- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is on the rise and the most surprising thing is that more and more kids are not being affected.
- Fatty liver can be reversed as long as it doesn’t progress past stage 1, using natural methods.
- Certain foods can support the health of your liver and reduce the amount of accumulated fat. Read on to learn more about the fatty liver treatment diet.
We always think of alcohol when it comes to the health of our liver, but there is also a condition called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).It’s becoming the most common liver disease worldwide.
This study’s findings are based on 22 countries around the world. The global prevalence of NAFLD is 25.24%. The areas with the highest amount of this illness are South America and the Middle East.
In this article, I will be discussing the best diet for fatty liver disease and be explaining how this happens and how it can be prevented.
Importance of the Liver in the Body
The liver plays a very important role in the body and we can’t live without it. One of the liver’s biggest functions is to remove toxins from your body. We are exposed to chemicals, pollution, and in some cases, medication, alcohol, and heavy metals every day. Our liver enables the other organs to get rid of them.
Functions of the Liver:
- Stores sugar and converts it into a form called glycogen, that the body can use for energy.
- Stores vitamins and minerals.
- Produces bile which is important for digestion and detoxification.
- Gets rid of old red blood cells that can no longer be used.
- Removes waste products that are a natural byproduct of your body’s functions.
- Makes sure that your blood clots properly. You see people with spider veins or brusing easily? Thats a liver problem.
- Activates your enzymes. Enzymes are responsible for many different processes in your body.
What is Fatty Liver
This is when there is an unhealthy build-up fat in your liver because it becomes unable to break down fats properly. If the fat in your liver makes up 5–10 percent of the organ’s weight, then you are diagnosed with fatty liver disease. Your liver does naturally sometimes have fat in it, but it’s when there is too much fat that it becomes a problem. The liver can’t function the way its meant to in this condition.
Fatty liver can happen at any age, even in children, though most cases are in people between 40 and 60 years old. The term nonalcoholic fatty liver disease means that the fatty liver was not caused by the use of alcohol but rather by an unhealthy lifestyle.
Causes of Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease:
- Being overweight or obese
- Raised triglyceride (blood fat) levels
- Insulin resistance
- Certain medications
- Losing weight too quickly
In some cases, fatty liver can progress. This does not happen to everyone, only around 20% of those with fatty liver disease will have it progress further. Those who do not receive treatment or continue to live an unhealthy lifestyle are most at risk for the progression of fatty liver disease.
There are 4 Stages of Fatty Liver Disease:
- Stage 1 (NAFLD or steatosis): This is where you just have the build-up of fat in the liver. The fat in the liver makes up 5 to 10% of the weight of the liver. It often goes undetected because of the lack of symptoms. This is the stage where you can still reverse fatty liver disease.
- Stage 2 (NASH): Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis or NASH means that the liver has become inflamed and possibly been damaged. Symptoms usually start occurring during this stage.
- Stage 3 (Fibrosis): This is when scarring has occurred around the blood vessels and liver cells due to prolonged inflammation. The liver can still function normally during this stage. It can take a long time for fibrosis to occur, a few years even.
- Stage 4 (Cirrhosis): This is the most severe stage and can be fatal. The liver is no longer able to function properly and becomes either enlarged or shrunken and lumpy. Scarring has replaced most of the healthy tissue. It takes many years of inflammation in the liver to progress this far.
Symptoms of Fatty Liver Disease
There aren’t always symptoms but there are a few symptoms that show up in the case that your liver becomes inflamed.
- Pain in the abdomen
- Poor appetite
- Weight loss
- Enlarged liver
Symptoms of the Later Stages Include:
- Swelling in the abdomen
- Pain in the upper right side of the abdomen
- Yellow skin and eyes
- Red palms
- Swelling of the ankles and legs
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abnormally large blood vessels just beneath the skin
Tests to Diagnose Fatty Liver Disease
Fatty liver is usually not detected until you get a checkup with your doctor, and often only when being tested for other issues. Sometimes the doctor will notice that your liver is enlarged which would prompt him or her to run tests.
Tests for Fatty Liver:
- Blood test: A fatty liver causes your enzyme count to be higher than usual. This is not a definite indication of fatty liver, but it will indicate the possibility that you may have fatty liver after which more tests will be run.
- Ultrasound: An ultrasound will be able to show your liver so that your doctor can determine whether there are any abnormalities with the size of your liver and how much fat there is. In an ultrasound, the fat shows up as white so that your doctor can see where it is and how much. You can’t see damage on an ultrasound, however.
