Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: Even the liver can accumulate fat

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: Even the liver can accumulate fat
Photo by Sonja Hults

 

We know that alcohol and the liver are not friends. They don’t mix well. This unfriendly relationship can also lead to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease which has gained more attention recently, affecting an estimated 80 to 100 million people in the United States.

You guessed it — liver conditions can also affect people who drink little to no alcohol.  Too much fat stored in the body is not good. In this case, too much fat is stored in the liver.

The liver’s main job in our body is to regulate chemicals in our blood. All the blood that passes through the stomach and intestines passes through the liver. The liver processes the contents of our blood which includes nutrients and drugs (medications). It also balances glucose, regulates amino acid levels, stores iron and regulates blood clotting.

There are two types of this disease: isolated fatty liver, which is just having the extra fatty deposits in the liver. The more serious type is called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which involves this excess  fat, inflammation and liver cell damage. NASH can lead to cirrhosis and liver failure, gastrointestinal bleeding and liver cancer. About 10 percent of people with fatty liver disease develop NASH.

This disease wreaks havoc for people in their 40s and 50s. This is especially true for people in this age group who are also at risk of heart disease due to obesity and type-2 diabetes. Other sufferers typically already have some form of metabolic syndrome, including:  high blood pressure, high triglycerides, insulin problems and excess abdominal fat.

There are not flashing red lights when one has this condition. Symptoms might include fatigue, an enlarged liver or pain in the upper right stomach area. However, the causality is related to obesity, insulin resistance, high blood sugar and high amount of fats in the blood. Other triggers point toward having an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) or an having an underactive pituitary gland (hypopituitarism).

Fatty liver disease is the manifestation of metabolic syndrome and is increasing in occurrence. Treatment and prevention involves a lifestyle change that includes exercise and proper diet. Weight loss becomes critical for one’s health.

Blood tests and imaging procedures performed by a doctor will lead to diagnosis. Most people discover this problem when seeking medical attention for another reason.

The Lifestyle of the FIT and Healthy understands that is never too late to become the best version of themselves and that means proper exercise and diet.

Whatever damage that has been done, can be changed when one is willing to adopt new habits. Self-care is the best care and is both preventive and a weapon to undo damage of the past.

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