Up to 90 million Americans have fatty liver. This disease has almost no symptoms, and yet its consequences can be dire. There is no medication or surgery to cure it. Sounds scary, right? Luckily, you can reverse the disease - read on to learn how!
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The phantom menace
Your liver is considered fatty if it is over 5% fat, with the level of 10% considered true fatty liver disease. And yet, you may feel nothing, except some persistent fatigue and a vague pain in the right side of your abdomen. If your liver keeps getting fatter, however, you are facing much graver stages of the disease:
- Swelling and inflammation. When your liver becomes swollen with all the extra fat, you may experience nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and jaundice (yellowish skin).
- Cirrhosis. If accumulated damage leaves your liver permanently scarred, you will suffer from jaundice, nausea, loss of appetite, itch, swelling, and red palms (a fuller list here).
- Liver failure. Its symptoms include vomiting, confusion, abdominal pain, jaundice, and sleepiness. People rarely survive more than two years with liver failure.
Reverse it while you can
If you eat lots of sugar, suffer from obesity, lead a sedentary lifestyle, and often drink alcohol, the chances your liver is fatty are very high. Get an ultrasound, an MRI or a CT scan, and do a blood test that includes liver enzymes to see if your liver is ok.
Let’s stress this again: there is no approved medication for fatty liver, but it is reversible; all you need to do is change your lifestyle.
- Lose weight. Not all people with fatty liver are obese, but for those who are, losing 10 pounds (5kg) can make a great difference (more on weight loss and fatty liver here).
- Stop drinking alcohol. If you have over 10% fat in your liver, you should not drink any alcohol at all!
- Cut down on sugar. Let’s get this straight: you do NOT need to cut out fats. The fat stored in your liver is produced by breaking down carbs, especially fructose. Try to eat less pasta, sweets, and sugary fruits like dates, mangoes, grapes, and watermelon.
- Switch to whole grains. Research shows that whole grains are a much better source of energy for those with fatty liver.
- Exercise regularly. Aim for at 30 minutes of exercise per day. Studies show that exercise normalizes the levels of liver enzymes even in the absense of a serious weight loss.
Home remedies to try
While no approved drugs to treat fatty liver are available on the market just yet, recent research suggests that some plants and herbs can be worth trying.
- Glutathione – this compound has been shown to detox and restore liver; it is contained in lemons, cabbage, arugula, and cauliflower.
- Turmeric – so far just one pilot study indicates that this traditional Indian spice can help treat fatty liver; however, using this aromatic ingredient in your cooking is always a good idea.
- Licorice – not everyone likes the taste of licorice root, but research indicates that it does a great job protecting your liver.
While these remedies may prove efficient, the main point to take home is that your liver reflects your lifestyle. You may eat as many lemons as you want, but your liver will not reverse to its original healthy state unless you make an effort to be a healthy person. As with so many other diseases, diet and exercise are the key.