- Fibroscan: This is very similar to an ultrasound and is able to show the same things.
- MRI or CT scans: These are other imaging tests that can be done to view your liver, but they are also unable to show any damage in your liver.
- Liver biopsy: This is the only test that can confirm whether there is any damage and the only way to truly confirm if it is fatty liver disease. A piece of your liver tissue is removed with a needle and sent in for tests. You will be given local anesthetic before this happens. Your doctor will also be able to tell what caused fatty liver disease from a liver biopsy.
Natural Methods to Heal From Fatty Liver
By treating the cause of your fatty liver whether it’s diabetes, being obese or overweight, or having high triglyceride levels, you will be treating the fatty liver itself.
1. Remove These Foods From Your Diet
The first step for treatment should be to limit your fructose consumption to under 15 grams per day. When you hear the word fructose, you may think about HFCS (high fructose corn syrup). HFCS is a form of fructose that is processed and used in many processed foods.
One of the other biggest sources of fructose is Fruit. Fruit is healthy but only in moderation. The problem with fruits are that you always over-consume them because your brain never gets the signal that you are full, especially if you are eating fruit by itself.
The problem with fructose is in its metabolism. When we eat glucose it is metabolized by every cell in the body for energy, whereas fructose goes directly to the liver where most of it is converted into triglycerides. If we consume excess fructose it will tax our liver.
Be very careful the drinks you give to your kids. For the pediatrician, it is very surprising that 10% of American kids are suffering from NAFLD. Kids’ Punch and Kids’ drinks out there are all full of sugar.
As mentioned, processed foods are often full of sugar, especially HFCS. Not only that, but they are full of unhealthy fats and excessive amounts of sodium too. They also lack nutrients. When you eat these foods very often you are not giving your body what it needs to detox properly.
You are in fact adding to the toxic load by consuming unhealthy trans fats and increasing your risk for obesity and problems with your blood pressure and other diseases. All of this puts a strain on your liver and the other organs that detox your body like your colon and kidneys.
My mom has fatty liver disease. When my research to reverse her fatty liver started, I learned that a diet high in processed foods is the number one reason for fatty liver disease. But, I knew in my heart that my research has to go on because my mom always ate healthily and she even made the effort to ensure that her kids eat the healthiest foods too. So ger problem was Not Processed foods or high fructose but too many beauty products that she was using, which I am listing below.
The second biggest reason for fatty liver is “Endocrine Disruptors” and here are some.
2. Beware of Your Household Cleaners and Personal Care Products
Personal care products and cleaners in your house contain chemicals which are “Endocrine Disruptors”, meaning they can mess with your hormones. These chemicals can amplify, mimic or suppress your hormones. The balance of hormones is very important.
Hormonal Balance is Important For:
- Body Temperature – This is the reason some people´s hands and feets are always cold to touch
- Digestion and blood circulation
- Your Mood (which makes us girls a little bitchy before our periods)
- Proper development in children
- Healthy weight management
- Proper sleep
- Healthy blood sugar levels
The common diseases associated with hormonal imbalance is Diabetes and Hypothyroid/Hyperthyroid problems.
Your liver will always be working hard to get rid of these chemicals to protect your body and keep it healthy. With the amount of chemicals we are exposed to, this overburdens our liver.
Some of the Most Common Endocrine Disruptors around us are:
a. Plastics (BPA)
We have all been hearing about BPA free containers. Anyways if you are a thorough reader of my blog you have already cut the canned foods from your diet. So I am just warning about BPA in household containers.
Dump all the plastic containers from your house. When I first read the science behind it, I was really shocked to see that my kitchen and personal care products were all in plastics. I did not know where to start. It was a lot of wastage of course.
So I first made sure not to put cooked or hot stuff in the plastics at least and made sure that my 1-year-old baby does not get anything in plastic because the people who are most affected by these chemicals are infants and pregnant women. Even the BPA-free plastics may not be safe. Follow these tips to stay clear of BPA and other chemicals put into plastics.
- Buy glass containers and store food in glass containers.
- Never microwave food in your plastic containers.
- Canned foods have a plastic coating inside to protect them from rusting. Avoid cans.
