Liver and Liver Diseases

What is Fatty Liver Disease? 2 Types of Fatty Liver Disease

Liver disease is one of the most common complications of diabetes. It can lead to scarring, or cirrhosis, in which the liver gradually ceases to function. There are many treatments for liver disease available, and your doctor will recommend the best treatment plan for you based on your symptoms and medical history.

Fatty Liver Disease and its Symptoms

The liver processes everything we eat, drink, and breathe. The liver processes fat, and when someone practices an unhealthy diet, fatty tissue will slowly build up in the liver. This happens because it exceeds the normal about of fat your body can handle, and thus fatty liver is developed. When a person has at least 5% of fat in their liver, this is classified as a fatty liver. There are two types of Fatty Liver Diseases: Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. NAFLD is a type of liver disease that results from an unhealthy diet without the consumption of excess alcohol.

The good news is, depending on the cause, Fatty Liver can often be reversed or treated with the modification of your lifestyle habits. 

Fatty Liver Disease, What you Should Know

World Liver Day is being observed around the globe on 19th April. The annual observance is aimed at spreading awareness about this crucial organ of the body and how to take care of it. The liver’s function is to process food and medicines as well as to detoxify the body by flushing out toxins through the blood. The primary function of the liver is to filter the blood that comes from the digestive tract and to make proteins important for clotting of blood during cuts and injuries, among various other functions.

There are several afflictions that may hamper the smooth functioning of the liver and these include hepatitis, cirrhosis, liver cancer, liver failure, gallstones, and fatty liver disease.

Types of Fatty Liver Disease

Fatty liver disease is a condition in which fat builds up in your liver. There are two main types:

  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
  • Alcoholic fatty liver disease also called alcoholic steatohepatitis

What is nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)?

NAFLD is a type of fatty liver disease that is not related to heavy alcohol use. There are two kinds:

  • Simple fatty liver, in which you have fat in your liver but little or no inflammation or liver cell damage. The simple fatty liver rarely gets bad enough to cause liver damage or complications.
  • Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), in which you have inflammation and liver cell damage, as well as fat in your liver. Inflammation and liver cell damage can cause fibrosis, or scarring, of the liver. NASH may lead to cirrhosis or liver cancer.

What is an alcoholic fatty liver disease?

Alcoholic fatty liver disease is because of heavy alcohol use. Your liver breaks down most of the alcohol you drink, so it can be removed from your body. But breaking it down can generate harmful substances. These substances can damage liver cells, promote inflammation, and weaken your body’s natural defenses. The more alcohol that you drink, the more you damage your liver. Alcoholic fatty liver disease is the earliest stage of alcohol-related liver disease. The next stages are alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis.

What are the symptoms of fatty liver disease?

Fatty liver diseases are getting more and more rampant around the world. The condition affects 10 million people in India every year. The condition results in the accumulation of fat in the liver. There are two types of fatty liver diseases – alcoholic and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. The causes of alcoholic fatty liver disease include excessive consumption of alcohol, while the cause of the non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is unknown. Some of the common risk factors of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease include obesity, type-2 diabetes and high levels of cholesterol in the blood. Chronic fatty liver may affect a person’s life and rarely have any symptoms, which is what makes the disease more dangerous.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease may also be linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. In both types of fatty liver diseases, it is crucial that the patient makes some lifestyle changes in order to manage the condition and it is very important to keep diet and nutrition under check.

“Both types of fatty liver diseases affect healthy liver cells that are replaced with fat cells. Diet therapy is recommended in either case.”

NAFLD usually causes no signs and symptoms. When it does, they may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Pain or discomfort in the upper right abdomen

Potential signs and symptoms of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and advanced scarring (cirrhosis) include:

  • Abdominal swelling (ascites)
  • Enlarged blood vessels just beneath the skin’s surface
  • Enlarged spleen
  • Red palms
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)

Who is at risk for fatty liver disease?

Doctors are not sure about the cause of nonalcoholic fatty liver (NAFLD). They know it is more common in people who;

  • Have type 2 diabetes and prediabetes
  • Have obesity
  • Are middle-aged or older (although children can also get it)
  • Are Hispanic, followed by non-Hispanic whites. It is less common in African Americans.
  • Have high levels of fats in the blood, such as cholesterol and triglycerides
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Take certain drugs, such as corticosteroids and some cancer drugs
  • Have certain metabolic disorders, including metabolic syndrome
  • Have rapid weight loss
  • Have certain infections, such as hepatitis C
  • Have been exposed to some toxins

How to avoid fatty liver disease?

