The human body quickly soaks up the fats and stores it in various parts of our body. One such part is the liver, and it is partially made of fats. However, if the fat content is too high in the liver it may convert to fatty liver disease. To treat it, the first step is to change your diet.
The two types of fatty liver disease are
- Alcoholic liver disease
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
The high-fat content damages the liver and prevents it from removing toxins and restricting the production of bile for the digestive system. If the healthy liver does not perform properly, then it adds to the risk of developing other problems throughout their body.
Regular exercise and proper diet are essential in managing this disease. However, there might be a need to see a doctor for treatment and consultation.
Fatty Liver Diet: Food to eat
This diet should include a wide variety of foods. A good starting point is to maintain a balance of reducing calorie intake while also eating high fiber and natural foods. To get sustained energy and increase satiety, one should consume complex carbohydrates, fiber, and protein. It is also essential to eat foods that help in reducing inflammation and help the body to repair its cells.
Many people go for diets like a plant-based diet or the Mediterranean diet. In such a case, it is always advisable to consult a dietitian as they can help in creating a customized diet plan which, according to the taste, symptoms, and health status of the person.
These were some of the basic diet guidelines, but there are also some specific foods that can be helpful for people with this disease. These foods include:
In 2013 in the journal Liver International, it suggested that over 50% of people in the US consume coffee daily. According to the study, coffee is good for the liver because it protects against fatty liver disease. It also notes that drinking coffee daily may help in reducing the risk of chronic liver disease and protect the liver from damaging conditions like liver cancer. Also, in 2014, a study in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology recommended coffee due to its protective effects and how it influences liver enzymes. It also reports that coffee reduces fat build-up in the liver and also increases protective antioxidants.
An easy way to add fiber in your diet is by eating oatmeal as it an essential tool for digestion. Moreover, the fiber in oats may be helpful for the liver as they are high in beta-glucans. A study conducted in 2017 in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences reports that beta-glucans are very biologically active in the body, which helps in modulating the immune system and fight against inflammation. They may be helpful against diabetes and obesity as well. If you are planning to add oats or oatmeal to your diet, then you should get whole oats or steel-cut oats. It is not advisable to eat prepackaged oatmeal as it may contain fillers such as flour or sugars.
Green tea helps in reducing overall fat content, fights against oxidative stress, and reduce other signs of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Also, note that tea leaves are better than extracts, as they may damage the liver.
Eating garlic helps in stimulating the liver. A study conducted in 2016 in the journal of Advanced Biomedical Research noted that consuming garlic reduces fat content and body weight in people with NAFLD.
Berries like blueberries, cranberries and raspberries have an antioxidant called polyphenols. They help in protecting the liver from damage. Also, a study shown in the World Journal of Gastroenterology recommends regular eating of berries as it may help stimulate the immune system.
Grapes, grape seeds and grape juice are rich in antioxidants as per a study that features in the World Journal of Gastroenterology. It also reports that it helps in reducing inflammation in the liver and prevents liver damage. A simple way to add them to your diet is by eating them whole.
Grapefruit contains two primary antioxidants: naringin and naringenin. As per a study in the World Journal of Gastroenterology, it helps in protecting the liver from injury as it reduces inflammation and protects the liver cells and the compounds present may also increase the enzymes that burn fat and reduce fat build-up in the liver.
prickly pear as a fruit and juice have many benefits towards the health of your liver. The World Journal of Gastroenterology study recommends that the compounds found in the fruit help in protecting the organ.
General Plant foods
Linked closely to liver health are avocados, and other plant foods contain compounds. A study conducted in 2015 in the journal Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine reports that many plant foods might be helpful. These include:
- beets and beet juice
- brown rice
- greens such as kale and collards
The World Journal of Gastroenterology points out in its study that fatty fish consumption and fish oil supplements help in reducing the impact NAFLD. These fishes are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which helps in reducing inflammation. These good fats are especially helpful for the liver, as they prevent the excess fats build up and maintain a balanced enzyme level. It also recommends eating fatty fish more than two times every week. Fish like herring or salmon are easy to find and incorporate into the diet.
Eating nuts is another way to maintain the health of your liver and protect it against NAFLD. They usually contain unsaturated fatty acids, antioxidants and vitamin E, which helps in preventing NAFLD, reducing inflammation and oxidative stress. A handful of walnuts or almonds daily can support in maintaining liver health. Note that it should not be consumed in huge quantity as they are high in calories as well.
According to the World Journal of Gastroenterology study, olive oil helps in reducing oxidative stress and improves liver function. This is because of the high unsaturated fatty acid content in the oil.
Foods to avoid in the fatty liver diet plan
People diagnosed with fatty liver disease should avoid or limit their consumption of certain foods that are not beneficial.
