Hepatic steatosis (fatty liver) – Causes and natural remedies
When fat accumulates in the liver more than normal we can reach fatty or obese liver disease, called in medical terms: hepatic steatosis. The diagnosis is made when intrahepatic fat represents at least 5% of the weight of the liver. Failure to treat fatty liver can lead to complications (inflammation, lesions, fibrosis), and therefore you should know that there are many natural remedies and methods to prevent the development of this disease of fatty liver.
Hepatic steatosis is also popularly called fatty liver or obese liver and is basically the excessive accumulation of fat (triglycerides) in the liver cell (hepatocyte).
A delayed treatment of hepatic steatosis (fatty liver) can lead to even more serious conditions, such as: → inflammation of the liver, → lesions and scars on the liver, → fibrosis and even liver cancer (cirrhosis).
Hepatic steatosis can be of 2 types:
- Alcoholic fatty liver desease - AFLD (Alcoholic fatty liver disease): caused by heavy alcohol consumption.
- Non-alcoholoc fatty liver disease - NAFLD (Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease): the exact cause is not very well known, generally being a disorganized lifestyle and certain poor health conditions. Untreated, it can lead to serious complications: → NASH (Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis), ie inflammation of the liver and injuries to liver cells, and from here on, → fibrosis and scars on the liver, to → cirrhosis (cancer of the liver).
Complications of fatty liver if no action is taken
- Hepatic steatosis (fatty liver) → Inflammation of the liver.
- Inflammation of the liver → Injuries to liver cells.
- Liver cell damage → Fibrosis or scars of the liver.
- Fibrosis or scars on the liver → Liver cancer (Cirrhosis).
Symptoms of fatty liver
Doctors sometimes call fatty liver disease a silent disease. This is because a person may not have any symptoms, even if the disease progresses. However, fatty liver disease can enlarge the liver. When this happens, it can cause pain or discomfort in the upper right part of the abdomen, which is the area between the hips and chest.
Early symptoms may include:
- loss of appetite
- feeling sick or vomiting
- weight loss
Causes of fatty liver
The cause of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is not entirely clear. However, genetics can play an important role. Some health conditions may increase the risk of developing NAFLD (Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease). These include:
- people with overweight or obesity
- people with high blood pressure (high cholesterol, high triglycerides)
- people with type 2 diabetes
- people with metabolic syndrome, which is a group of diseases and medical characteristics related to obesity
- people with insulin resistance.
Experts believe that the level of triglycerides in a person's blood is high if it is higher than 150-199 milligrams per deciliter (mg / dL).
There are also less common causes of fatty liver disease. These include hepatitis C infection, rapid weight loss and some medications, including diltiazem and glucocorticoids.
Excessive alcohol consumption causes alcoholic fatty liver disease. The liver breaks down alcohol and removes it from the body. As alcohol breaks down, it releases harmful toxins that can damage liver cells and cause inflammation.
Natural remedies for fatty liver
Fatty liver disease is a condition that causes the accumulation of fat in the liver over time due to either high alcohol consumption or an unhealthy lifestyle in combination with an unfavorable genetics and certain health conditions.
There are currently no clear medications available to treat hepatic steatosis, but diet and lifestyle changes are among the most effective ways to treat this condition.
Get rid of excess weight
Experts recommend that people with NAFLD lose between 3% and 5% of their body weight to reduce the accumulation of fat in the liver.
They also say that losing between 7% and 10% of your body weight can improve other symptoms of NAFLD, such as inflammation, fibrosis and scars.
The best way to lose weight and maintain it is to take small steps toward your goal over time. Extreme diets are often unsustainable and can be difficult for the liver.
Before starting any weight loss program it is important to talk to your doctor to see if it is right for you. A nutritionist can develop a diet plan to help you reach your weight loss goals and make just the right dietary choices.
Try the Mediterranean diet
Studies have been done that suggest that the Mediterranean diet can help reduce liver fat, even without weight loss.
The Mediterranean diet also helps treat conditions commonly associated with NAFLD, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.
