strain on the organ.
Being diagnosed with a fatty liver is often an indication of future health problems to come if it is not dealt with right away, so it is important to monitor your liver health closely.
After all, your liver is critical for detoxifying your body, aiding in digestion, converting food into energy, breaking down fat and many other vital processes that your body depends on to maintain a state of optimal health and well being. It must be lean and healthy to perform these tasks well -- meaning you MUST take proper care of it.
Fatty Liver Disease (hepatic steatosis)
Also called: Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, AFLD, Alcoholic Steatohepatitis, Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, NAFLD, Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis, NASH
Fatty Liver Disease is generally separated into two categories – alcoholic and nonalcoholic. Theses terms are often used to describe a range of conditions and have various levels of intensity (i.e., stage 1, stage 2 etc..). Let's take a closer look at some of them now.
1. Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)
Fatty deposits of the liver not caused by alcohol. Patients are usually (but not always) overweight and sedentary, have a poor diet, high cholesterol, or have diabetes. Rapid weight loss can also cause it. The disease can progress to cirrhosis just like AFLD, if left untreated. Note that individuals with healthy lifestyles can also get NAFLD for unknown reasons, but this is more rare.
2. Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (AFLD)
Damage to the liver caused by excessive drinking, usually (but not always) over many years. It’s the first development of liver disease that can turn into cirrhosis and eventually to liver failure.
3. Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH)
While having a fatty liver may not cause lasting harm, NASH occurs when the liver progresses from having too much fat to actually being inflamed. This is much more serious and can lead to complications if not treated.
4. Alcoholic Steatohepatitis
Chronic and progressive liver disease caused by an over-consumption of alcohol. If left untreated, it will progress to cirrhosis, liver cancer, liver failure or liver related death. Patients are urged to stop drinking immediately.
Diseases Associated with a Fatty Liver
Contracting a fatty liver can put you one step closer to more serious illnesses if the proper care is not taken. Possible health conditions that Fatty Liver Disease might lead to can include:
What Causes Fatty Liver Disease?
There are various factors that contribute to a decline in liver health and some of them may be out of your hands. However, more often than not, the disease is primarily self-induced by poor health choices concerning diet and exercise. Eating a nutrient deficient diet or drinking copious amounts of alcohol over an extended period of time are common culprits.
While there isn't a concrete answer as to why the liver gets fat specifically, the current theory points towards complications arising from insulin resistance (a precursor to diabetes). This can cause a cascade effect of excess glucose and fatty acids entering into the bloodstream. These fatty acids then begin to accumulate in the liver. As more and more fat accumulates, the liver enlarges, and permanent scaring can result.
General causes of Fatty Liver Disease include obesity, alcoholism, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, genetic inheritance, celiac disease, sudden weight loss, various metabolism disorders, Weber-Christian disease, hepatitis C, Wilson's disease, dyslipidemia and side effects to prescription medications such as tamoxifen and corticosteroids.
Early Warning Signs of Fatty Liver Disease
Your liver is unable to feel pain, so spotting warning signs can be difficult. Although many people who suffer from Fatty Liver Disease do experience abdominal pain or discomfort, this is caused by the inflammation of the liver and not by actual pain in the liver. It may also be attributed at least in part to poor digestion, since having a fatty liver that cannot digest food properly can certainly lead to indigestion and abdominal symptoms.
That being said, there are some early warning signs of Fatty Liver Disease that include: nausea, chronic fatigue, diarrhea and a feeling of uncomfortable fullness in the upper abdomen.
As you can see, these symptoms could be hard to differentiate from many things, so if you suspect that you're having any warning signs and symptoms of Fatty Liver Disease, you should consult a medical professional and begin making the lifestyle changes necessary to stop the damage in it's tracks.
Common Symptoms of a Fatty Liver
Many people who have the nonalcoholic form of the disease never suffer any ill effects, while others do. The fact is there are rarely physical symptoms of fatty liver until it is quite advanced. This is a disease that is insidious and people who have it are often unaware of the problem until serious symptoms occur, if ever. This makes it a “silent” disease.
This is why it is so important to take good care of your body and always monitor your health. Don't skip your yearly check-up and report any abnormalities to your physician. Any manifestation of the following symptoms and you should not waste any time getting to a doctor. This is particularly true of pain in your upper right side, which is where your liver and gallbladder are both located.
General symptoms of Fatty Liver Disease include: fatigue, increased bruising, fluid buildup in the stomach and legs, unexplained weight loss, tarry stools, jaundice or yellowing of the skin and eyes, mental confusion, dark patches on the skin and pain in the upper right quadrant.
Medical Testing to Diagnose Fatty Liver Disease
Since there aren’t normally any symptoms for this health problem, you should simply go to the doctor if you are experiencing unexplained weight loss, unusual fatigue or pain in your upper right quadrant.
Needless to say, if you are showing any yellowing of the whites of your eyes or skin—which is jaundice—you should see a doctor immediately as this can be a sign of serious liver failure.
There are several diagnostic tests that may be performed to identify this condition. Your doctor might want you to have one or all of them, depending on the findings. Sometimes one test will show something that another test didn’t. For example, a liver biopsy furnishes an actual piece of the liver for examination.