Sugar and added sugars
Contributing to high blood sugar levels, it can also increase fat in the liver. Ice cream, candy, and sweetened beverages, such as soda and fruit drinks, are highly concentrated in sugar and should be avoided. Various packaged foods, even store-bought coffee and tea and baked goods, contain high sugar levels. It is also beneficial to prevent other sugars like fructose and corn syrup to minimize fat in the liver.
The most common cause of fatty liver disease is alcohol, as it affects the liver the most. A person with fatty liver disease should either remove it from their diet altogether or at least reduce their intake of alcohol.
These are present in white bread, white rice and white pasta. Being highly processed, the producers have removed the fiber from these grains, which leads to high blood sugar when consumed. Moreover, a study conducted in 2015 with 73 adults concluded that those who consumed less refined grains in their diet had a lower risk of metabolic syndrome. Replaced these grains by potatoes, whole-wheat and whole-grain alternatives and legumes.
Fried or salty foods
Overeating fried or salty food can increase your calorie intake and thus increase the risk of weight gain. Note that obesity is a common cause of this disease. One can replace salt and add flavor easily by incorporating extra spices and herbs to a meal. Replace frying by baking or steaming the food.
A review article of 2019 shows that saturated fat intake increases the amount of fat. This ultimately accumulates around organs, including the liver. High saturated fats include beef, pork, and deli, which should be avoided by anyone with fatty liver disease. Instead consume lean meats, tofu, fish, or tempeh as substitutes.
Even though regular exercise is vital for everyone, it gives extra benefits for people with fatty liver disease. It helps in maintaining a healthy body weight which can help in reducing the symptoms. One should do moderate exercise for at least 30 minutes, five times a week. Tips for becoming more active include:
- stretching every morning
- using a standing workstation
- taking the stairs instead of an elevator
- walking on a treadmill while watching television
Symptoms of fatty liver disease
Usually, there are no noticeable symptoms of fatty liver disease, but one might experience feeling tired, pain or discomfort in the upper right side of your abdomen.
People diagnosed with fatty liver disease develop complications like liver scarring, which is also known as liver fibrosis. Severe liver fibrosis is called cirrhosis.
- weight loss
- loss of appetite
- itchy skin
- yellow skin and eyes
- abdominal pain
- web-like clusters of blood vessels
- abdominal swelling
- swelling of legs
- breast enlargement in men
Causes of Fatty Liver Disease
When the human body produces too much fat or doesn’t metabolize fat efficiently enough, there is a high possibility of getting fatty liver disease. This fat is stored in the liver cells and later caused fatty liver disease over time. This build-up of fat can be caused by many things.
Following factors may play a significant role:
- high blood sugar
- high levels of fat in your blood
- insulin resistance
Less common causes are:
- rapid weight loss
- some types of infections like hepatitis C
- exposure to certain toxins
- side effects from medications like methotrexate (Trexall), amiodorone (Pacerone), tamoxifen (Nolvadex), and valproic acid (Depakote)
- Certain genes may also raise your risk
Fatty Liver diagnosis
The consulted doctor will ask for your medical history and conduct a physical exam along with other tests.
The doctor will ask you questions about:
- your alcohol consumption and other lifestyle habits
- your family medical history, and history of liver disease in the family
- any medical conditions that you might have
- recent changes in your health
- any medications that you might take
It is essential to inform your doctor if you are suffering from fatigue, loss of appetite, or other unexplained symptoms.
The doctor may palpate or press on your abdomen to check for liver inflammation, i.e. if your liver is enlarged.
However, there is a chance that your liver can be inflamed and still not enlarged. If the doctor can’t say for sure, the more tests are required.
If blood tests show elevated liver enzymes, then you are diagnosed with fatty liver disease. This is one of the most common way of diagnosing it. If you’ve developed symptoms or signs of liver disease, then only these tests are recommended, or else they can also be ordered as part of routine blood work.
Elevated liver enzymes detect liver inflammation and fatty liver disease is a potential cause for liver inflammation. However, it is not the only cause.
To check for excess fat and other problems related to the liver, the doctor may use the following imaging tests:
- CT scan
- ultrasound exam
- MRI scan
Best way to detect the severity of the liver disease is through liver biopsy. During the biopsy, the doctor will insert a needle into your liver and remove a piece of tissue for examination. They will give you a local anesthetic to lessen the pain. This test can help determine if you have fatty liver disease, as well as liver scarring.
In a nutshell
A fatty liver diet includes a lot of food that you can eat, controlling your medical condition. Good food maintains a balance of your calorie-intake, along with natural foods and fiber. Try out this fatty acid diet and let us know what worked for your best!
Also, make sure you avoid the foods not to include in your fatty liver diet, such as alcohol, meat, sugars and added sugars, etc.