This diet plan focuses on a variety of herbal foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables, along with healthy fats. Here is a brief overview of the foods to focus on:
- Fruits and vegetables - try berries, grapefruit, apples, oranges, bananas, dates, figs, melons, salads, cabbage, broccoli, peppers, sweet potatoes, carrots, zucchini, cucumbers, eggplants and tomatoes.
- Legumes - try to include beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas in your diet.
- Healthy fats - use healthy oils, such as extra virgin olive oil. Includes in the diet and nuts, seeds, avocados and olives also contain a high concentration of healthy fats.
- Fish and lean meat - eat fish twice a week. Eggs and poultry, such as skinless chicken and turkey, which are low-fat birds.
- Whole grains - eat grains, but also unprocessed grains. Try wholemeal bread, brown rice, whole oats, couscous, wholemeal pasta or quinoa.
Always consider foods that help detoxify and regenerate the liver
For detoxification and regeneration of the liver, consume:
- apples and pears
- lemon and lime
- green tea
- broccoli and cauliflower
- whole grains
- olive oil
Avoid the following types of foods that lead to liver diseaseAvoid:
- Trans fats
Trans fats: found in margarines and any type of creams, sauces and mayonnaises, pastries, confectionery, puff pastry, creams and sauces prepared from the market.
Try to drink coffee as often as possible (ideally unsweetened)
According to some studies, coffee offers a number of protective benefits for the liver. In particular, it stimulates the production of liver enzymes that are thought to fight inflammation.
The same research also reported that among people with NAFLD, regular coffee consumption reduces general liver damage.
Try to drink two to three cups of coffee a day to reduce your risk of liver disease. Black coffee is the best option because it does not contain added fat or sugar.
Have an active life
According to research, NAFLD is often associated with a sedentary lifestyle. Inactivity is known to contribute to other conditions associated with NAFLD, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity.
It is important to stay active when you have NAFLD. For the beginning, you can set yourself a good goal to reach at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. This means about 30 minutes, 5 days a week. You don't have to practice a certain sport or to go to the gym to get enough exercise. You can take a quick 30 minute walk, 5 days a week. Or, if you're pressed for time, you can split the 30-minute brisk walk into two equally fast, but 15-minute walks, twice a day, 5 days a week.
Before you start exercising, try to integrate moderate physical activity into your daily routine. Go to a grocery store, go out with the dog in the park, play with the kids or go up the stairs instead of taking the elevator whenever you can.
Avoid foods that contain added sugars
Dietary sugars - in this category: fructose and sucrose - are associated with the development of NAFLD. There is research that describes how these sugars contribute to the accumulation of fat in the liver. The most guilty ones from this category are foods bought in the store and processed commercially, such as:
- pastries, such as cakes, donuts and pies
- produse de patiserie, precum prăjituri, gogoși și plăcinte
- ice cream
- sugary cereals
- non-alcoholic sugary drinks
- drinks for athletes
- energizing drinks
- sweetened dairy products, such as flavored yogurts.
To identify if a packaged food contains added sugar, read the list of ingredients on the product packaging. Words ending with "ose", including sucrose, fructose and maltose, are sugars.
Other sugras commonly added to foods include:
- high fructose corn syrup
- corn sweetener
- fruit juice concentrate miere
Another way to tell how much sugar is in a food product is to look at the nutrition label and analyze the number of grams of sugar in a serving for that product - the lower the amount of sugar in a food, the better.
Find products that can generate high cholesterol
NAFDL makes it harder for your body to manage cholesterol on its own. This can make NAFLD worse and increase your risk of heart disease.
Try to limit your intake of certain types of fats to help you control your cholesterol and treat NAFLD. Fats to avoid include:
- Saturated fats - they are found in meat and dairy products with a high fat content.
- Trans fats - trans fats are often found in processed baked goods, biscuits and cakes.
Most of the changes included in your lifestyle listed above - including weight loss, active living and adopting a Mediterranean diet - can also help you manage your cholesterol. Your doctor may also prescribe high cholesterol medications.
Take an omega-3 supplement
Certain types of fats have beneficial qualities for your health. Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats that are found in many foods. These include fatty fish, some nuts and seeds. They are known to have heart health benefits and are also recommended for people with NAFLD.
