Fatty liver is a health condition increasingly affecting many people, including children. It is a disease that builds up over time, taking more than 1-2 years to reach a dangerous level.
Although fatty liver disease is not as scary as other life-threatening conditions, it is a health disorder that no one can afford to overlook.
Therefore, it is necessary to adopt lifestyle adjustments like exercising regularly and regulating your diet to control your weight and manage fatty liver.
Understanding Fatty Liver
The liver is an essential organ that supports many life-sustaining functions. These functions include producing bile to aid digestion, storing iron, creating proteins, helping blood clot, and removing toxins that could result in infection.
Fatty liver disease is a condition that is not uncommon in which too much fat builds up in the liver. A healthy liver contains either no fat or only a tiny amount. The problem begins when the fat makes up 5-10% of the liver’s weight.
The build-up of fat in the liver can result from alcohol abuse (Alcoholic Fatty Liver) or other factors. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is typically seen in people who are overweight or obese.
The symptoms of fatty liver disease are not always evident. Therefore, it is rare for an individual to know they have this disease unless it gets diagnosed during testing for another reason. However, as the disease progresses, the symptoms become more visible. Individuals may experience anything from dull pain or ache in the top right abdomen area to extreme fatigue, rapid weight loss and a lot of weakness.
Fatty Liver: Is It Dangerous?
Most cases of fatty liver disease are not severe and do not progress to further stages. However, 7 to 30% of individuals with the condition may experience worsening symptoms over time. There are four stages of fatty liver disease, with the last stage being the most dangerous. Early-stage NAFLD does not cause any harm, but one can suffer severe liver damage if it worsens.
Steatosis, also known as simple fatty liver, is a generally harmless fat buildup in the liver cells. It can only be diagnosed during tests. In non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, also known as non-alcoholic fatty liver, the liver becomes inflamed, which results in damaged tissue.
A study shows that fibrosis stages F3 and F4 increase the risks of liver-related complications and death. It is because fibrosis happens from long-lasting inflammation, which leads to scar tissue forming around where the liver is damaged. Even though the liver can still function normally, the damage done by fibrosis makes it more susceptible to complications.
Cirrhosis is the most severe damage that can occur after years of inflammation. Here, the liver shrinks, and healthy tissue becomes scarred and lumpy. It can block liver function entirely since the damage is permanent, leading to liver failure or cancer.
Suppose cirrhosis does develop, then symptoms simultaneously also become worse. They include yellow skin and eyes, also known as jaundice, as well as itchy skin and swollen ankles, legs, feet and stomach.
The HealthifyMe Note
If you are diagnosed with early-stage fatty liver, it is not a frightening condition. However, if you do not get proper treatment, fatty liver has the potential to become severe and damaging. In addition, neglecting fatty liver can quickly result in numerous other health disorders, including high blood fat levels, obesity, high blood pressure and coronary artery disease.
Treatment and Prevention
Although there is no specific medication for fatty liver disease, medical professionals focus on controlling factors that may have contributed to the condition. Mostly, they recommend making changes in your lifestyle that will significantly improve your health. Some common lifestyle changes are:
- Avoiding Alcohol
- Medicines that control diabetes, cholesterol and fat in the blood
- Weight Loss
- Taking vitamin E and drugs that treat diabetes in some situations
Stemming from this, the best way to treat fatty liver disease is to prevent it in the first place. You can do this by maintaining your overall health and well-being:
Healthy Weight Management
If you are obese or overweight, you should exercise regularly, reduce extra calories and opt for a healthy balanced diet. If you are already at a healthy weight, you should maintain it by exercising regularly and eating a well-balanced diet.
Whether you have fatty liver disease or not, it is essential to exercise regularly. Resistance or strength training exercises can help improve fatty liver disease. Aim for mid to high-level aerobic exercise for 30 to 60 minutes, five days a week.
Healthy Eating Practices
Choose a healthy diet based on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats to ensure you stay within your limitations. Also, avoid fatty foods and decrease alcohol consumption.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver does not usually have symptoms, so patients can live with it for many years without knowing they have it. However, about 30% of patients eventually develop inflamed liver or scarring. Of these, about 20% will develop end-stage cirrhosis, which can lead to liver failure and cancer.
Losing about 10% of body weight, exercising regularly, reducing alcohol use, and cutting out processed foods can help to reduce the risk of developing these complications.
Talk to an expert nutritionist at HealthifyMe to find a personalised eating plan and lifestyle tips.