- Don’t use plastic wrap.
b. Phthalates in Parfumes
This is one class of chemicals typically found in fragrance which can disrupt hormones. It’s also found in some cleaning products, cosmetics, and some plastics because it makes them more flexible. If you read the ingredients on the back of the label, often it will only be marked as “perfum”, “Parfum”, or “fragrance”. The biggest mistake what women does is that they apple these scented body lotions after the warm bath when your pores are open and your body is very receptive to anything you put on.
- Choose fragrance-free creams, cleaning products, and laundry detergents, and baby products.
- Look for fragrance or phthalate-free garbage bags as well.
Pesticides and herbicides have been found to be endocrine disruptors. The CHAMACOS Cohort Study found that those most at risk are children, especially during pregnancy. Lower birth rates, lower IQ, earlier births and attention disorders are just a few of the effects.
- Buy organic produce, especially these foods on the EWG’s (Environmental Working Group) dirty dozen list.
- If you can’t afford to buy all your produce organic, check out the Clean Fifteen list also by the EWG. These you can buy non-organic if need be.
- If you can’t afford to buy organic at all, be sure thoroughly wash all your fruits and vegetables and peel those that you can. One hack what my mom uses is that she will soak the vegetables and fruits in water and vinegar for 20 minutes before using them. I think the ratio is 5:1. 5 parts of water to 1 part of white vinegar.
NB. It’s good practice wash all your fresh produce before eating or cooking with them anyway.
Parabens are preservatives that are used in so many personal care items. The most common is deodorants but they are also in body lotions, face creams, body wash, etc. While parabens are still FDA approved, research shows that they do have an effect on breast tissue cells and may be a risk for cancer. no wonder that breast cancer is on rise because of these endocrine distruptors. The recent study shows that high levels of estrogens are observed with women with breast cancer. This explains a lot about these Xenoestrogens.
- Due to the risks, many companies are producing cosmetics and personal care products without parabens. You can find a list of brands here.
- When buying products check the labels for the following: isoparaben, methylparaben, butylparaben, or propylparaben. Avoid these products.
e. Flame Retardants
Flame retardants are a safety measure to prevent fires from spreading quickly should our furniture catch fire. It’s also in some cosmetics and personal care products. While reducing one risk these chemicals have increased the risk for others, namely problems and even cancer of the thyroid. They also affect the development of children and affect the hormonal balance in adults.
- Wash your hands: You should also make sure that your kids wash their hands regularly as well, especially before eating. These flame retardants are even in children’s toys and mattresses. Washing your hands reduces the amount that enters your body.
- Vacuum: Vacuum your house preferably with a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter because household dust contains these chemicals due to the furniture. This will prevent you from breathing them in.
- Read teh Labels: Avoid products that contain flame retardants. Look for labels that read “Free from Flame Retardants”.
- Research: When you buy new furniture make sure the items are free from flame retardants. You can do some research here before buying any new furniture or call the company manufacturing the furniture you are interested in to find out if they use flame retardants.
3. Limit Your Carb Intake
A new clinical study was just released linking a low-carbohydrate diet to reduced liver fat. Excess carbohydrates are converted into fat and raise liver fat by way of a process called de novo lipogenesis.
What Does De Novo Lipogenesis Mean
De novo lipogenesis simply put means to convert something that isn’t fat into fat. In this case, carbohydrates that are not able to be stored or used up by the body is converted into fat. This is because the body isn’t able to store as many carbohydrates while it has the ability to store lots of fat.
Carbohydrates when you eat them end up as glucose which is then used as energy for your body. Glucose is present in your blood and is stored in your muscles and liver as glycogen and this is used by your body to perform various biologicals functions and when you move around and exercise. Your liver stores about 100 g and your muscles 400 g of glycogen. No more can be stored.
If you get a good amount of exercise then this is not as much of a problem. The simple truth, however, is that you can never out-exercise a bad diet. So if you are consuming more carbohydrates than you can spend or store up it will get converted to fat. Not only will you pick up weight but your liver fat also increases.
As Paleoleap.com puts it:
De novo lipogenesis gets turned up during high-carb overfeeding. De novo lipogenesis also happens in liver cells, in response to the same types of diets (high-carb + calorie surplus).
Low Carb Diets are Better for Liver Health
When your body doesn’t have much glucose or glycogen to use as energy, it switches to burning fat for energy. Much of the fat that is used for energy comes from the liver which keeps your liver fat levels down and at a healthy level. This is important for prevention and for reversing fatty liver disease. A lower-carb diet also burns fat from the rest of your body which aids weight loss too.
