Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD): Risks, Tips, & More
7 minute read
Fatty liver disease is one of the most common liver conditions diagnosed. While excessive alcohol consumption causes this disease, it can also develop in those who do not drink a lot. This is non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and the condition is characterized by excess fatty deposits accumulated on the liver.
Because alcohol is not the only risk factor, it is important to understand what you can do to avoid this condition. One important thing to remember is that it’s not too late to improve your liver health.
What You Need To Know About NAFLD
Currently, NAFLD is believed to affect millions of people, and the number of reported cases continues to increase, along with other forms of liver disease.
It typically develops in adults over the age of 40, but can occur across every age group. Individuals with heart disease and diabetes are known to be at a higher risk, and it is commonly associated with metabolic issues, such as high blood pressure, abdominal fat storage, insulin resistance, and obesity.
NAFLD typically does not show signs or symptoms. What is happening inside you, however, is that your liver is becoming enlarged and covered with accumulated fat.
If any signs do show, they can include:
♦ Upper abdominal pain
♦ Enlarged blood vessels
♦ Yellowing of skin or eyes
At its most severe, NAFLD can develop into cirrhosis and liver failure.
While NAFLD is associated with other conditions, there is still no definitive cause for its development. What experts do know is that some people accumulate fat while others do not.
Given this, they have been able to determine that obesity, insulin resistance, high blood sugar levels, and high fat level all contribute to the risk of NAFLD. These circumstances increase the chances of fat accumulating on the liver, causing inflammation and damage.
As mentioned, cirrhosis can occur as a result of untreated NAFLD. Cirrhosis is large-scale scarring of liver tissue that occurs as a result of inflammation to the area.
Because the liver works to detoxify your body, it has built-in defenses against damage. As a way to halt the inflammation, scar tissue is developed in a process called fibrosis. As inflammation continues, fibrosis continues and the liver tissues become unable to function.
Without changes or treatment, this leads to:
♦ Abdominal fluid retention or abscesses
♦ Swelling of veins
♦ Confusion, headaches, and slurred speech
♦ Liver cancer
♦ End-stage liver failure
How to Reduce Your Risk
Knowing the risk factors for NAFLD is your best defense against developing it. In preventing these, you can protect your liver and yourself from potential stress and damage.
The best ways to stay ahead of NAFLD and boost liver health are dietary and lifestyle changes. Prevention is possible. In some cases, these conditions can even be reversed.
The best way to promote liver health and prevent NAFLD (or even reverse it) is to eat a balanced diet. Avoid processed foods that are full of additives as well as unhealthy saturated fats. Because some fat is necessary for health and metabolic processes, be sure you eat monounsaturated fats as these can be used efficiently by the body and are not left around for storage.
Hydration is a key part of liver health, so make sure you get enough water each day to help flush toxins away.
In addition to this, you want to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Not only are they full of essential vitamins and minerals, but they are full of antioxidants, which protect your liver from free radical damage. Fruits and vegetables are also full of fiber which promotes optimal liver function.
You can get healthy doses of fiber from whole grains as well. Avoid refined carbohydrates and grains like white bread, white rice, and regular pastas as these can cause inflammation.
Even though NAFLD is not directly related to alcohol, excessive drinking can worsen the disease. Eliminating alcohol has been shown to promote liver healing and can even reverse the disease.
Apart from eating right, you can also incorporate the following into your daily life to boost liver health and keep NAFLD away.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Obesity has strong associations with NAFLD, so reducing weight (and fat storage) is the best way to avoid this condition. Eating right is necessary in order to shed those extra pounds.
Getting more fiber and protein is strongly recommended as this keeps you feeling full by slowing down digestion. When you eat fewer snacks, you can lose more weight.
When you stay physically active, it is easier to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. In addition to this, blood circulation improves, ensuring your liver is fully supplied with the nutrients it needs to function.
| Related: How Vitamin E Affects Your Liver: Tocotrienols vs. NAFLD |
Optimal fitness and blood flow also ensures that toxins are eliminated more efficiently from the body. Your liver works hard to keep you clean, and by staying active you can support this function.
There are a few natural supplements out there that have been proven to support liver health and can work to reduce NAFLD. Milk thistle, selenium, and ALA (alpha-lipoic acid) all provide liver support.
Selenium, in particular, has been proven to reverse NAFLD as well as cirrhosis, allowing the liver time to heal and regenerate. It was originally believed that these conditions could not be reversed, but the discovery of selenium has found a way.
Supplements that contain these three ingredients are perfectly poised to protect your liver and give it the daily boost it needs to function optimally.
The Bottom Line
People underestimate the importance of the liver in comparison to organs like the heart and brain, but your liver health matters as well.
Like your brain and your heart, your longevity depends on its health, so work to prevent NAFLD by integrating liver-healthy choices into your life. To live your best life, you need a healthy liver.