The liver is present on the right side of the belly, a meaty organ weighing about 3 pounds. The liver has two large sections- left and right lobes, along with parts of the pancreas and intestines, the gallbladder sits under the liver. With these organs, the liver works together to absorb, process, and digest food. The main function of the liver is to maintain and filter the blood coming from the digestive tract to the rest of the body. The liver detoxify metabolizes drugs and detoxifies chemicals along with also makes proteins for blood clotting and other life-supporting functions mentioned below-
What is the function of the liver?
- Produces bile- helps in digestion
- Stores iron
- Helps in resisting infection by making immune factors
- Removes bacteria and toxins from your blood
- Converts nutrients into energy
- Creates substances that help your blood clot- to heal wounds together.
What is Fatty Liver?
Having a small amount of fat in your liver is normal but in excess can become a health issue for you. Fatty liver is known as hepatic steatosis, it happens when fat builds up in your liver. The liver is the second largest organ in your body, too much fat in your liver cause liver inflammation, which can damage your liver badly and create scarring. In some cases, scarring leads to liver failure too.
Causes of fatty liver
Fatty liver develops when the body produces too much fat and does not metabolize efficiently enough fat of your body. Most of the fat is stored in liver cells, where it causes fatty liver diseases. There are major factors that may play a role that causes fatty liver disease-
- Insulin Resistance
- High Blood Sugar
- High Levels of fat- triglycerides in your blood
There are some minor causes included-
- Rapid weight loss
- Infections such as Hepatitis C
- Exposure to toxins
- Side effects from some kind of medications, such as methotrexate, tamoxifen, amiodarone, and valproic acid.
What is fatty liver disease?
Steatosis is a common condition by having too much fat build up in your liver. A healthy liver contains a small amount of fat, the problem occurs when the amount of fat increases from 5% to 10% of your liver’s weight. In most cases it does not cause any serious problem, your liver functions normally. But over time diseases get worse as fat increases then it progresses through three stages.
Steatohepatitis- Liver becomes inflamed- swollen, which damages its tissue
Fibrosis- Scar tissue forms where the liver is damaged
Cirrhosis of the liver- Extensive scar tissue replaces healthy tissue
Several types of liver disease are associated with liver-
- Hepatitis- Inflammation of the liver,caused by viruses- hepatitis A, B, and C
- Cirrhosis- Long term damage to permanent scarring, in which liver is unable to function
- Liver Cancer- Hepatocellular carcinoma, mostly occurs after cirrhosis is present
- Ascites- Liver leaks fluid into the belly, which becomes distended and heavy
- Gallstones- If gallstones remain stuck in the bile duct drain the liver, hepatitis, and bile duct cause infection
- Liver Failure- Includes infections, diseases, excessive alcohol
- Hemochromatosis- Hemochromatosis allows iron to deposit in the liver, damaging it. The iron also deposits throughout the body, causing multiple other health problems
- Primary Biliary Cirrhosis- In this rare disorder, an unclear process slowly destroys the bile ducts in the liver. Permanent liver scarring (cirrhosis) eventually develops
- Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis- A rare disease with unknown causes, primary sclerosing cholangitis causes inflammation and scarring in the bile ducts in the liver
The two main forms of the fatty liver develop in some drinks a lot of alcohol, known as Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (AFLD) – accumulated to heavy drinking. About 5 percent of people in the US have this form of liver disease.
In someone who does not drink a lot of alcohol, it is known as Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)- affects one in three adults and one in ten children in the US. There is no exact cause of NAFLD, several factors that cause NAFLD, such as obesity and diabetes can increase the risk.
What are the symptoms of fatty liver disease?
People with fatty liver often have no symptoms until the disease becomes more serious and progresses to cirrhosis of the liver. Symptoms may include-
- Abdominal pain
- A feeling of fullness in the upper right side of the abdomen
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Yellowish skin
- Whites of eyes(Jaundice)
- Swelling of your legs
- Mental confusion
How to diagnose fatty liver disease?