Very low-carb diets actually also put a lot of strain on your liver so keep your carb intake at a moderately low level. An intake of 40% carbs is sufficient to reduce fat in the liver safely without placing undue stress on it.
Refined Carbohydrates are the Worst
Whenever food is processed some of the nutritional value is lost and they become worse for your body. One of the best examples is fruit juice. While fruit in excess isn’t a good idea because of the fructose content, they contain fiber. This helps to slow down how quickly your body processes the sugar. When the juice is extracted, all you’re getting is sugar.
Refined Carbohydrate Disadvantages:
- Your blood sugar levels are spiked
- The sugar turns to fat quicker
- Your body starts to lose insulin sensitivity which can cause type 2 diabetes and fatty liver disease.
Rather Choose These Carbohydrates:
- Sweet Potatoes
- Vegetables: Yes! vegetables have carbs in them.
Roots of plants are a far healthier option to both refined carbohydrates and even whole grains. But in the event that you still eat grains, stick to whole grains which are very minimally processed and are less likely to lead to a decrease in insulin sensitivity. Read here about healthy grains that your body will love!
The Best Exercise for a Healthy Liver
A lifestyle change is what is necessary to prevent and treat fatty liver disease. The fatty liver treatment diet is really just eating for health and adopting habits that keep you healthy.
Exercise is one of the best things you can do for yourself in addition to a healthy diet. The WHO (World Health Organisation) recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. That works out to a half an hour a day of moderate exercise five times a week or 15 minutes of vigorous exercise five days a week.
So many people fall short of these reasonable targets and only start exercising when they want to lose weight. But exercising is not just about weight loss. You can still be skinny and be unhealthy. The term skinny-fat is a good description. Exercise helps to maintain and improve your health in so many ways.
The Benefits of Exercise:
Exercise helps to prevent and reverse fatty liver disease even at just the recommended minimum amount of 150 minutes a week. This was without any weight being lost. But how does exercise do this?
- Detoxification: Exercise helps the body to detox through sweating which helps to keep your entire body healthy including your liver.
- Insulin sensitivity: Exercise Increases insulin sensitivity because it improves the way your body uses glucose. The beneficial effect on insulin sensitivity during exercise lasts for around 16 hours afterward.
- Fat burn: Exercise burns fat, not only the visible fat on your body but your triglycerides too. Your blood fat levels will be lowered and it will also reduce the harmful visceral fat (fat in the stomach area) provided you exercise consistently. 300 minutes a week is very beneficial for weight loss.
- Uses up excess carbohydrates: Your muscles use glycogen during exercise, during resistance training and aerobic training, which minimizes the risk of excess carbohydrates being left in your body to be converted to fat.
- Better circulation and oxygen usage: Because your heart rate is raised your blood is pumped more effectively around your body and because it causes you to breath quicker you have more oxygen in your body.
Which Type of Exercise Should You Do
Interval training is the best form of exercise for fat burn and to burn more calories.
This is the type of training where you have short bursts of higher intensities with longer intervals of moderate effort or some rest. An example is jogging at a moderate pace for 2-5 minutes and then sprinting full out for 30 seconds to 2 minutes and repeating the cycle or doing 20-60 second intervals of resistance training with a 10-45 second rest in between sets.
This is because during the intense intervals your body taps into the anabolic energy system which at first uses the phosphagen system (ATP-CP), this doesn’t use glucose or fat. Then after 30 seconds, it switches to glycolysis which burns glucose as energy. Then during your resting or lower intensity intervals, your body burns fat for energy (aerobic energy system). Understand more about the energy system of the body here.
Using all the energy systems of your body is incredibly beneficial and produces the afterburn effect. The afterburn effect is where your body’s metabolism remains sped up for another 24-48 hours after you have finished your workout as long as it lasted at least 20 minutes. Interval training can be intense and counts as vigorous exercise so you only need a minimum of 75 minutes a week.
But it’s important to choose a form of exercise that you enjoy so that you keep doing it. Whether it’s aerobic like swimming, jogging, or dancing or whether it’s resistance training like lifting weights or doing bodyweight exercises it’s important that you will remain consistent. If you can target your whole body in your weekly routines that is also an added benefit.
Fatty Liver Disease Diet Plan and Supplements
Though for the most part you just need to eat healthily, there are some foods that have more benefits than others for NFLD.
