September 10 2021
Also called NAFLD, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is a condition in which fats get accumulated in the liver of people who do not consume alcohol. This condition is getting very common in people around the globe, particularly in western countries. Some people with this condition can also develop non-alcoholic steatohepatitis which is an aggressive form of NAFLD. This condition causes inflammation and may even lead to cirrhosis and liver failure. The damage caused by this condition (NAFLD) is similar to the one caused by excessive alcohol.
Symptoms of NAFLD
Many people, who have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, do not experience any such symptoms. However, when experiencing symptoms, one may observe the following:
- Pain in the abdominal area (upper part)
- Swollen belly
- Yellowing of eyes and skin (jaundice)
- Enlarged liver or spleen
- Enlarged blood vessels beneath the skin surface
If this condition leads to cirrhosis, one may experience symptoms like mental confusion, retention of fluids, poor functioning of the liver, and internal bleeding. If you have any of these symptoms mentioned above, it is highly advised to see a doctor immediately.
Causes of NAFLD
There is limited information about the exact causes of NAFLD, researchers still have not found out why some people develop or accumulate fats in the liver with little or no consumption of alcohol. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is linked to obesity, high levels of blood sugar, high levels of fats and triglycerides in the blood, and insulin resistance (a condition in which the cells of the body do not use sugar in response to insulin). These factors are seen to promote the accumulation of fats in the liver.
Risk factors of NAFLD
Conditions like metabolic syndromes, polycystic ovary syndrome, and sleep apnea, high levels of triglycerides and cholesterol, underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), an underactive pituitary gland (hypopituitarism) increase the risk of developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. People who are older or aged diabetic, pregnant women, and people who have highly concentrated fats in the abdominal area are more likely to develop this condition.
Complications caused by NAFLD
The main complication that NAFLD or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease can cause is cirrhosis, which is a condition associated with poor functioning of the liver. Other than cirrhosis, it can also lead to fluid buildup in the abdominal area, liver cancer, swelling, or inflammation in the esophagus. This means that the liver won’t be able to perform the following functions in the body:
- Processing hemoglobin and iron storage.
- Production of bile (which breaks down fats and removes toxins)
- Metabolism of medicines
- Conversion of ammonia in the blood to harmless urea for excretion
- Regulation of blood clotting
- Storage and release of glucose for the energy needs of the body
- Production of cholesterol for cellular health
- Removal of bacteria from the blood
- Production of immune factors to fight off infections
Cirrhosis can eventually lead to liver cancer or liver failure which can be treated with some medications. However, in most cases, a transplant is required. Early diagnosis of this condition can be easily treated with some dietary and lifestyle changes.
Prevention of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
Other than medications, there are many lifestyles and dietary changes that can help in treating non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, like:
- Coffee: coffee has proved to be effective in enhancing the health of the liver. It acts on the liver by stimulating the production of liver enzymes that fight inflammation. Research has also shown that regular consumption of coffee can be beneficial in preventing conditions like NAFLD and enhancing the overall health of the liver.
- Get physically active: a sedentary lifestyle can worsen this condition. In addition to this, an inactive lifestyle can also cause other conditions like diabetes (type-II), obesity, and heart diseases. It is very important to stay active if you have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. It is advised to engage the body in some physical activity, which can involve swimming, aerobics, sports, and even walking. 30 minutes of physical activity in a day for 5 days a week is considered healthy.
- Avoid added sugars: dietary intake of some sugars like fructose and sucrose have been linked to the development of the non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, research suggests. Foods like sugary cereals, ice creams, soft drinks, sports drinks, sweetened dairy products, energy drinks, candy, cakes, cookies, pies, etc, may contribute to this condition and hence must be avoided.
- Lose the extra weight: weight loss is considered a critical part of treating NAFLD by researchers and doctors. Losing 7 to 10 percent of the total body weight can improve conditions associated with NAFLD, like inflammation, fibrosis, and scarring. Losing weight is also associated with reduced fat buildup in the liver, which also enhances liver health. It is advised to gradually take steps towards a weight loss journey, as; extreme diets or fasting can affect the liver negatively.
- Keep a check on your diet: doctors usually advise taking a balanced and healthy diet, consisting of proteins, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and carbohydrates. Foods that must be added to the diet of a person with NAFLD:
Legumes: beans, peas, lentils, kidney beans, chickpeas.
Healthy fats: nuts, seeds, avocados, olives, and healthy choices of oils for cooking.
Lean proteins: fish such as salmon, eggs, lean poultry in moderation.
Whole grains: whole wheat bread, brown rice, whole oats, whole-wheat pasta, quinoa.
Natural supplements for liver health
- Alvizia's omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats that can be found in fish and some nuts or seeds. These supplements are recommended for people who have NAFLD.
- Alvizia’s fish oil, or alenfish, is a dietary supplement that comes in different variants- double and triple strengths. It helps fight inflammation, curing cramps during the menstrual cycle, enhancing bone density and structure; enhancing brain functions, skin, and hair. This supplement is also beneficial for liver health and prevents conditions like NAFLD.
- Alvizia’s milk thistle supplement is a total liver detox formula, for people with liver diseases. Available in a pack of 60 soft gelatin capsules, it also acts as an antioxidant by reducing the production of free radicals in the human body. This supplement contains 70 percent silymarin which makes it ideal for usage. It is beneficial in improving brain functions, promotes healthy and beautiful skin, boosts up the immune system, and reduces bone loss and cholesterol.