The liver is one of the most important organs in our bodies that supply our cells with energy and filters toxins so they can be released from bodies.
“The liver is one of the largest organs in the body. It has many important metabolic functions. It converts the nutrients in our diets into substances that the body can use, stores these substances, and supplies cells with them when needed,” the U.S. National Library of Medicine explains. “It also takes up toxic substances and converts them into harmless substances or makes sure they are released from the body.”
While many know that drinking lots of alcohol can destroy your liver, those who don’t drink alcohol are also at risk for fatty liver disease.
Nonalcholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is caused when too much fat is stored in the liver cells and is marked by liver inflammation which can cause scarring and irreversible damage. In severe cases when it becomes nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, the disease can lead to cirrhosis and liver failure.
It is said to affect between 80 to 100 million people in the U.S., according to Mayo Clinic.
- enlarged liver
- pain in the upper right abdomen
In more severe cases it can cause:
- Abdominal swelling (ascites)
- Enlarged blood vessels just beneath the skin’s surface
- Enlarged breasts in men
- Enlarged spleen
- Red palms
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
It is unknown why some people are more prone to collecting fat in the liver, however, the disease is linked to the following conditions:
- Overweight or obesity
- Insulin resistance, in which your cells don’t take up sugar in response to the hormone insulin
- High blood sugar (hyperglycemia), indicating prediabetes or actual type 2 diabetes
- High levels of fats, particularly triglycerides, in the blood
Many people who have NAFLD don’t even know they have the condition because they don’t show symptoms, but NAFLD affects 25 percent of people in the U.S., according to the Liver Foundation.
Here are some tips on how to prevent or treat NAFLD:
Diet and exercise are the main therapies for treatings NAFLD. A healthy diet will reduce the lipid and triglyceride count in your body. You can learn all about nutritional management of NAFLD here.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine states that a Low Glycemic Index Mediterranean Diet is effective in treating NAFLD. Low glycemic index foods include fresh produce and whole foods like eggs, onion, legumes, garlic, pears, broccoli, and carrots. Learn more about these diets here.
“Keeping your glucose and insulin levels stable will help treat fatty liver and insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes. Eat a diet rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables; limit added sugars and saturated fats. Choose unsaturated fats such as olive oil, nuts and fish, rather than butter, beef and full-fat dairy foods. Keep your cholesterol and triglyceride levels low. Your doctor may recommend medication to help lower your cholesterol. Some medications place a burden on your liver; take only what is medically necessary,” Livestrong writes.
You’ll also want to avoid medications and vaccines when you can, as well as alcohol and other substances that will stress your liver. Always consult your doctor before changing your diet or taking medication or supplements.
Walking, jogging, muscle strengthening, and flexibility are recommended as good ways to reduce NAFLD with exercise. It’s best to get between 30 and 40 minutes of aerobic exercise at least five days a week.
“This systematic review revealed that both aerobic and resistance exercise, independent of any other intervention, are successful in increasing hepatic fat mobilization,” the U.S. National Library of Medicine writes. “This effect is augmented by combining exercise with dietary interventions. The findings of this systematic review support that exercise interventions are effective in reducing intrahepatic triglyceride in patients with NAFLD independent of weight loss or dietary manipulation.”
A 2014 study found that taking 1,500 milligrams of cinnamon each day can improve NAFLD since it aids in digestion.
“In both groups, low-density lipoproteins decreased significantly (P < .05). In conclusion, the study suggests that taking 1500 mg cinnamon daily may be effective in improving NAFLD characteristics,” the study states.
Dandelion is known to detoxify the liver and increase bile production.
“In the folk medicine of many countries, dandelion is used as a liver tonic to stimulate a sluggish or congested liver,” Livestrong writes. “Because dandelion helps to clean the liver and gallbladder, it is believed to be important for the removal of toxins deposited in the liver from pharmaceutical drugs. There is some indication that the root of the plant may boost the production of natural, healthy bacteria of the gastrointestinal tract, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.”
Try adding 1/2 cup of dandelion leaves to a salad, cook and eat as vegetables, or make a tea from 2 to 8 grams of the dried root.
Indian gooseberry, also known as amla, is known as one of the most important medicinal and dietary plants in the Indian subcontinent and can help detox the liver and metabolize lipids, it also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
” Scientific studies have shown amla to be effective in preventing/ameliorating the toxic effects of hepatotoxic agents like ethanol, paracetamol, carbon tetrachloride, heavy metals, ochratoxins, hexachlorocyclohexane, antitubercular drugs and hepatotoxicity resulting from iron overload,” a piece published by the Royal Society of Chemistry reads. “Amla is also reported to impart beneficial effects on liver function and to mitigate hyperlipidemia and metabolic syndrome.”
A study published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine found that those who included flaxseed as 10 percent of their diet were able to reduce the strain on their livers.
“Our data showed that consumption of flaxseed oil significantly improved [western-type high-fat and high-cholesterol diet] WTD-induced NAFLD, as well as ameliorated impaired lipid homeostasis, attenuated oxidative stress, and inhibited inflammation,” the study’s abstract states.
Licorice was found to significantly reduce liver enzymes in a 2012 study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research. You can make a tea from licorice root and drink it once or twice daily to protect your liver.
An April 2011 study in the “Journal of Food Science” found that turmeric can prevent high cholesterol levels in the blood and reduce the risk of fatty liver disease by regulating the enzymes responsible for cholesterol metabolism in laboratory animals fed on high-fat diet. It can also reduce the damage alcohol causes your liver.
Milk thistle is known to help improve liver function. Milk thistle, or silymarin, can’t cleanse your fatty liver but it can help your liver if the disease has progressed and compromised your liver’s function.
“Silymarin is available in capsules, liquid extract, and tincture — although if your liver damage is alcohol-related, you should avoid the tincture,” Livestrong writes. “Capsules of dried milk thistle, which is considered an herb, contain 120 to 140 mg of silymarin. The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends taking between 280 and 450 mg of silyamrin daily, in divided doses. Always talk to your doctor before using any herbal remedy.”
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