Improving Your Liver One Day at a Time
The liver is the second biggest organ in the human body, yet it often is highly underestimated and neglected.
This organ is the reason toxins or byproducts of metabolism don’t overrun your body. The liver filters these harmful substances out of the blood and sends them to the organs responsible for excretion. It further plays an invaluable role in regulating blood sugar, particularly during the night when you’re sleeping.
But what is a fatty liver? How does it happen? And what changes can you make in your diet to help with a fatty liver?
What is a Fatty Liver?
A fatty liver is precisely what those two words imply. It means your liver has more fat than necessary, which may lead to liver inflammation, liver scarring, liver damage, and ultimately, liver failure. About 5% of fat in the liver is normal. However, any higher than this can cause various health issues.
Many people associate a fatty liver with a person who consumes excessive amounts of alcohol. While a fatty liver can happen because of this, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease occurs when a person’s liver has too much fat that is not caused by excessive alcohol consumption.
So, why does a fatty liver happen then?
Generally, fat builds in the liver because the body creates too much fat or fails to metabolize fat correctly. As mentioned above, this may happen from drinking too much alcohol. However, it may also occur due to obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, gut impairment, and high amounts of fat circulating in the blood.
Occasionally, although rare, it may also happen through pregnancy, rapid weight loss, hepatitis C side effects, or exposure to certain toxins. Additionally, some experts indicate that a person’s genes may play a role in developing a fatty liver.
Common Signs of Liver Damage
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes).
- Fatigue and weakness.
- Abdominal pain and swelling.
- Loss of appetite and weight loss.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Dark urine.
- Pale or bloody stools.
- Itchy skin.
- Swelling in the legs and ankles.
- Easy bruising and bleeding.
- Erectile dysfunction.
It's important to note that these signs may vary depending on the severity and underlying cause of liver damage. If you suspect liver damage or have any concerns about your liver health, it's recommended to seek medical attention for a proper diagnosis and treatment.
The Best Diet to Help a Fatty Liver
About 25% of individuals across the globe experience a fatty liver. So, what can you change in your diet to get rid of a fatty liver or prevent it and improve your health? Let’s find out.
What to Eat
Some great foods you should include in your diet to help with a fatty liver include:
- Coffee — research indicates that coffee may reduce abnormal liver enzymes and promote better liver health. In other words, keep that cup o’ joe on your breakfast menu. It might be doing you a ton of good.
- Milk — milk and other low-fat dairy options can help protect the liver from damage due to the existence of whey proteins.
- More Veggies — generally, adding more greens to your plate can help reduce the amount of fat in your diet and help you obtain various minerals and vitamins.
- Fish — fish high in omega-3s can help lower inflammation, leading to improved liver fat. Try sardines, tuna, salmon, or trout.
- Other tips — when it comes to your diet, you want to obtain a variety of minerals, vitamins, and nutrients to ensure your body has what it needs to function at its best. Consuming these from whole foods rather than pre-packaged or processed foods is always a good choice to reduce disruption in the body and its processes. Additionally, if you are overweight, you may want to consider making various lifestyle changes to obtain a healthy weight that can reduce a fatty liver.
What to Avoid
While you start including various foods within your diet, you may also want to limit others that can add more fat to your liver. These include:
- Added sugar.
- Fried or fast foods.
- White bread, pasta, or rice.
- Meat high in fat, such as red meat.
This doesn’t mean you can’t have these food items. More so, it means you should limit them and have them only occasionally.
Further, when using the above advice to make changes to your diet, make sure you also adhere to any recommendations or advice from your doctor. For example, your doctor may recommend avoiding alcohol entirely until you achieve better health. You may also want to watch your total food intake to ensure you are eating enough and not over-consuming.
Supplements to Take to Prevent Liver Damage
Here are a few supplements that are sometimes used for liver support:
Milk Thistle: Milk thistle is a popular herbal supplement known for its potential liver-protective properties. It contains an active compound called silymarin, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Some studies suggest that milk thistle may help improve liver function and support liver health.
N-acetylcysteine (NAC): NAC is a compound that can increase levels of glutathione, a powerful antioxidant produced in the liver. It is commonly used as a supplement to support liver function, particularly in cases of acetaminophen (paracetamol) overdose or liver toxicity. NAC may help protect liver cells from damage and support detoxification processes.
Vitamin E: Vitamin E is an antioxidant that can help reduce oxidative stress in the liver. It may have a beneficial effect on liver health by reducing inflammation and promoting cell repair. However, evidence is mixed, and vitamin E supplementation should be approached with caution as high doses may have potential risks.
Omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish oil supplements, have anti-inflammatory properties and may help reduce inflammation in the liver. They have been studied for their potential benefits in certain liver conditions, such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
Take Care of Your Liver, and it Will Take Care of You
The liver is an organ you can’t live without. Detoxification is a necessary process for good health and to avoid life-threatening conditions. If you aren’t battling fatty liver disease, it’s still a good idea to pay attention to ways you can improve the health of your liver and prevent a fatty liver. That way, you can lead a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life.