Fatty liver, also known as hepatic steatosis, is a reversible medical condition where too much triglyceride fat is built up in the liver. The liver has vital bodily functions where it processes and filters anything a human body intakes and the excessive fat interferes with these processes. The fat in the liver is medically considered as ‘too much’ when the fat comprises of 5 to 10 percent of the liver’s weight. Fatty liver is at a rising rate in India due to changing lifestyles. About 30-40% of Indians are reported to have early stages of fatty liver, and this is an alarming statistic.
The primary causes of fatty liver are mainly attributed to changing lifestyles that lead to obesity, rapid weight loss, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, nutrition deficiency, metabolic syndrome, hypertension, dyslipidaemia, high cholesterol levels, high levels of triglyceride fat in the blood, polycystic ovary syndrome, sleep apnoea, underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), and underactive pituitary gland (hypopituitarism). Some factors that aid these causes are age (above 50), genetic inheritance, pregnancy, and side effect of certain medications, including aspirin, steroids, tamoxifen (Nolvadex), and tetracycline (Panmycin), and lifestyle factors such as smoking and consumption of alcohol.
Stages, Symptoms & Diagnosis
There are four stages of fatty liver –
- Simple fatty liver (steatosis) / alcoholic fatty liver – This is potentially harmless and generally show no symptoms, however, one may have fatigue or vague abdominal discomfort.
- Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) / Alcoholic steatohepatitis – A very minimal portion of the population with simple fatty liver move to this stage. It is an aggravated stage where the inflammation of the liver is a notable symptom along with dull or aching pain in the top right of the abdomen. Other symptoms include a poor appetite, weight loss, physical weakness, fatigue and confusion.
- Fibrosis (scarring of the liver) – In this stage there is a persistent inflammation in the liver and fibrous scar tissues show around the blood and liver cells by replacing some of the healthy tissues.
- Cirrhosis (chronic liver disease) – This is the final stage that leads to liver failure and requires a transplantation. It usually affects those above 50-60 years of age and is characterized by the liver shrinking and becoming lumpy. Symptoms include an enlarging, fluid-filled abdomen, jaundice of the skin and yellowing of the eyes, confusion, and a tendency to bleed more easily.
Diagnosis is done through blood tests and imaging tests such as CT scan, MRI, transient elastography, magnetic resonance elastography, and liver tissue examination, and also through physical exam.
Treatment: Detox Diet
As mentioned earlier, fatty liver, at its early stages (except the third and fourth stages) is reversible by way of simple changes in lifestyle. If the fatty liver is due to alcohol, the main change in lifestyle involves avoiding alcohol completely for 6 weeks. Apart from this, fatty liver can easily be reversed through detoxification that includes a detox diet and exercise regimen. The detox diet typically includes foods that are cholesterol free and enable the lowering of triglyceride levels in the blood. For instance, mono- and poly-unsaturated fats should be substituted for saturated and trans fats by using olive oil instead of butter and eating fish such as salmon instead of red meat. The detox diet should also be designed in a manner that fights or controls or prevents obesity, type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. In addition, certain drugs, smoking, etc., are to be avoided. Alcohol is also to be avoided even if the fatty liver is not attributed to it. There should be a carefully planned exercise regimen for 30 mins each day so as to control weight and rejuvenate the body.
We at Eva Physiocare have developed an integrated wellness programme containing diet therapy, nutrition therapy and exercise therapy for fatty liver patients, enabling them to completely reverse the condition and get back to the normal life within weeks.