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What is fatty liver disease and what can be done about it?
27 Jan' 21

What is fatty liver disease and what can be done about it?

 

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a condition characterized by abnormal fat deposition in the liver, is on the rise in the United States, affecting around 20% to 40% of the population. It normally has no symptoms and is discovered by chance when an imaging test (such as an abdominal ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI) is ordered for another reason. An imaging test may be used to detect a fatty liver as part of an investigation into abnormal liver blood tests. NAFLD is linked to illnesses such as diabetes and obesity. It's also associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. It's still a work in progress to fully comprehend NAFLD, including its causes, implications, and treatment choices.  
There are a lot of medical terms associated with fatty liver disease, and it can be difficult to keep track of them all. NAFLD is a medical umbrella term for a fatty liver that is not caused by alcohol consumption. NAFLD is categorized into two categories:  
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver (NAFL), also known as simple fatty liver
  •  non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, is a kind of liver disease caused by alcohol consumption (NASH)  .
 
Why is it important to know what sort of fatty liver disease you have?  
  
It's critical to distinguish between simple fatty liver and NASH. Why? Because most persons with basic fatty liver do not experience liver-related illness, whereas those with NASH experience inflammation and harm to their liver cells. This raises the chance of developing more serious illnesses such as liver fibrosis (scarring), cirrhosis, and liver cancer. Within the next year, NASH cirrhosis is likely to be the leading cause of liver transplantation. Fortunately, most patients with NAFLD have basic fatty liver rather than NASH; NASH affects between 3% and 7% of the US population.  
  
A liver biopsy is required to determine whether a person has basic fatty liver or NASH. However, because of the potential (albeit rare) consequences and cost of a liver biopsy, it is not viable to do so for everyone with NAFLD.  
  
Scientists are attempting to develop non-invasive methods for determining who is more at risk for fibrosis and, as a result, who should receive treatment. Biomarkers and grading systems based on blood tests (such as the NAFLD fibrosis score and Fibrosis-4 index), as well as elastography, are all possibilities (a technology that uses soundwaves to estimate fibrosis based on the stiffness of the liver).  
  
Maintaining the health of your liver  
  
If you've been diagnosed with fatty liver disease, it's critical to keep your liver as healthy as possible while avoiding anything that could harm it. Here are a few things you should do right now.   
  • Don't overindulge in alcoholic beverages. It's debatable how much alcohol is too much, but it's generally best to avoid it entirely.  
  • Check to see if any of your drugs, herbs, or supplements are harmful to your health. You can use this LiverTox to double-check your list. Even acetaminophen (the generic ingredient in Tylenol and several cold medicines) can be hazardous if used in excess for an extended period, particularly if you have liver problems or consume a lot of alcohol.  
  • Get immunized against the hepatitis A and B viruses that affect the liver.  
  • Control any other health issues that may be affecting your liver, and consult your doctor to see if you have any underlying, treatable ailments that are contributing to your fatty liver.  
  • If you already have cirrhosis, get regular liver cancer screenings. 
 
What about medication?  
Fatty liver disease is currently treated with no FDA-approved medicines. Vitamin E (an antioxidant) and pioglitazone are the two best medication alternatives for biopsy-proven NASH, according to the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (used to treat diabetes). However, these treatments will not benefit everyone, and there has been considerable concern about their safety and negative effects. If you have NASH, you should consult your doctor to see if these therapies are right for you, as they aren't for everyone. More medications are in the works, some of which have shown promise in preliminary research.  
  
  • The most effective fatty liver treatment is to change your lifestyle:The good news is that the most successful treatment for fatty liver disease so far has been lifestyle changes rather than drugs. The bad news is that many people find them difficult to achieve and sustain. Here's what we've found to be helpful:    
  • Reduce your weight. Weight loss of about 5% of your body weight may be adequate to improve abnormal liver tests and reduce liver fat levels. Losing 7 to 10% of one's body weight appears to reduce the amount of inflammation and harm to liver cells, and it may even repair some of the fibrosis damage. Aim for a weekly weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds, as rapid weight loss might exacerbate inflammation and fibrosis. 
  • Aerobic exercise :It indicates that aerobic exercise reduces liver fat and, when done at a high intensity, may also reduce inflammation without causing weight loss.  
  • Eat healthily. According to certain research, the Mediterranean diet may help to reduce liver fat. Fruits, Healthy vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, substituting butter with olive or canola oil, minimizing red meat, and eating more fish and lean fowl are all part of this diet.  
  • Perhaps a cup of coffee? Patients with NAFLD who consumed coffee (approximately two cups per day) had a lower incidence of fibrosis, according to certain studies. However, keep in mind the drawbacks of consuming caffeine regularly. 
 
Even though making these lifestyle changes and losing weight can be challenging, the benefits are enormous if you have a fatty liver, so give it you're all! Remember that cardiovascular disease is still the largest risk for persons with a fatty liver. Some of these lifestyle modifications will not only help you improve or treat your fatty liver, but they will also keep your heart healthy. 

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