By Bonnie Jenkins, Advanced Natural Wellness
If you hear the term liver disease, you probably have visions of an alcoholic who has spent years taxing his or her liver with copious amount of liquor. If so, you might be surprised that many people who don’t even drink can find themselves suffering from a condition called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) occurs when your liver has trouble breaking down fats, causing fat to build up in your liver tissue. Doctors aren’t sure what causes this. The wide range of diseases and conditions linked to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is so diverse that it’s difficult to pinpoint any one cause. While some people can have a fatty liver without any symptoms, others aren’t so lucky. Some folks can experience fatigue, pain in the upper right abdomen and unexplained weight loss that can be a sign that the accumulation of fat has triggered inflammation and scarring in the liver. At its most severe, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease can progress to liver failure.
Causes of NAFLD
A wide range of diseases and conditions can increase your risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, including high cholesterol and triglyceride levels, metabolic syndrome, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, gastric bypass surgery, rapid weight loss, and exposure to toxins and chemicals like pesticides. Certain drugs like tetracycline, cortisone, prednisone and even high doses of vitamin A can also lead to fatty liver disease.
How you quench your thirst can also set you up for this potentially devastating disease—and I’m not talking about alcohol. New Israeli research finds that people with NAFLD consumed five times as many carbohydrates from soft drinks as those without the disease. In comparing diets among 90 participants, researchers report that 80 percent of those with NAFLD consumed soft drinks in excess, which means they drank more than 17 ounces daily—or less than one 20 ounce bottle of Coke or Pepsi.
The more soft drinks participants downed, the more likely they were to have NAFLD. Although the study couldn’t prove a cause-and-effect relationship, the scientists concluded that soft drink consumption is a strong predictor of fatty liver. One reason may be that soft drinks are the leading contributor of added sugar in the diet of many Americans. It could also be that people who drink more soda tend to be sedentary. They also typically eat less fiber, more saturated and trans fat, and more calories than those without the condition. Either way, the take home message here is to limit the amount of soda you drink.
Supplements To Help Prevent NAFLD
Fortunately, there are things you can do to help prevent becoming a victim of NAFLD. Along with eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and keeping your weight in check, the following supplements help guard against NAFLD and may help treat it if you already suffer from the condition:
Milk thistle is made up of three flavonoids—silybin, silydianin and silychristin—that support liver function by raising protective glutathione levels. Take 420–600 mg. of silymarin per day from an herbal extract of milk thistle standardized to 80 percent silymarin content.
Phosphatidylcholine is an essential nutrient that prevents fat from being deposited in the liver. Taking phosphatidylcholine supplements can help to break down scar tissue in the liver. There is also some evidence that phosphatidylcholine bolsters the health and function of liver cells. Take 900 mg. a day of this nutritional supplement to improve liver function.
Pyruvate supplements are often used by people trying to lose weight. But, according to a study by the Veteran’s Administration, pyruvate’s true potential is to mobilize fat out of the liver. The typical amount used in most studies is 6 grams.
SAMe – It’s been suggested that SAMe acts as an “intracellular control switch” which regulates the regeneration of liver cells and protects against oxidative stress. Taking 1,200 mg. of SAMe a day can improve liver function and bile flow.
The good news is that NAFLD is highly preventable. Adopting healthy lifestyle habits and bolstering your liver’s ability to cope with toxins and other assaults with these four supplements can ensure that your liver will serve you well for the rest of your life.
Abid A, et al. Soft drink consumption is associated with fatty liver disease independent of metabolic syndrome. Journal of Hepatology. 2009 Aug 21. [Epub ahead of print]
Goheen SC, et al. The prevention of alcoholic fatty liver using dietary supplements: Dihydroxyacetone, pyruvate and riboflavin compared to arachidonic acid in pair-fed rats. Lipids. 1981; 16: 43-51.
Ma X, et al. Polyenylphosphatidylcholine attenuates non-alcoholic hepatic fibrosis and accelerates its regression. Journal of Hepatology. 1996;24:604–613.
Matt JM, et al. S-adenosylmethionine: a control switch that regulates liver function. FASEB Journal. 2002; 16:15-26.