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Fatty Liver Disease: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

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Emmanuel Ekokotu
Ekokotu Emmanuel Eguono is a mass communicator and fashion designer. When he is not behind a laptop screen or on a sewing machine, he spends his time netflixing and swimming.

Fatty liver is said to occur when too much fat builds up in liver cells. It is also referred to as Hepatic Steatosis. Intake of too much alcohol may lead to fatty liver but most times it doesn’t really play a role.

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Most children and adults in Western countries have non-alcoholic liver disease(NAFLD) which happens to be the most common of liver diseases.

NAFLD is linked to increased risk of other diseases which includes diabetes and kidney diseases.

Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)

In this type of fatty liver disease, alcohol is not involved. Instead, it occurs from metabolic syndrome, a condition resulting from a large amount of belly fat, high blood pressure and insulin resistance. There are different types of NAFLD:

Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)

This is a very serious type. NASH simply means there is an inflammation in the liver and more likely damage to the liver cell. This damages can cause serious problems such as:

  • Cirrhosis: severe scarring of the liver which can lead to liver failure and can also cause death
  • Liver cancer
  • Simple fatty liver: This simply means that there is fat in your liver but you may not have any damage to your liver cells or inflammation. Most people with NAFLD have simple fatty liver.

Alcohol-related Fatty Liver Disease (ALD)

If your liver grows bigger, you might feel pain or feel not comfortable on the upper right side of your belly.

If you can stop drinking alcohol, you can prevent ALD. But if you continue drinking, it might cause serious problems like;

Alcoholic Cirrhosis: this is the buildup of scar tissue in the liver. Its symptoms may include;

  • bleeding in the body
  • high blood pressure in the liver
  • liver failure which can be very dangerous
  • Behavioural change and confusion

Alcohol Hepatitis: this simply means the swelling in the liver that causes nausea, belly pain, vomiting, jaundice (yellowing of eyes and skin) and fever.

Symptoms

ALD and NAFLD don’t usually have symptoms. Some people tend to notice signs such as tiredness and pains in the upper right side of the belly which is where the liver is located. Although if u have NASH, you may have symptoms like;

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  • Red palms
  • Swollen belly
  • Jaundice (yellowing of eyes and skin)
  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal pain
  • Enlarged blood vessels underneath the skin

Causes

Fatty Liver Disease

For ALD, the cause is the intake of too much alcohol. You may be likely to get the disease if you are obese and malnourished.

NAFLD OR NASH is more likely if:

  • You are overweight or obese
  • Your body does not respond to insulin as it should or you have type 2 diabetes.
  • High intake of refined carbs. When refined carbs are taken too frequently, it increases liver fat storage and is also bad when taken too much by people that are overweight.
  • Sugary beverage
  • Some energy drinks have high fruit-sugar which accumulates liver fat in children and also adults.
  • you have metabolic syndrome which is a mix of condition that makes you more likely to get heart disease or type 2 diabetes.

With metabolic syndrome, you might have any three of these conditions:

There are also some less common reasons you might get NASH or NAFLD. These include;

  • Fast weight loss
  • A medical condition that affects how your body stores fat
  • Hepatitis C or other infections
  • Gallbladder removal

Diets for fatty liver disease include;

  • No alcohol
  • Lots of fruits
  • Little sugar, salt, and saturated fat
  • Lots of vegetables
  • High fibre plants

Diagnosis

These conditions are not easy to diagnose. Some of the things your doctor may use to diagnose the fatty liver disease are;

  • Blood Tests: If you have elevated liver enzymes, you might be diagnosed with fatty liver disease. The test will be recommended by your doctor if you developed signs of liver disease.
  • Imaging Test: There are different imaging test to check for problems with your liver. They include CT scan, MRI scan or the ultrasound exam. This test helps to show if there is fat in your liver but it does not tell if it is NASH or simple fatty liver.
  • Physical Exam: In this diagnosis, your doctor weighs you for signs of liver problems such as jaundice(yellowing of eyes and skin)or enlarged liver.
  • Liver Biopsy: In this case, the doctor will insert a needle into your liver to remove tissue. This tissue will then be examined to see if it has liver inflammation or damage. Though before this procedure, you will get a medicine that will help you relax or control the pain. When the examination result is out, you will be able to know if you have the disease. The liver biopsy is the only way for doctors to diagnose NASH.

Prevention

  • Limit or avoid alcohol: this can help with ALD. Its the one way you can keep your liver damage from getting worse
  • Have a healthy weight
  • Control blood sugar of cholesterol levels
  • Exercise for at least 30minutes a few times a week

Treatment

There are no medical treatments that have been approved for the disease yet though some are in clinical trials.

Some of the lifestyle changes that can help with NAFLD are;

Weight loss

losing just 3% to 5% of your body weight can cut down how much fat is in your liver and also losing 6% to 9% of body weight will help decrease the injury to your liver cells and may reverse some of the damages if fibrosis.

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Exercising Well

If you are trying to lose weight, it helps to exercise more. If you are not regular to exercise you can take it slowly. Exercise helps to decrease fat in the liver.

Kindness to your liver

Avoid alcohol. Take medications as instructed and you don’t have to take all-natural products. Just because a product is natural, it does not mean that it is safe.

Manage your diabetes

Always check your blood sugar and make sure to take your medication as prescribed by your doctor.

Eating well

This nutrition plan emphasizes on taking fruits, legumes, nuts, more fresh fish and using olive oil instead of butter and also to eat a healthy plant-based diet.

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