I Have A Fatty Liver And I Seldom Drink, What Should I Do?
DON’T PANIC! Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver is usually benign, but not always. It is estimated that only about 20% of those with fatty liver will advance to the next stage of the disease (Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis, or NASH). Just be aware and take action. Stop it from getting worse. Monitor your situation through regular bloodwork. The liver is a forgiving organ; it is the only organ that can regenerate itself. Fatty liver disease can be reversed through lifestyle changes. Without action, though, it can lead to serious liver disease such as cirrhosis and as the scarring gets worse a transplant may be needed.
WHAT LIFESTYLE CHANGES DO I NEED TO MAKE?
Increase aerobic and resistance exercise; shoot for about 150 minutes of exercise per week. Walking is a good start. The best first step, though, is to change your diet and lose weight. Studies have shown that a 10% reduction in body weight is the single most important action in reversing fatty liver. That’s a tough goal to achieve, but any weight loss will help. There are a lot of diet systems around, many with mixed reviews. Keep it simple; something you can stick with. It is always a good idea to first just cut the “CRAP”.
- C = Carbonated beverages
- R = Refined sugars
- A = Artificial flavorings and alcohol
- P = Processed foods
Another tip; when you visit your supermarket, avoid the aisles and stick to the walls; that’s where the healthy foods are. Try some form of the Mediterranean Diet. There is no single definition of that diet, but all the variations have a common theme and are heavily focused on fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Choose a version and stick to its principles. Harvard’s “Healthy Eating Plate”, is also a good guide. Lose weight slowly, no more than four pounds per week, as fast weight loss could damage the liver. No starvation diets.
SHOULD I SEE A SPECIALIST?
It is usually not necessary unless your liver begins to swell and healthy tissue is destroyed. There are no medical solutions for fatty liver disease. It’s all about lifestyle change and treating your underlying symptoms, such as diabetes. If your liver gets progressively worse, as indicated by regular bloodwork or imaging, then you see should see a specialist, usually a hepatologist.