Fatty Liver: a growing disease

August 24, 2019

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a condition in which extra fat develops on the liver and doesn’t usually cause any symptoms. NAFLD is an umbrella that encloses problems ranging from Non-alcoholic fatty liver (NAFL) to Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) to fibrosis. It has been found that about 25% of the adults are prone to NAFL; while 3-5% of them develop NASH. It is estimated that 63% of the people will be affected by NASH by 2030.

The different types of liver problems are:

  • Hepatitis caused by viruses Hepatitis A,B or C
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Alcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Cirrhosis
  • Amyloidosis- Accumulation of protein in the liver
  • Noncancerous tumor in the liver
  • Gall bladder obstruction
  •  Bile duct problems
  • Wilson disease- accumulation of copper in the liver
  • Hemochromatosis- Accumulation of iron in the liver
  • Cysts in the liver

Why is it necessary to find out which type of NAFLD you have?

Usually NAFL doesn’t affect the liver in terms of causing sickness, but people with NASH may have inflammation on their liver cells. This can lead to more complex conditions like fibrosis or liver cancer.

How do you detect whether you have simple NAFL or NASH?

This is usually done using a liver biopsy.

How does one develop a fatty liver?

The liver is responsible for making proteins for body functions, digestion, removal of toxic substances and storing fat. When the liver has to deal with a large amount of fat, the liver cells, hepatocytes, get to work immediately. Sometimes, the fat accumulates on the cells, leading to inflammation. The liver becomes prone to more scars, leading to fibrosis and liver cancer, which is usually irreversible.

Causes of fatty liver:

  1. Obesity
  2. Type 2 Diabetes
  3. High blood pressure
  4. Some drugs
  5. Unstable cholesterol levels
  6. Resistance to insulin
  7. Genetic factors

First, let’s discuss the preventive measures and these include the most basic lifestyle changes that you must incorporate.

  1. Maintain your body weight

This is most important and difficult to achieve. Starting off with baby steps, you should try losing at least 5 per cent of your body weight as soon as possible. Slowly, you should try losing 7 to 10 per cent. This will help reduce the inflammation or any damage to the liver and might even reverse any fibrosis condition. You should target losing a few kilograms of weight per week, as drastic reduction might worsen your condition. You should preferably consult a doctor who can help you with the weight loss process.

  1. Eat a diet which is balanced and wholesome

A diet that lays emphasis on fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains in the right amount is suggested. Try cutting down on the fatty foods like butter so that the liver cells aren’t burdened with the heavy fat. Also try cutting down on sugar as much as you can.

  1. Cut down on alcohol completely if possible

While NAFL is attributed to non-alcoholics, liver problem are a spectrum that affects those who drink alcohol. Why trigger the liver cells? Try cutting down on the level of alcohol, first slowly and then completely.

  1. Ensure that none of your medications have a toxic effect on your liver

It is important to check the side effects that your medication might have because it usually goes undetected. Check with your doctor if it has any effect on your liver or may lead to fibrosis. Also, limit the medication to the prescribed doses.

  1. Get vaccinated against Hepatitis

It is very crucial to prevent the viruses like Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B which is why you should get vaccinated against them.

  1. Increased physical activity

It is important for you to keep yourself active physically. You should dedicate at least 30 minutes a day for exercise and make sure that you don’t laze around. Keep yourself as active as possible, it will help maintain your weight.