An introduction to fatty liver disease

By Dr. Pallavi Garg in Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Endoscopy

Jun 13 , 2023 | 2 min read

Fatty liver is a condition characterized by the accumulation of excess fat in the liver cells. In the absence of excess alcohol, it can be caused by various factors, including obesity, diabetes and certain medications. If left unattended, fatty liver can progress to severe conditions such as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) or liver cirrhosis.

However, with proper management, the progression of fatty liver can be halted or reversed. The management of fatty liver disease includes:

  1. Lifestyle Modifications

    The first line of defence in managing fatty liver is adopting a healthy lifestyle. This includes:

    • Weight loss: Losing weight, especially abdominal fat, can significantly improve fatty liver. A gradual weight loss of 5-10% is recommended.

    • Regular exercise: Engaging regularly in some physical activity helps promote weight loss, improves insulin sensitivity, and reduces liver fat. Try doing at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.

    • Move to the beat: Exercise doesn't have to be boring! Dancing is a fun-filled way to get active and manage NAFLD. Whether it's joining a Zumba class or grooving to your favourite tunes at home, dancing helps burn calories and improve overall fitness.

  2. Balanced diet

    Consuming a well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats is important.

    • Healthy fats are your friends: Not all fats are bad for your liver. Incorporate foods rich in healthy fats such as nuts, avocados, seeds, and olive oil into your diet. These fats can provide essential nutrients and support overall health. Limit saturated and trans fats, processed foods, and sugary beverages.

  3. Nutritional interventions

    Certain dietary components have shown promise in managing fatty liver:

    • Omega-3 fatty acids: Consuming food-rich omega-3 fatty acids like fatty fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts may have a beneficial effect on liver fat accumulation.

    • Coffee's perks: Coffee lovers rejoice! Studies suggest moderate coffee consumption may lower the risk of NAFLD and even help reduce liver fibrosis. Just remember not to overload it with sugar or cream.

    • Antioxidants: Including antioxidant-rich foods like berries, green tea, and dark chocolate may help.

    • Alcohol moderation: It's essential to limit or abstain from drinking alcohol altogether. Even small amounts can aggravate fatty liver.

  4. Diabetes and metabolic control

    Managing underlying conditions like diabeteshypertension, hypothyroidism, and high cholesterol is crucial for fatty liver management. It involves management through diet, exercise, and medications, if necessary.

  5. Medications

    In some cases, medications may be prescribed to manage fatty liver, especially if other interventions haven't yielded significant improvement. These medications target specific aspects of the condition, such as insulin resistance, inflammation, or lipid metabolism. Medication options are best discussed with a healthcare professional.

  6. Community support

    Connecting with others who are going through similar challenges can be uplifting. Consider joining support groups or online communities where you can share experiences, tips and even find new recipes tailored for NAFLD management.

  7. Regular monitoring and follow-up

    Regular monitoring of liver enzymes, imaging studies and other relevant tests are important to assess the progress of fatty liver and identify any potential complications. Follow-up visits with healthcare providers are crucial to track treatment efficacy and make any necessary adjustments.

It's important to note that the management of fatty liver is highly individualized, and the recommendations may vary depending on the underlying causes and individual circumstances. Consulting with a healthcare professional or a specialist such as a Gastroenterologist or Hepatologist is recommended for proper evaluation, diagnosis, and personalized management plan.