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Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver

Around 30 to 40 percent of Indians show early signs of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease i.e. NAFLD. It is a condition in which fats are buildup within the liver. As the name says it is non-alcoholic fatty liver disease so it is not caused due to alcohol. A healthy liver has very little fat or even no fat at times. Liver is not meant to store the fat. Liver is a storehouse of enzymes and these enzymes are important for carrying out many processes in the body. Liver acts as a purifier for blood, it helps to detoxify our body from foreign substances and regulates metabolism. It also supplies essential vitamins, minerals and cholesterol needed by our body. So we cannot imagine our life without a liver or living with a damaged liver. NAFLD is the starting stage of liver damage and is completely reversible.



What causes NAFLD?



The two main causes of NAFLD are :



Diet – Sugar and sugar and sugar is the main cause of NAFLD. Especially fructose corn syrup and fructose in general. All processed foods including sodas, desserts, and lavishing animal foods which we get at any restaurant or café have high amounts of sugar. High intake of sugar leads to high blood glucose and high levels of insulin thus a person who is insulin resistant or diabetic have higher chances of having a fatty liver. Similarly an obese person can also has a fatty liver because the extra sugar is stored as fat especially as the visceral fat. These foods increases the gut permeability thus injuring the liver.



Poor lifestyle – Lack of exercise and movement makes your body sick. Exercise alone can help in reducing the liver fats to some extent but diet is very important.



What are the four stages of NAFLD?



Stage 1: It is called as steatosis or just fatty liver. No symptoms are seen at this stage because it is the initial stage.



Stage 2: It is called as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. Around 5 to 8 percent of people in India are suffering from this condition. In this stage, the liver is inflamed and thus sends a message that the liver cells are dying, so that treatment starts as soon as possible.



Stage 3: It is called as scarring of liver i.e. liver fibrosis. The liver is still inflamed and along with that scars are also formed in the tissues and cells of the liver and the blood vessels.



Stage 4: It is called as liver cirrhosis. This is a chronic disease as the liver reduces in size. It can lead to liver cancer also and puts the patient under the list of liver transplant.



What are the symptoms of NAFLD?



As such there are no symptoms, one can see proper symptoms when they reach end stage of this disease that is stage 4. If an individual feels pain towards the right side of their upper abdomen or feel fatigued they should get their blood test and ultrasound done, just to verify if they their liver is enlarged or not. Cirrhosis symptoms include – abdominal swelling, enlarged spleen, red palms and yellowing of eyes & skin.



How is NAFLD reversible?



This is only reversible if one eliminates all the processed foods even dairy and animal food products. This will help the liver to detoxify from these toxic substances and will give time to heal itself. Plant based nutrition dense diet is are rich in phytochemicals, essential fatty acids, fiber, protein and have antioxidants which can fight oxidative damage. They help to restore the gut micro flora which was damaged by the food from animal sources, including poultry and dairy products. Foods like oranges, lemons, carrots, parsley, cilantro, tomatoes, ginger, onions, garlic, beans, broccoli helps to cleanse the liver and keep them healthy.



Take home message




  • NAFLD will soon become next global epidemic as it has already affected 30 to 40 percent of Indians.

  • NAFLD is the condition where the liver starts storing excess amounts of fat thus causing fatty liver. If not treated earlier it will lead to liver cirrhosis.

  • Poor lifestyle and increased amount of sugar in the diet is the main cause of NAFLD.

  • It is completely reversible with the help of plant based nutrition dense diet.