Here are the current tests being done to diagnose this disease:
Depending on your doctor and your resources – whether or not you have insurance, for instance – you might opt for skipping the first two diagnostic tests and going straight for the liver biopsy. This test gets right to the heart of the matter with a definite diagnosis right away.
If you are diagnosed with it, there are homeopathic treatments that have proven effective in many people at treating, and even reversing, the course of the disease. You can also try a special and effective liver cleansing diet that will improve the disease if followed properly – more on this below.
Can Fatty Liver Disease be Reversed?
By this point you're probably wondering if fatty liver can be reversed?" Well, let's talk about that. The answer to this question depends on the amount of damage your liver has sustained thus far. Advanced stages of liver disease may not be reversible unfortunately.
If caught early, a fatty liver can be made lean again through vigorous diet and exercise, among other treatments (discussed below). The healing process of the liver must be an active one though. You can not simply take a pill to magically cure your liver.
It is hard work to reverse fatty liver disease and will require your full attention. The first step is to commit yourself to eating a healthy, liver-friendly diet along with plenty of fresh water. Avoid alcohol, high-glycemic carbohydrates and foods with added sugar. Lastly, if you are overweight, immediately start working on slimming down in a slow and controlled manner.
Treating a Fatty Liver
Treatments vary depending on the severity of the condition. Cirrhosis, liver cancer, and liver failure are serious medical conditions that can be life threatening. Treatment options can be more limited for these advanced stages.
This is why it’s important to spot the symptoms of liver disease early, in the inflammation and fibrosis stages. If you are treated successfully at these stages, your liver may have a chance to heal itself and recover fully.
Fortunately, there are medical and homeopathic treatments that can slow, halt, reverse and even eliminate fatty liver disease depending on how advanced it is.
Currently, treatment strategies for NAFLD consist of:
In recent years, there has been much progress in a holistic approach to treating fatty liver disease with such things as a liver cleanse, detox or flush.
While diet and healthy lifestyle changes are currently the best way to reverse NALFD (see below), your liver can also benefit from homeopathic treatments, such as this detox spray.
Milk thistle extract (silybin) and Chelidonium majus are some traditional herbs used to help the liver. Scientific studies of these herbs show promising results in helping the liver.
This is an attractive prospect to a lot of people who don’t like the modern tendency of the medical profession to try and treat everything with often toxic drugs that could possibly do more harm than good.
If you stop and really pay attention to the long list of potential side effects for many prescriptions medicines, it’s a classic case of throwing out the baby with the bath water. You may get rid of some symptoms of your original complaint, only to get whammied with more that are far worse than what you had to begin with.
If you choose homeopathic supplements, note that this will help your liver, but not reverse fatty liver disease. For that, you need to change your life around with diet and exercise, as I detail below.
Detoxing the Liver
The liver is the second largest organ in your body and it is also the most overworked. Every toxin that you come into contact with must be filtered through the liver. When it gets overworked, toxic compounds start building up and they begin to find their way into the organs, skin, fatty tissues and blood – this is what triggers inflammation.
Even if you follow a healthy diet most of the time, it may not be enough to rid your liver of toxin buildup.
A 'liver detox' or liver cleansing diet takes it a step further by helping eliminate the toxins stored in the liver, hopefully allowing your liver to reboot and rejuvenate.
A liver cleanse involves eating foods and drinking beverages that are healing to the liver. In some instances, it can mean fasting or abstaining from solid foods for a set period of time. Some common practices include drinking warm lemon water or fresh pressed juices, massaging the liver with castor oil and taking some sort of supplemental flushing agent, among other things. Read this article to assess if a detox is right for you.
Liver Cleansing Products Available on Amazon:
Optimal Diet for Fatty Liver Patients
There are certain dietary guidelines that will serve you well if you have been diagnosed with a fatty or damaged liver. Based on research conducted by the American Liver Foundation, eating a healthy diet is conducive to overall liver health.
The old saying “you are what you eat” aptly applies to the health of your liver. Eating a high-fat and nutritionally deficient diet can land you with Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) if you're not careful, which has a host of unpleasant symptoms you would probably prefer to avoid.
All the while, eating a healthy and well-balanced diet can allow your body to perform at it's optimal level. In fact, a properly configured diet plant is believed to be the best preventative measure there is for liver disease, and possibly even for regeneration.
"I can attest to the importance of nutrition for liver health -- I believe that eating healthy, all-natural foods was the primary cause for my accelerated liver recovery."
- Greg Daniels, fattyliverdietguide.org
Here are some suggestions about your diet that can help slow or even halt the progression of the disease that might take place otherwise:
For overall health, you should be eating adequate portions of foods from all of the recommended food groups, including dairy, meat, fats, grains, fruits, vegetables and protein.
If you have a fatty liver, then you should consider giving up red meat since it can be more difficult to process. Instead, try eating foods that are high in fiber, such as vegetables, fresh fruits, whole grain breads, rice, cereals and dried beans as well as a diet of common cleansing foods such as the ones listed below.
