Eating and drinking too much can put the liver under a lot of work. As the second largest organ in the human body, the liver is in charge of many functions such as processing what you eat and drink as well as filtering harmful elements from the blood. So, consuming too much fat can lead to damage in the liver. What is fatty liver and what are its symptoms? Read more about fatty liver symptoms as well as its treatment and prevention.
What Is Fatty Liver?
Also called hepatic steatosis, fatty liver refers to the accumulation of fat in the liver. While it is normal to have minuscule amounts of fat in the liver, an excess of fat can become dangerous to one’s health.
When the proportion of liver cells has more than 5 percent of fat, doctors diagnose it as an early stage of fatty liver. Through samples taken from the liver studied under a microscope, ultrasounds, MRI scans, and CT scans, the fat content is evaluated.
Mild forms of fatty liver are a condition that can be reversed. Lifestyle modifications like an increase in physical activity, changes in diet, and loss of weight can improve one’s condition of the mild fatty liver.
The only time fatty liver becomes harmful is when it progresses. Other ailments that affect the liver are liver inflammation, also known as steatohepatitis, liver cancer, end-stage liver disease, and liver scarring. While the liver repairs itself by replacing old cells that are damaged, repeated damage can cause scarring. Permanent scarring can lead to a condition known as cirrhosis.
Types of Fatty Liver
Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease or NAFLD occurs when there is a buildup of fats in the liver tissue. This is because the liver can no longer efficiently break down fats. The cause of NAFLD is unrelated to alcohol and is diagnosed when fat makes up more than 5 percent of the liver.
Abbreviated as NASH, this is a type of NAFLD. When fat continues to build up, it leads to inflammation. Thus, with a liver having more than 5 percent of fat and having the presence of inflammation, it leads to this condition. Symptoms include:
- Loss of Appetite
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Pain in the Abdominal Area
According to the American Liver Foundation, NASH is detected in individuals between 40 and 60 years of age. If this condition is left untreated, then it can lead to the permanent scarring of the liver, eventual liver failure, or liver cancer.
Alcoholic Fatty Liver
Heavy consumption of alcohol damages the liver. As a result, the liver has difficulties breaking down fat. Thus, alcoholic fatty liver is an alcohol-related liver disease. Abstinence from alcohol is the quickest solution for fatty liver to lessen. However, continued heavy drinking can lead to alcoholic steatohepatitis and may progress to cirrhosis.
Complications of Pregnancy: Acute Fatty Liver
Though rare, it is a potentially life-threating complication that can afflict pregnant women. This is an acute fatty liver. The signs and symptoms usually appear during the third trimester and include the following:
- A Headache
- A Decrease in Appetite
- General Malaise and Fatigue
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Pain Felt in the Upper-Right Part of the Abdomen
If you are pregnant and are experiencing any of these symptoms, then you must seek immediate medical attention. Treatment involves managing complications that may arise and quick delivery.
What Causes Fatty Liver?
In most cases, the most common cause of fatty liver is heaving drinking. For those who don’t consume much alcohol, the cases are less clear. It is, however, linked with a diet high in processed sugar, diabetes, genetics, high levels of triglycerides, a heavy body weight, or low physical activity.
Other causes commonly associated with fatty liver include the following:
- Hasty and Unhealthy Weight Loss
- Hyperlipidemia (High Levels of Fats in Blood)
- Side Effects of Medicines Such as Tamoxifen, Amiodarone, and Methotrexate
What Are the Fatty Liver Symptoms?
Fatty liver usually shows no symptoms. Nonetheless, research claims that 20 percent of individuals with this condition may experience abdominal discomfort or fatigue. This is when fatty liver progresses to inflammation, and the condition worsens. If your liver is inflamed, then you may experience the following symptoms:
- Pain in the Abdomen
- Poor Appetite
- Weight Loss
On the other hand, if the condition worsens and leads to liver failure or cirrhosis, then these symptoms may appear:
- Abnormal Bleeding
- An Enlarged Abdomen That Is Fluid-Filled
- Jaundice of Eyes and Skin
Treatment of Fatty Liver
Continued research and study are ongoing as to the medications that may help in treating fatty liver. For now, treatment and prevention involve reducing the risk factors which include the following recommendations:
- Controlling Blood Sugar Levels
- Losing Weight, Especially if Overweight
- Limiting Intake of Alcohol
- Managing Cholesterol by Reducing Intake of Saturated Fats and Sugars
For those who have been diagnosed with fatty liver due to an unhealthy diet or obesity, your physician may recommend that you eliminate certain food in your diet and increase your physical activities in a day.
Recommended Diet for Fatty Liver
Consuming food high in fiber and food that reduces inflammation can help the liver in repairing itself. Here is the food best for people with this condition.
According to a study by Advanced Biomedical Research, garlic helps reduce one’s body weight. Furthermore, it can help lessen the amount of fat in people with fatty liver disease.
Walnuts are rich in omega three which can help fight fatty liver disease. Research claims that consumption of walnuts can improve liver functions in individuals with NAFLD.
Rich in anti-inflammatory nutrients and fiber, avocados can reduce oxidative stress as well as reduce blood sugar.
According to the Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, certain proteins aid in protecting the body against fatty liver disease. Soy protein helps in reducing blood glucose levels and balancing the effects of carbohydrate intake.
Fatty liver is a disease that can be avoided. With a proper diet and a healthy lifestyle, diseases that can cause damage to the liver or other parts of the body won’t be a problem. If you still think you have fatty liver symptoms, then it is best to seek the attention of a healthcare representative.