The liver is an extremely important organ with many jobs. Not only does it serve as a converter, turning food into energy, it is also a filter. It removes harmful toxins and substances from our body. The organ is very delicate and, when it becomes damaged by inflammation, it collects fat. Inflammation can occur when you consume too many toxins, are overweight, or are insulin resistant. Certain drugs can also cause inflammation.
What is Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)?
NAFLD is exactly what it sounds like – too much fat in the liver. The American Liver Foundation states that NAFLD is diagnosed if the liver is composed of more than 5-10 percent fat. The liver can only take so much and while poor diet is most often the cause of this disease, some people do get it without any indication of failing health.
Why is it Risky?
With all of this excess fat, the liver can swell and scar, which is known as cirrhosis of the liver. Cirrhosis is a dangerous condition that may eventually result in liver failure. Cancer may occur as well. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) cautions that “NAFLD increases the risk of liver cancer, a disease with poor outcomes and limited therapeutic options.”
Symptoms and Diagnosis
Someone with NAFLD may experience fatigue, yellowing of the skin (jaundice), weight loss, nausea, stomach pain, “spider veins,” leg swelling, and confusion. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, head to your doctor.
Alternatively, a person with NAFLD may not experience any symptoms at all. This is why regular lab work is important; blood tests will show elevated liver enzyme levels if someone is at risk. An ultrasound will confirm an NAFLD diagnosis.
What to Avoid
Certain foods and drugs should be avoided to protect your liver and to help with treatment. Stay clear of high glycemic, fatty foods and high fructose corn syrup. Drugs that have been known to cause problems with the liver include some antivirals, corticosteroids, tetracycline, and aspirin (only in children with Reye’s Syndrome). If you take any of these medications, don’t overuse them and get your liver enzymes checked regularly.
I spoke with Michael T. Murray, N.D. who has studied NAFLD in depth. He provided the following information about diet and natural treatments.
Supplements, when taken appropriately under the supervision of your doctor, can be effective in improving liver function. Choline, Methionine, Betaine, B6, B12, Carnitine, and Folic Acid help detox, protect, and decongest the liver.
Foods that are high in sulfur, contain water soluble fiber, and are anti-inflammatory are very beneficial for preventing and even reversing NAFLD. The choices below are especially good for a healthy liver.
- Vegetables and Fruits – Pears, Berries, Apples, Oranges, Peppers, Cauliflower, Cabbage, Broccoli, Artichokes, Onions, Beets, Brussels Sprouts, and Carrots
- Fats – Coconut, Flax, Olive Oil, Nuts, Seeds, Lean Meats, and Eggs
- Herbs and Spices – Garlic, Cinnamon, Cilantro, Turmeric, and Dandelion
- Grains – Beans, Legumes, and Bran
- Sugar – Maple Syrup, Honey, and Molasses
People with Type 2 diabetes often are diagnosed with NAFLD. Diabetes does not cause the disease nor does NAFLD cause diabetes. They are just both influenced by the same factors. If you have been diagnosed with NAFLD, you can help treat it with a healthy diet and exercise.
- 8 peeled, sectioned oranges (make sure all of the thin, white skin is removed from every piece)
- fresh or frozen coconut (unsweetened)
- all-natural Maraschino cherries (you can find these online from Thrive Market)
- 3 tablespoons Maraschino cherry juice
- Mix all ingredients together and chill.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Karyn Wofford is a type 1 diabetic who has been educating herself about health and wellness for 14 years. She has been an Emergency Medical Technician for 5 years and is now studying to become a Health and Wellness Specialist. Her aspiration in life is to bring helpful information to those seeking to be as healthy as they can be.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to take the place of medical advice. Always discuss any dietary or lifestyle changes with your doctor first.