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We only get one liver when we are born which is why liver health is something that everyone should be vigilant to protect. Except that most people only consider the health of their liver when they have to. This applies to everyone, not just those who use alcohol and drugs. Those who have an unhealthy diet can damage their liver just as much as a raging alcoholic will. Have you ever heard of the term non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)?
What Is Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver?
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is an umbrella term for liver disease that can affect those who drink very little and even those who consume no alcohol at all. This condition occurs when a person has too much fat stored in their liver cells. This form of chronic liver disease affects about one-fourth of the US population and is becoming more common in Western societies around the world.
This condition is most commonly seen in overweight or obese people.
Early stage NAFLD usually doesn’t cause damage, but it can lead to serious liver damage, including cirrhosis, if it gets worse. But what’s a little troubling is that NAFLD usually doesn’t cause any signs and symptoms. But when it causes symptoms, they can include fatigue and pain or discomfort in the upper right abdomen.
High fat levels in your liver are also linked to an increased risk of serious health problems, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney disease. If you already have diabetes, NAFLD increases your chance of developing heart problems. If detected and managed early, it is possible to stop the worsening of NAFLD and reduce the amount of fat in your liver. (1)
If you don’t get it under control, you’re in for a miserable death at some point as it can develop into severe cirrhosis and your liver stops working properly. Some individuals with NAFLD may develop nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), an aggressive form of fatty liver disease, characterized by liver inflammation and progressing to advanced scarring (cirrhosis) and liver failure. This damage is comparable to the damage caused by heavy alcohol use. When this happens, you may need to be put on a waiting list for a liver transplant.
It is said that experts do not know exactly why some people accumulate fat in the liver and others do not. But they do know that the following conditions are contributing factors, all of which can be traced back to poor nutrition.
Overweight or obese Insulin resistance, in which your cells fail to take up sugar in response to the hormone insulin High blood sugar (hyperglycemia), indicating prediabetes or type 2 diabetes High levels of fats, especially triglycerides, in the blood
Unfortunately, it is difficult for doctors to distinguish NAFLD from NASH without further testing.
Adopting a healthy lifestyle is the most important way to manage NAFLD.
For example, it can help to:
lose weight – you should aim for a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 (use the BMI calculator to calculate your BMI); lose more than 10% of your weight can remove some fat from the liver and improve NASH if you have it eat a healthy diet – try to have a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, protein and carbohydrates, but low in fat, sugar and salt; eating smaller portions can help, also drinking water instead of sweet drinks exercising regularly – aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity, such as walking or cycling, per week; all types of exercise can help improve NAFLD, even if you’re not losing weight, quit smoking – if you smoke, quitting can help reduce your risk of problems like heart attacks and strokes (1)
Complications of NAFLD and NASH
The main complication of NAFLD and NASH is cirrhosis, which is late-stage liver scarring. Cirrhosis occurs in response to liver damage, such as the inflammation in NASH. As the liver tries to stop inflammation, it produces areas of scarring (fibrosis). With ongoing inflammation, fibrosis spreads to take up more and more liver tissue.
If the process is not interrupted, cirrhosis can lead to:
Buildup of fluid in the abdomen (ascites) Swelling of veins in your esophagus (esophageal varices), which may rupture and bleed Confusion, drowsiness and slurred speech (hepatic encephalopathy) Liver cancer End stage liver failure, meaning the liver stops functioning
Between 5% and 12% of people with NASH will develop cirrhosis, do you want to become one of the unlucky few? (2)
(1) NHS United Kingdom
(2) Mayo Clinic
This post Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease – David’s Way to Health and Fitness was original published at “https://davidsway.blog/2022/03/31/nonalcoholic-fatty-liver-disease/”