By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
October 20, 2014
- The enemy lurking in your liver
- What is it that makes your liver fat?
- Love your liver with these tips
It doesn’t seem that long ago that the only people who had to worry about their liver health were alcoholics. These days, that’s no longer the case.
There’s a silent liver disease that’s gaining a foothold in the U.S. It’s called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease – or NAFLD for short. And it’s one of the most common forms of liver disease in America today.
It’s something that happens when your liver starts having trouble breaking down fats. Instead, the fats just build up in your liver tissue. Over time, this can trigger inflammation, scarring of the liver, and even lead to cirrhosis.
That sounds like it should throw off some sort of painful symptoms, doesn’t it? But, in most cases, you won’t feel a thing. And, if you do, the symptoms may be so non-specific that your doctor could have a hard time making a diagnosis. These include things like fatigue, weight-loss, weakness and nausea that could be attributed to almost anything.
Because of this, it’s not uncommon for NAFLD to be discovered only through routine blood tests that show high levels of liver enzymes. Once this occurs, further testing is done to rule out other causes before a diagnosis of NAFLD can be made.
NAFLD affects about a third of all Americans. People most at risk are those who are overweight, obese or diabetic. It’s estimated that a whopping 70% of diabetics have the disease. But normal-weight people can get it, too.
What’s causing this epidemic? And what can you do to make sure you don’t get caught in the grip of it?
Ultimately, fatty liver is a silent epidemic that’s another product of our unhealthy American lifestyle. Just think about it. What causes obesity and diabetes? The foods we eat. Stress. Lack of exercise. These are the same things that increase – or decrease – your risk of fatty liver.
Unfortunately, as the rates of obesity increase, the incidence of NAFLD and NASH (non-alcoholic steatorrheic hepatitis) have increased. In fact, NAFLD/NASH is now among the top four reasons patients are having liver transplants in the U.S…. and it’s occurring at younger ages.
Let’s take a look at some of the contributing factors…
High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and trans-fats are two additives that shouldn’t even be in our food supply. Yet packaged foods and baked goods are often high in trans-fats. And the beverages we drink are loaded with HFCS.
Many people are placing today’s increasing obesity and diabetes rates squarely on the shoulders of HFCS. Now we can add NAFLD to the list.
One of the reasons HFCS adds to your risk of fatty liver is because it increases triglyceride production. The problem is, those fatty triglycerides start accumulating in the liver. And when they don’t get released, the amount of fat in the liver continues to build.
Soft drinks are, by far, the most common source of this health threat. Many fruit juices and processed foods also contain HFCS. And, guess what? Turns out, patients with NAFLD drink about twice as many soft drinks than those without the disease.
Trans-fats work similarly. They’re associated with obesity and glucose intolerance. And, in experiments using mice, trans-fats increased the build-up of fat and cholesterol in the liver. They also caused lesions on the liver that are associated with the more advanced form of NAFLD.
So, always read the ingredient list and avoid anything that is “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated.” These both mean the product contains trans-fats.
The earlier you catch this disease, the easier it is to get the upper hand on it. Clearly, the first two things to do are avoid foods containing HFCS and trans-fats. And, of course, if you have any liver problems at all, you shouldn’t be drinking alcohol.
Instead, look toward natural foods and beverages.
Make antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables the central focus of your meals. Add all the colors of the rainbow and eat as much of them as you want. Enjoy seafood delights in the form of wild-caught fish and shellfish. They’re chock-full of omega-3 fatty acids that improve liver metabolism and reduce inflammation.
When it comes to beverages, there’s nothing better than good, old-fashioned water. Spruce it up with a wedge of lemon, lime or orange. It’s even trendy now to infuse your container of water at home with fruits… all the great taste and none of the unhealthy calories. Green tea is also a great choice.
These foods will not only reduce your chances of NAFLD. When you combine them with regular physical activity, you’ll also start dropping those unwanted pounds, gain control of your blood sugar, and do your heart a world of good.
There are also a few supplements that pack a lot of power when it comes to your liver health:
N-acetylcysteine (NAC). People with fatty liver all have one thing in common. They have reduced glutathione levels. Your body doesn’t manufacturer glutathione on its own. And glutathione supplements are not very well-absorbed by your body. However NAC is a glutathione precursor that can boost your glutathione stores and improve liver function. Take 600 mg. daily.
Milk thistle contains flavonoids that support liver function by raising protective glutathione levels and reducing liver inflammation. Take 420–600 mg. of silymarin per day from an herbal extract of milk thistle standardized to 80 percent silymarin content.
Phosphatidylcholine helps to prevent fat from being deposited in the liver. It can also help break down scar tissue, bolster the function of liver cells, and help regenerate cell membranes. Take 900 mg. a day of this nutritional supplement to improve liver function. The only one I recommend is called BodyBio PC (either liquid or gel caps) and is a true phosphatidylcholine,
Don’t wait to start protecting your liver. Cut HFCS and trans-fats out of your life for good. Start dropping those extra pounds with a healthy diet and regular physical activity. And invest in supplements that will keep your liver healthy for years to come.
Goran MI, et al. “High-fructose corn syrup and diabetes prevalence: A global perspective.” Glob Public Health. 2012 Nov 27. [Epub ahead of print]
Ouyang X, et al. “Fructose consumption as a risk factor for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.” J Hepatol. 2008 Jun;48(6):993-9.
Tetri LH, et al. “Severe NAFLD with hepatic necroinflammatory changes in mice fed trans fats and a high-fructose corn syrup equivalent.” Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2008 Nov;295(5):G987-95.
Machado RM, et al. “Intake of trans fatty acids causes nonalcoholic steatohepatitis and reduces adipose tissue fat content.” J Nutr. 2010 Jun;140(6):1127-32.
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Cacciapuoti F, et al. “Silymarin in non alcoholic fatty liver disease” World J Hepatol. Mar 27, 2013; 5(3): 109–113.
Duric M, et al. “Phosphatidylcholine functional foods and nutraceuticals: A potential approach to prevent non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.” European Journal of Lipid Science and Technology. Volume 114, Issue 4, pages 389–398, April 2012