Foods that are good for Fatty Liver Diet
Foods that are bad for Fatty Liver Diet
Let's Talk Water
An important aspect of any fatty liver diet is adequate water intake. It can not be overstated enough, just how important it is to drink plenty of water day in and day out, not only for the health of your liver but for your entire body. In today's society, we've gotten so used to flavors (especially sugary) in our drinks that water seems bland by comparison.
But this is a big problem for your liver, which wants to push toxins out, not deal with more coming in (in the way of refined sugars, color additives and the like). And those extra calories aren't helping your waistline, either.
Water makes up 60-70% of the human body and over 90% of the liver, so it's extremely important that you stay hydrated at all times. Like your other organs, the liver requires water to function optimally, and if you have NAFLD, your compromised liver needs all the help it can get.
At your optimal water intake level, your liver will better be able to flush excess toxins from your body in order to repair itself. So how much do you need?
Experts agree that the old mantra of “eight 8-oz. glasses” a day isn't true for everyone. That may be too much for you – or it may be too little. How to tell? Look at your urine (yes, really). The darker your urine is, the more dehydrated you are. The urine of a person who's getting an adequate water intake looks very pale yellow or even clear. If it's amber or dark yellow, drink up – you're not getting enough.
AVOID beverages that contain added sugar, chemicals and, unless your doctor says otherwise, excess sodium. Sodium is actually dehydrating (although we all need a certain amount of sodium in our diet – again, check with your doctor). Sugar can worsen your fatty liver problem by spiking your insulin and storing in your fat cells. Read your labels carefully so you know what you're putting into your body.
Treat Your Liver Right -- It's Your Only One!
Did you know that your hard working liver is one of the most important organs in your entire body and has a big job to do in trying to keep you healthy? It’s true!
Your liver weighs approximately three pounds, is roughly about the size of a football and lies just below the rib cage on your right side.
Its large size (it’s the largest organ after skin) is in direct proportion to its role in such things as digestion, filtering harmful toxins from your body, absorbing nutrients and other critical functions necessary to your health and overall well being.
If your liver isn’t healthy, you are going to experience health problems. It isn’t a question of IF – it’s a question of when and what kind of problems. No ifs, ands or buts about it. If your liver isn’t in good health, you won’t be either. It’s just that simple.
As we've discussed, there are certain lifestyle practices and habits that are almost guaranteed to damage the health and efficiency of your liver, predisposing you to disease and illness. If you want to live a long and gloriously healthy life, keeping your liver up to par should be a top priority.
The best known fatty liver treatment is to observe the right diet and make certain lifestyle changes such as abstaining from alcohol and exercising regularly. You can be proactive about your own care by following the aforementioned recommendations. Take your treatment seriously and you can still live a long and healthy life.
We have covered a lot of information in this article thus far... let's recap what we've learned.
Fatty Liver Disease is very common. Millions of people around the world have it, so you are not alone. Since it is such a prevalent health condition, there has been a ton of research and study about the problem, along with various treatments.
If you have this condition, you need to become knowledgeable about what it is and how you came to get it in the first place. Then you can begin the process of treatment.
Knowledge is power and the more you understand about the cause and effects of Fatty Liver Disease, along with ways to reverse it, the higher chance there is for restoring your liver to a state of good health.
In a lot of cases, this disease is basically benign, meaning that it never causes any serious harm to your health. However, it can progress or bring on other problems that can be very serious indeed….even life threatening.
For this reason, it isn’t a good idea to just go blithely on, ignoring your condition. To play it safe and stay healthy, you need to make some adjustments to your diet and lifestyle and check-in with your doctor regularly.
Here are some suggestions for home treatment of fatty liver disease, or steatosis hepatitis:
The worst case scenario with this disease it that it could progress to the point where a liver transplant is your only option.
This may well be a classic case of an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure. Why sit back and do nothing, hoping that your condition won’t progress?
Where should you go from here?
It is my aim that this website can serve as a valuable resource for all things fatty liver. We have published nearly 100 articles pertaining to information about this condition so please peruse around the site to find answers to all of your questions. For those that would like access to a more concise and action-oriented diet plan, I suggest you check out this eBook.
It is a comprehensive guide called the “Fatty Liver Diet Guide” that was written by an RN with years of experience seeing patients with fatty liver disease — both the alcoholic and the nonalcoholic type. It has been recommended by top hepatologists and dietitians in the U.S. and used by countless sufferers, including me! In fact, this was the guide that first enlightened me to the importance of diet for liver health. You can read my review here.
Put simply, this guide is a proven winner that has been seen on Yahoo Health, Web MD and CNN.com Health. It is chock full of knowledge, information and sample diet plans that gives actionable advice you can use right away to reclaim your liver health. There are no toxic drugs to take, no doctor bills, no invasive procedures or surgeries, just a well-researched and well written publication that provides you the facts without all the fluff. It could literally be a lifesaver for you.
Discover the course that jump started my recovery
Want to Heal Your Fatty Liver?
This extremely helpful guide, called the “Fatty Liver Diet Guide” is an eBook that deals with every aspect and ramification of being diagnosed with fatty liver disease. It offers a holistic, natural approach to treating and actually reversing fatty liver disease.