Fat is normally stored in several areas of the human body for reserving energy and maintaining body temperature by insulation. The liver, the second largest organ in the body also stores some amount of fat. However, high levels of fat content in it (greater than 5%) indicate Fatty Liver Disease. This disease is also called Hepatic Steatosis.
Fatty Liver Disease affects nearly 25% of the global population and may not cause any noticeable symptoms. It is of two types:
Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease caused by excessive consumption of alcohol.
Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease which is attributed to factors other than alcohol intake but happens to be the initial and reversible stage of the disease fortunately.
In both the types of this liver disease , excess accumulation of fat can lead to inflammation which can damage the liver and cause scarring. In severe cases, it results in liver failure which inhibits its functions of producing bile, processing nutrients from the food consumed and filtering toxic substances from the blood.
Causes of Fatty Liver
Over-usage of alcohol
Excess fat in the abdominal region
Resistance to insulin
Abnormally high levels of triglycerides in the blood
Increased consumption of refined carbohydrates and sugar-laden beverages
Improper functioning of the gut
Treatment for Fatty Liver
The most effective treatment for treating fatty liver disease is not by medical intervention but the implementation of lifestyle changes in the following aspects-
Weight Loss Treatment – Achieving about 5% of weight loss is sufficient to start reducing the fat in the liver and restore its functioning. Weight loss of 7-10% substantially reduces inflammation and initiates the reversal of damage to the liver. It is important that this loss in weight is not done drastically as it can aggravate liver inflammation and fibrosis. Rather a cautious approach may be adopted for a gradual weight decrease of about 1-2 pounds per week. This may be done through diet and exercise. Patients may also go for Bariatric Treatment Options after consulting the doctor wherein surgical intervention is done for reducing obesity. Bariatric surgery essentially prevents malabsorption to control the number of calories absorbed and restricts food intake by physically limiting the stomach capacity. Usually, it is done by Minimal Invasive Techniques (MIT) to facilitate quick recovery of patients and avoid complications.
Nutritious diet – Consuming healthy foods play a significant role in treatment. Fatty Liver Diet consists of nutrient-rich foods that are low in calories, saturated fats and transfats. Some of the items recommended in this diet include garlic, broccoli, coffee, leafy greens, soy proteins, fish like sardine and tuna, oatmeal, walnuts, avocadoes, olive oil, green tea, sunflower seeds, lean poultry, milk and low-fat dairy products.
Exercise – The combination of exercise and diet does wonders in managing body weight and fighting fatty liver. Doing approximately 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily for about five times a week ensures better shape and fitness and reduces disease symptoms. Endurance training, resistance training and stretching exercises are particularly beneficial. Sedentary lifestyle must also be avoided by `remaining active and energetic throughout the day.
Controlling Diabetes and Lower Cholesterol – Maintaining sugar and lipid levels in the blood to control diabetes and cholesterol are important for treating fatty liver. Doctors may prescribe medications if diet and exercise fail to regulate these levels.
Health Food Tips
Consume a plant-based diet which is endowed with anti-oxidants and nutrients like fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.
Limit intake of refined carbohydrates which lack fibres like sweets, white rice, white bread and pasta.
Restrict consumption of saturated fats which are largely found in animal products like red meat.
Avoid processed food items and snacks which contain transfat.
Limit the consumption of alcohol, fried food and salt intake.