To diagnose fatty liver, you need to consult your doctor who will conduct an exam to detect the disease and cure it. If there is any medical history or your doctor suspects that you might have fatty liver, then they will ask you questions regarding it-
- Family history of liver disease
- Any medical condition
- Change in your health recently
- Medications you are on
- Alcohol consumptions
- Your lifestyle and routine
If you have been facing a loss of appetite, fatigue, or any unexpected symptoms then your doctor will examine a physical test. To check your inflammation, the doctor will press your abdomen or palpate. If your liver is enlarged then they will feel it. There is a possibility that the liver to be inflamed without being enlarged. Your doctor may not be able to tell you by touch only that your liver is inflamed. In such cases, your doctor conducts blood tests such as the alanine aminotransferase test (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase test (AST) to check your liver enzymes. If the test results are positive, then your doctor will conduct additional tests to identify the cause of inflammation. Other methods used by doctors to check excess fat are imaging tests-
- Ultrasound exam
- CT scan
- MRI scan
Treatment for fatty liver
More research is required to approve the medication to treat fatty liver disease. In most cases lifestyle plays a vital role, changes in your routine can help reverse fatty disease. Your doctor might recommend you to-
- Limit intake of alcohol or avoid
- Lose weight
- Switch to a healthy diet
- Medications to control diabetes, cholesterol, and triglycerides (fat in the blood)
- Vitamin E and thiazolidinedione’s (drugs used to treat diabetes such as Actos and Avandia) in specific instances
In some cases of cirrhosis, the doctor might prescribe to change the lifestyle, take medications, or surgery. If you develop liver failure, you might need a transplant of your liver.
The liver can repair itself. If you avoid alcohol and other unhealthy habits, it is possible to prevent fatty liver disease and reverse early liver damage. The best way to prevent fatty liver disease is to do the things that maintain overall health-
- Stay at a healthy weight. If you are overweight or obese, lose weight gradually
- Exercise regularly
- Limit your alcohol consumption
- Take medications as prescribed
Some fatty liver home remedies may help to slow the progression of the illness and reverse some of the damage, even if they do not cure it.
- Eat a Mediterranean diet, high in healthy fats, fish, and vegetables, and low in red meat
- Limit fructose in processed foods and avoid sweetened drinks.
- Add more greens and herbs
- Increase consumption of omega-3 polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats
- Use olive oil, eating oily fish like salmon and sardines two to three times a week, and eating nuts and seeds daily
- Increase consumption of high-fibre foods- vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts
- Reduce consumption of highly processed foods like fast food, commercial bakeries goods, and sweets.
- Avoid excess alcohol consumption.
Get regular exercise
Moderate fitness helps sustain weight loss over time, but an intense workout may help even more. Exercise appears to help non-alcoholic fatty liver disease even without significant weight loss. In the context of studies, moderate exercise should be done 5 days per week at least for 30 minutes at your target heart rate.
Calculating your target heart rate
Medications and fitness levels can impact your heart rate, with the help of your healthcare adviser calculate the number of your heart rate. Provide you with a proper chart of exercise. If you are new to exercise then start with lower intensity and gradually increase your speed of workout.
Multiple studies have shown that coffee has the ability to protect against metabolic syndrome, which goes together with NAFLD. The ability of coffee to combat metabolic syndrome is due to its anti-inflammatory effects and inhibition of fat deposition in the liver. More research is needed, but both animal and human studies have shown a lower prevalence of NAFLD in coffee drinkers.
Get your antioxidants
Vitamins E and C—both antioxidants—may help promote liver health.
Avoid added sugar
Adding refined sugar to our diets adds extra calories, without providing nutritional benefits. Fructose, a type of sugar, stimulates the production of fat-forming enzymes in our livers, a process already stimulated in people with NAFLD.
If you want to detox, try taking a week to reset you are eating habits by eating only whole, unprocessed foods including lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy oils, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy. The recommendations for the Mediterranean diet discussed above are a good place to start.
Even though some medications may be hard on your liver, you should not stop any of your prescribed medications suddenly without talking to your healthcare provider.
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