What causes liver fat? What are the symptoms of fatty liver? What is fibrosis? How does it turn into cirrhosis or cancer? Who’s at risk? How to feed?
Fatty liver disease, which occurs in approximately 1 in 4 people, may not show symptoms until the final stages. Some medications, especially liver diseases such as hepatitis C, can also lead to fat.
Can turn into cirrhosis or cancer
It plays an important role in the metabolism of liver, carbohydrates, proteins and fats. When it comes to excessive energy intake, this organ stores nutrients as fat. If fatty liver cells exceed 5 percent of organ size, this is defined as simple fat.
While fat accumulation does not cause any problems in some patients, it can damage the liver in some patients and scar tissue called fibrosis may occur in the organ. If fibrosis begins to spread in the liver, it can also lead to cirrhosis and cancer.
Overweight individuals at risk
Overweight individuals, individuals with insulin resistance or high blood cholesterol levels, diabetics can be counted as risk groups. Improper eating habits and inadequate physical activity can be cited as the main reasons.
The disease usually shows no symptoms until its final stages. It can rarely lead to weakness, not feeling well, restlessness or mild pain in the upper right part of the abdomen. However, these symptoms can also be symptoms of many other diseases. Liver fat is therefore also defined as an insidious disease.
Adequate and balanced nutrition can help protect against disease
If you have a history of overweight, diabetes or high blood pressure disease or sleep apnea, you can consult your doctor to assess fat. Abdominal ultrasound, MRI and blood tests are widely used in the diagnosis of liver fat.
However, biopsy can also be performed as it is a reliable method when necessary. Fibroscan, an ultrasonographic examination and measurement method, can also be used to assess whether fibrosis has occurred in the liver and the extent of the damage if it has.
Nutritional therapy and active lifestyle are essential in the prevention and treatment of liver fat disease. While overweight patients reach their ideal weight, it should also be noted that weight loss is gradual because rapid changes in body weight can increase fat and damage.
How to feed to protect the liver from fat?
Fatty liver is also known as hepatic steatosis. It happens when fat builds up in the liver. Having small amounts of fat in your liver is normal, but too much can become a health problem.
Your liver is the second largest organ in your body. It helps process nutrients from food and drinks and filters harmful substances from your blood.
Too much fat in your liver can cause liver inflammation, which can damage your liver and create scarring. In severe cases, this scarring can lead to liver failure.
When fatty liver develops in someone who drinks a lot of alcohol, it’s known as alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD).
In someone who doesn’t drink a lot of alcohol, it’s known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). According to researchers in the World Journal of Gastroenterology, NAFLD affects up to 25 to 30 percent of people in the United States and Europe.
What is fatty liver disease?
Your liver is the largest organ inside your body. It helps your body digest food, store energy, and remove poisons. Fatty liver disease is a condition in which fat builds up in your liver. There are two main types:
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
- Alcoholic fatty liver disease, also called alcoholic steatohepatitis
What is nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)?
NAFLD is a type of fatty liver disease that is not related to heavy alcohol use. There are two kinds:
- Simple fatty liver, in which you have fat in your liver but little or no inflammation or liver cell damage. Simple fatty liver typically does not get bad enough to cause liver damage or complications.
- Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), in which you have inflammation and liver cell damage, as well as fat in your liver. Inflammation and liver cell damage can cause fibrosis, or scarring, of the liver. NASH may lead to cirrhosis or liver cancer.
What is alcoholic fatty liver disease?
Alcoholic fatty liver disease is due to heavy alcohol use. Your liver breaks down most of the alcohol you drink, so it can be removed from your body. But the process of breaking it down can generate harmful substances. These substances can damage liver cells, promote inflammation, and weaken your body’s natural defenses. The more alcohol that you drink, the more you damage your liver. Alcoholic fatty liver disease is the earliest stage of alcohol-related liver disease. The next stages are alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis.
Who is at risk for fatty liver disease?
The cause of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is unknown. Researchers do know that it is more common in people who
- Have type 2 diabetes and prediabetes
- Have obesity
- Are middle aged or older (although children can also get it)
- Are Hispanic, followed by non-Hispanic whites. It is less common in African Americans.
- Have high levels of fats in the blood, such as cholesterol and triglycerides
- Have high blood pressure
- Take certain drugs, such as corticosteroids and some cancer drugs
- Have certain metabolic disorders, including metabolic syndrome
- Have rapid weight loss
- Have certain infections, such as hepatitis C
- Have been exposed to some toxins
NAFLD affects about 25% of people in the world. As the rates of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and high cholesterol are rising in the United States, so is the rate of NAFLD. NAFLD is the most common chronic liver disorder in the United States.
Alcoholic fatty liver disease only happens in people who are heavy drinkers, especially those who have been drinking for a long period of time. The risk is higher for heavy drinkers who are women, have obesity, or have certain genetic mutations.
What are the symptoms of fatty liver disease?
Both NAFLD and alcoholic fatty liver disease are usually silent diseases with few or no symptoms. If you do have symptoms, you may feel tired or have discomfort in the upper right side of your abdomen.
How is fatty liver disease diagnosed?
Because there are often no symptoms, it is not easy to find fatty liver disease. Your doctor may suspect that you have it if you get abnormal results on liver tests that you had for other reasons. To make a diagnosis, your doctor will use
- Your medical history
- A physical exam
- Various tests, including blood and imaging tests, and sometimes a biopsy
As part of the medical history, your doctor will ask about your alcohol use, to find out whether fat in your liver is a sign of alcoholic fatty liver disease or nonalcoholic fatty liver (NAFLD). He or she will also ask which medicines you take, to try to determine whether a medicine is causing your NAFLD.
During the physical exam, your doctor will examine your body and check your weight and height. Your doctor will look for signs of fatty liver disease, such as
- An enlarged liver
- Signs of cirrhosis, such as jaundice, a condition that causes your skin and whites of your eyes to turn yellow
You will likely have blood tests, including liver function tests and blood count tests. In some cases you may also have imaging tests, like those that check for fat in the liver and the stiffness of your liver. Liver stiffness can mean fibrosis, which is scarring of the liver. In some cases you may also need a liver biopsy to confirm the diagnosis, and to check how bad the liver damage is.