Non-Alcohol-Related Fatty Liver (NAFL)

About the size of a football, the liver is located below the right rib cage. It is one of the largest organs and processes foods into usable nutrients by the body, stores them and supplies it to the cells when needed. It also removes environmental toxins from the body, including alcohol. About 90-98 percent of alcohol that you drink is broken down by your liver. The fatty liver disease is quite common in alcoholics and is the earliest stage of alcohol-related liver diseases.

However, in recent times Non-Alcohol-Related Fatty Liver (NAFL) is on the rise the world over. And it is intimately linked to your lifestyle and eating habits. If you eat lots of refined foods and hydrogenated fats (fast foods), you will probably have a fatty liver. Don’t worry, it is a reversible condition. SoulGuru tells you how to reverse NAFL. But, first, let’s know how did you get one?

What causes fatty liver

Fatty liver or hepatic steatosis is a condition when the body does not metabolize fat fast enough. The excess fat gets stored in liver cells and accounts for 5-10 percent of the weight of the liver.

Insulin resistance and fatty liver are intimately linked. All those health conditions that make you resistant to insulin-like obesity, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, hypothyroidism, and diabetes will increase your risk of fatty liver.

  • Obese individuals have five to fifteen times the rate of fatty liver.
  • Up to 85% of type 2 diabetics have fatty liver.

Insulin Resistance and fatty liver

Insulin resistance is a condition in which cells of the body are resistant to insulin – a hormone secreted by the pancreas post-meal – to ensure that the cells of the body unlock themselves and absorb the excess glucose from the bloodstream, as fuel or fat. Since the cells fail to recognize insulin hormone in insulin resistance, more of it gets secreted than it does in healthier people.

In the presence of high insulin, the liver turns into a storehouse of fat. It metabolizes carbohydrates and fructose into fatty acids. This fat can only be accessed by the body for energy if the inulin level comes down. Since high insulin and insulin resistance fuel each other in a vicious cycle, the liver keeps piling on fat.

Junk foods and fatty liver – The role of fructose 

Surprisingly, it’s not fat that is causing fatty liver, rather fructose or fruit sugar is the culprit. The fructose in fruit does not cause any problem as it is accompanied by an antidote of fiber. It is the fructose in the form of high fructose corn syrup that lies at the root of fatty liver. 

Our body handles glucose and fructose in different ways. Every cell of the body can burn glucose – the readily available source of energy, but only liver metabolizes fructose -the sugar found in breakfast cereals, sodas, fast foods, pasta and other foods and beverages. When fructose enters into our body, the liver initiates lipogenesis, a process whereby tiny droplets of fat begin to accumulate in the liver cells.

What are the symptoms of fatty liver?

Initially, you are not going to feel the effect of fatty liver. Your liver may be a bit enlarged. You may experience fatigue or abdominal discomfort. Your waist circumference will start to increase and you will develop belly fat – the most difficult fat to lose.

Other symptoms are

  • Abdominal swelling (ascites)
  • Enlarged blood vessels just beneath the skin’s surface
  • Enlarged breasts in men
  • Enlarged spleen
  • Red palms
  • Yellowing of the skin and eye

Why is fatty liver dangerous for you?

Fatty liver, obesity, and insulin resistance are normally found together and in the long run, it increases the risk of diabetes and heart attack. An article published in 2010 in The New England Journal of Medicine indicated that people with the nonalcoholic fatty liver disease are more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than liver disease.

Types of  NonAlcoholic Fatty Liver 

Simple fatty liver, in which you have fat in your liver but no inflammation or liver cell damage. Simple fatty liver typically does not get bad enough to cause liver damage or complications and is completely reversible.

Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), in which along with fat you have inflammation and liver cell damage. Inflammation and liver cell damage can cause fibrosis, or scarring, of the liver. It can also lead to cirrhosis.

Fatty Liver

What is to be done to reverse the fatty liver?

Tweaking your diet plan and incorporating certain foods will help detoxify your liver. These lifestyle changes will help reverse fatty liver.

Remove Refined Carbohydrate, Simple Sugar and Fructose

Eliminate white, processed flour and eat fewer starchy foods. The easiest way for your body to store surplus carbs is in the form of triglycerides, which promotes a fatty liver.Similar is the effect of refined sugar and fructose. Instead, eat freshly cooked foods and drink clean water. 

Remove trans fats and include healthy fats 

Avoid foods that contain trans fats and eat unprocessed nuts and seeds to get healthy fats. Foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids like fatty fish, flax seeds, walnuts are beneficial for health. Health fats like olive oil, avocados, coconut oil, butter, and cheese can also be included in moderation. 

Include moderate amount of protein in your diet 

Make easily digestible protein part of your every meal. A protein-rich diet balances blood sugar and lowers cravings so that you feel full for a long time. The insulin response is highly variable with different types of proteins. While vegetable proteins raise insulin minimally, meat proteins including seafood cause significant insulin secretion. Whey protein, protein bars, and protein shakes are a complete no-no. 

Include fiber in your diet

Incorporate a healthy dosage of fiber in your fruits and vegetables, from apples, carrots, and beets. Specifically, you should add following foods to a healthy liver plan. Fiber helps in detox, normalize bowel movements and prevent many chronic conditions associated with the fatty liver.  To know more about fiber read SoulGuru’s article Top 5 benefits of Dietary Fiber. 

Detox your liver

Eat detoxifying, liver-repairing super-foods, like garlic, grapefruit, turmeric, and lemons. The curcumin in turmeric helps heal the liver as it stimulates the production of bile by the gallbladder. The liver uses bile to eliminate toxins. Regularly eat foods from the cruciferous family – like broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, as well as leafy veggies like kale, cabbage, and watercress. Garlic and onions too are amazing sulfur-rich foods that help detox the body.Lemons as a part of healthy diet support your liver function. They are a naturally cleansing food and provide a wealth of antioxidants to your body. You can also look at going to a Naturopathy or Ayurveda retreat for a detox. A 10-15 days retreat can put you a speedy road to recovery. 

Ayurveda recommends turmeric tea to detox liver.
 1 teaspoon fresh ginger
2 teaspoons fresh turmeric
Pinch of black pepper
¾ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup organic coconut milk
1 teaspoon raw, organic honey

Simply heat the mixture in boiling water and add milk at the end. You can leave the ginger and turmeric pieces in your teacup or strain them out if you prefer.

Exercise Regularly

Exercise regularly and improve your metabolism. Working out daily improves insulin resistance and reduces fatty liver. Start out with something simple like walking 30 minutes and gradually move to high-intensity training and weightlifting.

Minimize use of painkillers

Avoid indiscriminate use of painkillers. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs( NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and aspirin, are commonly taken medicines for reducing pain and inflammations While the exact mechanism is unknown, NSAIDs have the potential to be toxic to your liver.  So if you have fatty liver be very careful with painkillers. 

The liver is a vital organ of the body.  Your overall health is closely knitted with the health of the liver. Therefore, take timely action to cure fatty liver.