When’s the last time you checked in on your liver? Most people take this hardworking organ for granted and don’t realize they need to give it some love and help. Your liver is your largest internal organ and a lot of bad things happen when your liver isn’t doing what it’s supposed to be doing. If your liver is getting fatty, it’s not going to do a good job and it could be damaging your health without you even recognizing it. Did you know 30-40% of American adults have NAFLD, also known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease? (1) If you haven’t checked in on your liver it might need a diet.
Your liver is responsible for major functions! It clears out harmful toxins, like alcohol and medications from the blood. Today our bodies are bombarded with all kinds of toxins in our food, clothing, body products, environment, and workplace that can overload our liver. It works hard! This amazing organ produces bile to breakdown fats and aids digestion. It produces blood clotting factors. The liver stores energy, vitamins and minerals like iron.
The liver also stores fat. It’s supposed to! That’s one of its jobs, but when it starts storing too much fat it can become a fatty liver, which is dangerous. When 5-10% of your liver is fat that is a fatty liver. When there is a lot of fat in your liver, and it’s not caused by alcohol, that’s NAFLD. (1)
NAFLD is a Growing Problem
A fatty liver can lead to inflammation, cirrhosis and scarring like an alcoholic liver, to the point where you may need a liver transplant. Doctors are seeing this more and more while more people are ending up on the liver transplant list. That is really scary. We have a huge problem. The major risk factors include being overweight and type 2 diabetes.
The liver problem is happening in part because we are seeing a high rate of overweight and obese Americans. Over 70% of adults over 20 are overweight or obese. (2) The rate of obesity in children has tripled since the 1970’s with almost 1 in 5 school age children being obese. (3) On top of that, the CDC finds that more than 100 million Americans have diabetes or pre-diabetes. (4) These numbers are part of the reason why it is predicted children growing up today will have a shorter life span then their parents. I’m not O.K. with that. Are you?
Because of these growing numbers there will be increased liver transplants and in the next few decades, NAFLD is expected to become the most common indicator for the liver transplantation. (5) There is no drug to cure NAFLD and growing numbers of transplants will impact the quality and availability of donor livers. How does a liver shortage sound?
People Don’t Always Have Symptoms of Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
Many are living with NAFLD and don’t even know it because for many there are no symptoms. When symptoms occur, they may include:
- fatigue or feeling tired – the symptom for everything!
- difficulty losing weight
- weight loss
- loss of appetite
- mental confusion
- Difficulty focusing
- abdominal pain – guess where your liver is?
- enlarged liver
- bloating and gas
- dark urine
- bruising easily
- excessive perspiration
- constipation – you should be pooping 1-3 times a day!
- pale or dark tar-colored stool – remember your liver makes the bile needed for digestion!
- dry and dark patches on neck and under arms
Get Your Liver Function Tested and Find out if You Have NAFLD
If you have any of these types of symptoms, you may have NAFLD. Unfortunately, all of us have had at least one of them at some point in our lives. If you haven’t, why are you reading this article? Go enjoy feeling awesome all the time. The only way to know for sure if you have NAFLD is to test. Make sure you are going to a proficient provider that is going to test more thoroughly than the standard medical approach.
At The Wellness Way we run a liver panel that looks at many various factors that are going to be different that the standard enzymes. We really want to check the entire function of the liver to make sure it is producing what it is supposed to, and that everything is at normal, functioning level. I always tell people they don’t want to be in the normal level- they want to be in the functioning level.
Eating Fat Doesn’t Cause Fatty Liver
A common misconception is that eating fat causes a fatty liver. The actual cause is sugar, which is a huge part of the standard American diet. Or what I like to call the SAD diet. Healthy dietary fat actually turns off the fat production in the liver while sugar goes directly to the liver and increases fat production. This fat gets stored in the liver and throughout the body. Sugar is literally wrecking the health of your liver! (6) (7)
With so much sugar in the American diet many people haven’t been kind to their hardworking liver. What can you do to help your liver?
5 Tips to Support Your Liver Function
1 – Know what your function is
That means get tested. If you have some of these symptoms get tested- which means everyone should really get tested. Don’t go without the information you need. Let’s get you tested so it doesn’t become more serious down the road.
2 – Add bitters to your diet
Bitters are foods like arugula, spinach, kale, dandelion leaves, limes, lemons and others. The bitter taste and acidic qualities promote digestion and liver function. If you don’t think you can get enough of those in your diet, then get a bitters supplement. Don’t hate on the veggies and fruits too much though. They are the best way to get nutrients.
3 – Cut down on sugar and carbs
A fatty liver does not come from eating too much fat. It comes from eating too much sugar and carbs. Eating those creates a fatty liver. I recently read an article about a 12-year-old who was on the liver transplant list because he did nothing but drink soda and eat candy. At 12, his liver was already shot! Children deserve a healthier start than that. We need to reverse the eating habits that are leading to higher rates of obesity and increased rates of diabetes.
4 – Eat more healthy fat
That actually helps your liver function as well as your entire body. So, when I say healthy fat, I mean avocados, coconut oil, olives, nuts, and other good fats. Don’t worry, they won’t make you or your liver fat.
5 – Get moving
You have to get off the couch. Get at least 30 minutes of moving a day. It doesn’t have to be all at once. Just make sure you get your 30 minutes in. Exercise can do a lot to combat a lot of the negative impacts on our bodies and our livers. It can also help you lose weight. One study found that people who lost just 3% – 6% of their body weight reduced their liver fat levels by 35%- 40%. Get moving!
Take Care of Your Liver, So It Can Take Care of You
Your liver is an important organ for removing toxins, aiding digestion and supporting homeostasis. NAFLD can lead to serious conditions. One out of every 10 Americans is affected by liver disease, making it one of the top 10 causes of death in the United States. (1)
Don’t forget to check in on your liver because your liver might need a diet. There is no medical treatment for NAFLD. Having a Wellness Way practitioner that can properly test and address the cause of the problem is essential. By taking care of your liver with a healthy diet, and exercise, you can reverse or prevent NAFLD.
Written by Dr. Jacqueline Berens