1. Raw Vegetable Juice
When vegetables are kept raw a lot of the nutrients are retained because some vitamins like vitamin C and the B vitamins are destroyed by heat, both of which are important for detoxing. There are some vegetables that are better to be cooked, however, like cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage) to protect the health of your thyroid.
Quickly boiling them before adding them to your juices and smoothies will help.
Vegetables Ideal for a Liver Detox Include:
- Brussels sprouts
- Collard greens
Beetroot juice is a great way to start because it does have a sweeter taste. But be careful of using too much beetroot because of the sugar content. Read more about juicing for health and weight loss and health add-ins to boost your smoothies here.
2. Healthy Fats
This sounds totally counterintuitive. You may be thinking “I have already too much fat circulating, I should be adding more fat-free foods”. Fat-free foods or low-fat foods are totally terrible for your health and I have written a whole article here about the importance of the healthy fats.
The fattiest organ in your body is your brain which is at least 60% fat. So when you limit healthy fats like omega 3 and saturated fats your brain suffers the most. It’s the same case with healthy cholesterol levels which are important for hormones production and lining your cell walls.
Omega 3 fatty acids are especially helpful for reducing inflammation in the body. When you have a fatty liver you want to keep your liver from becoming inflamed. Avoid eating too many omega 6 fatty acids which are found in seed oils, baked goods, some nuts, and seeds. Too much omega 6 reduces the amount of omega 3 in the body. The ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 should be 1:1.
Your body can’t function without fats, just make sure that they are the healthy fats.
Foods Containing Healthy Fats:
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil
- Wild salmon
- MCT oil
Avoid trans fats, these are the fats that are detrimental to your health. They behave like toxins in your body. Cooking with healthy fats incorrectly can damage them and turn them into trans fat. Learn about cooking with oils safely here.
Don’t believe me about fat being good for the liver? Listen to the doctor here:
Choline is a B vitamin that helps to break down fat in the liver and also plays a role in detoxing our bodies. Our bodies do make choline but your body may not be able to make enough, usually, genetics is the reason for that. You need to get it from your diet.
Foods High in Choline:
- Egg yolk
- Beef liver
- Wild Salmon
- Brussels sprouts
You can also take choline as a supplement if necessary, though you should be able to get enough from your diet.
Yes, eating liver helps the liver. Liver is a great source of choline, but it also contains many other vitamins that are beneficial for your body, in particular vitamins A, B, C, D, E and K which help the body to detox. Don’t overdo it with the liver though, it also contains a lot of iron which your body really needs, but when you eat too much iron it can cause and/or worsen scarring in the liver.
One serving (85 g) a week will be fine unless you have a vitamin A or iron deficiency. It’s also incredibly high in vitamin A, so if you are pregnant rather leave the liver.
5. Supplements for Liver Support
- Milk Thistle: Milk thistle (silymarin) is well-known for being good for the liver. Not only does it help the liver to get rid of toxins but it reduces inflammation in the liver and increases insulin sensitivity as well. A dosage of up to 150 mg three times a day is safe for short-term use. But a dose of 50 – 150 mg per day can be used regularly to maintain the health of your liver.
- Dandelion: Dandelion detoxes the body and rebuilds the liver cells. Dandelion also contains vitamins and minerals including vitamin C so it helps to reduce inflammation. You can drink it as a tea or add it to your meals. You can use 2 teaspoons of dry dandelion 3 times a day or 100-150 drops of tincture a day initially.
- Turmeric: Turmeric is a powerful spice that helps to detox the liver and helps to reduce fat in the liver up to 78.9%. This is due to curcumin which is what makes turmeric yellow. The health benefits of curcumin are enhanced by piperine which is found in black pepper. You can take 500 mg of turmeric a day to achieve these benefits.
Read more about how to keep your liver healthy by detoxing here.
- Risk factors and causes of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease include obesity, diabetes, high triglyceride levels, thyroid problems, and high cholesterol.
- Avoiding or limiting your sugar and refined carb intake is one of the best ways to combat fatty liver.
- Reduce your exposure to toxic chemicals like BPA, phthalates, parabens, fire retardants, and pesticides.
- Adopt healthy a healthy diet and lifestyle to reverse fatty liver or prevent it.
- Exercise is important as well as including foods like healthy vegetables, choline, liver, and herbs and spices.
Please share your experience with fatty liver disease in the comments and if you have reversed fatty liver disease, please share with us all how you did it.
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