What is Fatty Liver (NAFLD) + How Can Nutrition Help?

Fatty Liver NAFLD Eli Brecher

Have you heard of Fatty Liver? Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a condition in which excess fat accumulates in the liver.

In this blog post, you will learn:

👉🏼 what is Fatty Liver (NAFLD)

👉🏼 causes and risk factors

👉🏼 the role of diet and nutrition

👉🏼 lifestyle modifications that can help

Have you been diagnosed with Fatty Liver/NAFLD or want to focus on improving your general health and nutrition? Head to Consultations to see how I can help you start your journey to the healthiest version of yourself today!

Fatty Liver NAFLD Eli Brecher

What is Fatty Liver?

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a condition in which excess fat accumulates in the liver. This leads to inflammation and scarring of the liver. NAFLD is extremely common and affects up to 25% of people globally.

Certain factors may contribute to the development of NAFLD, including obesity, high cholesterol levels and diabetes or insulin resistance. Age, gender and genetic factors can also increase the risk of developing NAFLD.

At first NAFLD may not cause any symptoms. However, as the condition progresses, symptoms may include fatigue, abdominal pain and jaundice (yellowing of the skin). NAFLD may progress to cirrhosis, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), liver cancer and liver failure.

The good news is that it is possible to completely reverse NAFLD if it is detected early. The liver has an amazing ability to repair and renew itself. Nutrition and lifestyle can play a key role when it comes to both prevention and treatment of NAFLD. Let’s explore some of these dietary and lifestyle adjustments in this post.

Risk Factors for NAFLD

Anyone can develop NAFLD, but certain factors can increase the risk:

  • Age: The risk of developing NAFLD increases with age, particularly after age 40.
  • Gender: Men are more likely to develop NAFLD than women.
  • Obesity: Obesity is the most common cause of NAFLD. Excess fat in the body can cause fat to accumulate in the liver.
  • Diabetes or insulin resistance: When the body is insulin resistant, this means its cells do not respond properly to the hormone insulin. This can result in NAFLD.
  • High cholesterol: High levels of blood cholesterol may increase the risk of NAFLD. This is because cholesterol is a component of bile, which is produced by the liver.
  • Genetic factors: A family history of NAFLD can increase the risk of developing it.

 

What is the role of nutrition in NAFLD?

Nutrition can be a useful and effective way to both prevent and treat NAFLD. Making the following dietary changes may be helpful:
  • Eat more fibre: Soluble fibre can help reduce cholesterol and prevent NAFLD. Good sources of soluble fibre include oat bran, apples, avocado, peas, beans and lentils.
  • Reduce overall fat and sugar intake: A diet high in fat and sugar can increase the production of cholesterol in the liver, so reducing these may help lower the risk of NAFLD – but keep the good fats, like olive oil, salmon, nuts, seeds and avocado. Limit your intake of fried foods, processed meats and added sugars, and instead go for lean protein sources such as fish, chicken and tofu.
  • Increase your fluid intake: The liver requires adequate hydration in order to function optimally. Aim for eight glasses of water a day, and remember that caffeine and alcohol can dehydrate you.
  • Aim for slow and steady weight loss (if overweight): Losing weight slowly through eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly is the most sustainable and effective way. Avoid crash diets as rapid weight loss can actually increase the risk of developing NAFLD.

Every case is different, which is why I take a personalised approach with all of my 1:1 clients and tailor each nutrition plan (and supplement recommendation) to their unique needs and goals.

What lifestyle adjustments should I make?

Making certain lifestyle modifications may help prevent and treat NAFLD, in addition to dietary changes. Here are three key lifestyle adjustments to make:

  1. If you smoke, it’s time to quit! Smoking can increase the risk of NAFLD and worsen existing symptoms. Quitting smoking can help to prevent NAFLD and improve overall health.
  2. Exercise regularly: Maintaining a healthy weight is important to prevent NAFLD. Try to include some form of physical activity (including walking) everyday.
  3. Stress management: Liver function can be impaired by chronic stress, increasing the risk of NAFLD. Try to incorporate stress management techniques, such as yoga, meditation or deep breathing, to help reduce your overall stress levels and thereby prevent the progression of NAFLD.

Can supplements help?

Certain supplements may be helpful for NAFLD. Three of the most commonly used herbal supplements are:

  1. Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) can protect the liver and promote healthy liver function.
  2. Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is a natural diuretic that can help to remove toxins from the body.
  3. Turmeric (Curcuma longa) may help to reduce inflammation in the liver and prevent the progression of NAFLD to NASH, as it possesses anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Note: Supplements and herbal remedies can interact with certain medications, so it is always best to consult with a healthcare professional before taking any supplements.

Summary

The strongest available evidence for preventing or treating NAFLD points towards maintaining a healthy weight. Including plenty of lean protein and fibre in the diet, while reducing sugar intake, are helpful too. Regular physical exercise and stress management tools may also be beneficial.

This is just a small insight into the types of things I discuss with my 1:1 clients. If you’re interested in working together to optimise your nutrition, transform your health and elevate your quality of life, please get in contact via Consultations or book in for a FREE call

 

Did you find this post useful? If so please share it with others! For more nutrition tips and healthy recipes, check out my Instagram @elibrechernutrition

 

Check out my other nutrition-related blog posts below:

 

 

References:

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32340286/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31840865/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34131333/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32033765/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32134732/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23603008/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27270872/

 

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