Taking an omega-3 supplement can reduce liver fat and improve cholesterol levels. Daily doses of omega-3 can range from 830 to 9,000 milligrams. Talk to your doctor or specialist who will tell you how much of a dose to take.
Avoid all known liver irritants
Certain substances can put excessive stress on the liver. Some of these substances include alcohol, over-the-counter medications and some vitamins and supplements.
It is best to avoid alcohol altogether if you have NAFLD. While moderate alcohol consumption may have some benefits among healthy people, it is unclear whether these benefits also apply to people with NAFLD.
Talk to a doctor or pharmacist before taking any over-the-counter medications, vitamins or supplements, as they may damage your liver.
Ask your doctor for supplements
- Vitamin E is an antioxidant that can reduce inflammation caused by NAFLD. Specialists recommend a daily dose of 800 international units of vitamin E per day for people with NAFLD who do not have diabetes and who have confirmed non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), an advanced form of NAFLD. There may be risks associated with this treatment. Talk to your doctor to find out if vitamin E is right for you and if it might help you with NAFLD.
- Arginine: is an essential amino acid that helps support liver, cardiovascular and renal functions.
- Silymarin: contributes to the process of liver cell regeneration, supports the process of liver detoxification and liver cell regeneration (Thistle - Silybum marianum).
- Spirulina: an algae that helps fight liver disease.
- Liver teas: there are mixes of teas from Plafar, with hepato-protective action: dandelion, thistle (silybum marianum), rosehip, ...
- Liver tinctures: celandine tincture (only with a doctor's recommendation).
⚠ Food supplements should be taken on the advice of a doctor and in a treatment schedule, not by ear!
There are currently no drug recommendations or approved medical treatments for NAFLD, but there are some that are under development. One such treatment is pioglitazone, which is a drug usually prescribed for type 2 diabetes. Studies suggest that pioglitazone may help improve liver health in people with and without type 2 diabetes.
More research needs to be done to understand the long-term safety and effectiveness of this treatment. Therefore, this drug is recommended only by doctors, only to people with confirmed NASH (Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis).
Prevention of hepatic steatosis
Prevention of hepatic steatosis (for NAFLD and NASH) comes down to making better choices:
- Eat healthy. Choose an herbal diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats.
- Maintain an optimal weight. Lose weight if necessary and if you have the right weight, work to maintain it by choosing a healthy diet and exercising.
- Sports. Work out most days of the week. Talk to your doctor first if you have not been active for some time to make sure that you will work gradually and you will not have complications in the muscles, joints or even bones.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and alcoholic fatty liver disease occur when fat accumulates in the liver. This can cause the liver to stop working properly. Although fatty liver disease is often asymptomatic, there are also cases where some signs need to be considered, such as: weight loss, loss of appetite and fatigue. If the disease progresses and develops into cirrhosis, a person may have jaundice, itching and swelling.
The cause of fatty liver disease is sometimes unknown or uncertain, but certain health conditions can contribute to its development. If a person has symptoms of fatty liver disease, they should see a doctor as soon as possible.
Did you know that ...?
- The liver is the only organ that regenerates. Therefore, it is possible to have a liver transplant with only a piece of the donor's liver.
- The liver recovers best during the night (more precisely during sleep), between 1.00 and 3.00 AM.
- The liver is the second largest human organ (the first being the skin), which weighs ~ 1.3 - 2 kg.
- The liver secretes between 0.5 l and 1 l of bile a day, the liquid that helps digest fats.
- The liver is affected by the toxicity of some foods, such as bad fats, alcohol, tobacco, medicines, smokes, E-s and preservatives in some products. They destroy liver cells.
- The liver is responsible for self-regulating the body's temperature in cold – hot.
- The liver can be affected by viruses leading to hepatitis A, B, C, D, E, G.
- The liver does not hurt much, that feeling of pressure and discomfort, usually related to other organs (bloating of the large intestine, biliary colic, ...).
- Symptoms of liver disease are vague at first and are often overlooked: fatigue, itchy skin, dry eyes. Then it develops with yellowing of the skin, nausea, lack of appetite, dark urine.
- Sufficient rest, a healthy diet and natural remedies based on hepatoprotective herbs are the three things that restore the liver and support its proper functioning.