There are many ways in which one can avoid this condition from occurring: maintain a healthy weight, keep your cholesterol levels under control (dietary changes), and stop drinking alcohol excessively.

Fatty liver disease prevention

  1. Don’t Drink Alcohol
    • Patients of the fatty liver must avoid alcohol consumption, as it may worsen the condition. It is important for those suffering from chronic fatty liver disease to steer clear of alcohol completely.
  2. Consume Complex Carbs
    • Although it is advisable to restrict the consumption of carbs while suffering from fatty liver disease, one must focus on replacing simple carbs with complex carbs like fibre-rich foods.
  3. Consume Adequate Protein
    • In a diseased liver, protein metabolism is affected. Therefore, it is important for people with fatty liver disease to consume adequate proteins in their diet.
  4. Don’t Do Away With Fats Completely
    • A lot of fatty liver patients remove fat-rich foods from their diet. However, patients should consume healthy fats in amounts that are healthy for their respective age and weight.
  5. Do Include More Omega 3 Sources
    • Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids may help the liver recover. Some common dietary sources of omega-3 include fish and seafood, nuts and seeds, and plant-based oils like soybean, canola oil, etc.
  6. Don’t Drink Sugary Fruit Juices
    • Steer clear of sugary fruit juices and foods and drinks with excessive sugar in them. She also advises people to keep away from fried foods.

How are fatty liver disease diagnosed?

Because there are often no symptoms, it is difficult to find fatty liver disease. Your doctor may suspect that you have it if you get abnormal results on liver tests you had for other reasons. To make a diagnosis, your doctor will use.

  • Your medical history
  • A physical exam
  • Various tests, including blood and imaging tests, and sometimes a biopsy

As part of the medical history, your doctor will ask about your alcohol used to find out whether fat in your liver is a sign of alcoholic fatty liver disease or nonalcoholic fatty liver (NAFLD). He or she will also ask which medicines you take to determine whether a medicine is causing your NAFLD.

During the physical exam, your doctor will examine your body and check your weight and height. Your doctor will look for signs of fatty liver disease, such as.

  • An enlarged liver
  • Signs of cirrhosis, such as jaundice, a condition that causes your skin and whites of your eyes to turn yellow

You will probably have blood tests, including liver function tests and blood count tests. Sometimes, you may also have imaging tests, like those that check for fat in the liver and the stiffness of your liver. Liver stiffness can mean fibrosis, which is scarring of the liver. Sometimes, you may also need a liver biopsy to confirm the diagnosis, and to check how bad the liver damage is.

Fatty Liver Diet

An ideal liver-friendly diet must be rich in antioxidant-rich foods like lots of veggies and fruits, as well as whole grains. “Basically, just eat clean food and stay away from processed foods. Also, include vitamin A and beta carotene in your diet,”. For those suffering from digestion troubles, having small frequent meals may help. Fatty liver patients must attempt to lose weight, as that can also help regulate the condition.

1. Foods to eat

Diet you consume majorly affects your body and various organs of the body. For fatty liver disease treatment, you need to make a few changes in your diet. Some foods can help you fight fatty liver diseases and help in the smooth functioning of the liver. Some foods which you must include in your diet to enhance the treatment for fatty liver include- green vegetables, fatty fishes, oats, walnuts, olive oil, garlic, nuts, legumes, berries, and grapes.

2. Drinks you must add to your diet

Water should be an essential part of your diet. Adequate water consumption is necessary for the body to function properly. Water keeps you hydrated and helps you remove toxins from your body. Enough water consumption can help in liver detoxification as well. Make sure that you consume enough water throughout the day to promote liver health. Other than water, you must add a few drinks to your daily diet for better liver function. You can add green tea and coffee to your diet for a healthy liver. Green tea and coffee can work well for fatty liver.

3. Foods to avoid

Some foods can trigger the condition and make the situation worse. You need to avoid a few foods to preserve your liver’s health. Some foods may include- added sugar, fried foods, white bread, too much salt, refined grains, and red meat. Along with these foods, alcohol is a big no for a person suffering from fatty liver. Alcohol consumption should be completely banned from the diet. Even light consumption should be not be allowed.

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Credit VivekNNair

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