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Fatty liver – Causes and Management
Fatty liver is the collection of excessive amounts of triglycerides and other fats inside liver cells.
Also called steatosis, fatty liver can be a temporary or long-term condition, which is not harmful itself, but may indicate some other type of problem. Left untreated, it can contribute to other illnesses. It is usually reversible once the cause of the problem is diagnosed and corrected.
The liver is the organ responsible for changing fats eaten in the diet to types of fat that can be stored and used by the body. Triglycerides are one of the forms of fat stored by the body and used for energy and new cell formation. The breakdown of fats in the liver can be disrupted by alcoholism, malnutrition, pregnancy, or poisoning. In fatty liver, large droplets of fat, containing mostly triglycerides, collect within cells of the liver.
The condition is generally not painful and may go unnoticed for a long period of time. In severe cases, the liver can increase to over three times its normal size and may be painful and tender.
Causes of fatty liver
The most common cause of fatty liver disease is obesity. Whereas several decades ago obesity was not very common, according to current statistics more than 50% are overweight. It is estimated that 75% of obese individuals are at risk of developing a simple fatty liver. Up to 23% of obese individuals are at risk of developing fatty liver with inflammation.
Besides obesity, nutritional causes of fatty liver disease are:
- Starvation and protein malnutrition,
- Long term use of total parenteral nutrition (a feeding procedure that involves infusing nutrients directly into the blood stream),
- Intestinal bypass surgery for obesity,
- Rapid weight loss.
Certain conditions often accompany and may contribute to fatty liver disease:
- Diabetes mellitus,
- Hyperlipidemia (elevated lipids in the blood),
- Insulin resistance and high blood pressure.
Other causes include:
- Genetic factors,
- Drugs and chemicals such as alcohol, corticosteroids, tetracycline and carbon tetrachloride.
In general, people with fatty liver disease have no symptoms. However, some people report discomfort in the abdomen at the level of the liver, fatigue, a general feeling of being unwell and vague discomfort.
Management of fatty liver
Treatments and drugs
No standard treatment for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease exists. Instead, doctors typically work to treat the risk factors that contribute to your liver disease. For instance, if you’re obese, your doctor can help you to lose weigh through diet, exercise and, in some cases, medications and surgery. If a drug is causing your fatty liver disease, your doctor may try to switch you to a different medication.
Lifestyle and home remedies
Along with your doctor’s help, you can take steps to control your nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
Lose weight. If you’re overweight or obese, reduce the number of calories you eat each day and increase your physical activity in order to lose weight. Aim to lose half or 1kg a week. If you’ve tried to lose weight in the past and have been unsuccessful, ask your doctor for help.
Choose a healthy diet. Eat a healthy diet that’s rich in fruits and vegetables. Reduce the amount of saturated fat in your diet and instead select healthy unsaturated fats, such as those found in fish, olive oil and nuts. Include whole grains in your diet, such as whole-wheat breads and brown rice.
Exercise and be more active. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. Incorporate more activity in your day. For instance, take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk instead of taking short trips in your car. If you’re trying to lose weight, you might find that more exercise is helpful. But if you don’t already exercise regularly, get your doctor’s OK first and start slowly.
Control your diabetes. Follow your doctor’s instructions to stay in control of your diabetes. Take your medications as directed and closely monitor your blood sugar.
Lower your cholesterol. A healthy plant-based diet, exercise and medications can help keep your cholesterol and your triglycerides at healthy levels.
Protect your liver. Avoid things that will put extra stress on your liver. For instance, don’t drink alcohol. Follow the instructions on all medications and over-the-counter drugs.
Vitamins for liver protection
Researchers have studied vitamin supplements for the treatment of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, but results have been disappointing. In theory, vitamins called antioxidants could help protect the liver by reducing or neutralizing the damage caused by inflammation. But studies of vitamin supplements haven’t supported this.
Home Remedies for Fatty Liver
Healthy life style and balanced diet will ensure normal functioning of liver. Do workouts regularly and avoid alcohol, drug use and oily, spicy and fatty foods. Take light foods, grapefruit and drink plenty of water. They strengthen your immune system and assist in detoxifying the liver. Milk thistle artichoke, licorice, dandelion, rosemary and phyllanthus are proven home remedies for fatty liver disease. Rebuild your liver and regain normal liver functioning by going through home treatment.
The safest way to increase the antioxidants you get is to eat more fruits and vegetables. If you’re interested in vitamin supplements, though, talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks. Large doses of vitamin supplements could interfere with medications or cause other complications.