Fatty Liver Disease. If you’ve heard the term before you may have thought, “But I don’t drink.”
Did you know you can get Fatty Liver Disease without touching a drop of alcohol? It’s called Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, and just like the name suggests, it’s when too much fat builds up in your liver.
The American Liver Foundation says about a quarter of people in the United States have Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease.
Types of Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
There are two types of Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease – Simple Fatty Liver Disease and Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH).
Simple Fatty Liver Disease is when there’s fat in your liver, but no inflammation or damage.
If you have NASH, you have fat in your liver, inflammation and damage to the cells in your liver. This can cause liver scarring and may lead to a late stage of liver scarring called cirrhosis or liver cancer. NASH is one of the leading causes of cirrhosis in adults in the United States. Up to 25% of adults with NASH may have cirrhosis.
Dr. Marina Roytman, Liver Program Director at UCSF Fresno
, said that Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease can happen over time and the damage is cumulative. And it’s being seen earlier and earlier – even in kids. She said it can be as harmful as having Hepatitis C or drinking alcohol.
What are the risk factors for Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease?
Being overweight puts you at risk for Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, but you are at a higher risk if you:
- Are in your 40s, 50s or 60s
- Are Hispanic or Asian
- Carry weight around your midsection
- Have Type 2 diabetes
- Have high blood pressure
- Have high cholesterol
- Have family members with fatty liver disease
How do I know if I have Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease?
Early on there may be no symptoms of Fatty Liver Disease. That’s why early diagnosis is important so you can prevent further damage and even reverse it. Finding out if you have it early gives you the opportunity to remove the fat that’s damaging your liver, while your liver can still repair itself.
A liver biopsy was the only way to diagnose Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. But in the last decade, researchers have developed a noninvasive test: Fibroscan. The Fibroscan test takes only 5 – 7 minutes to perform and the results are instant.
Ask your primary care doctor for more information about Fibroscan tests for your liver.
What do I do if I have a Fatty Liver?
If you have a fatty liver it’s important to adopt a healthy lifestyle and lose weight.
According to Dr. Roytman even losing 10 percent of your body weight can begin to reverse your liver scarring. She recommends you avoid processed foods, eat lean meats like chicken and fish, and choose vegetables, fruits, and healthy grains. Also get on a regular exercise program. Improving your gut health can help too.
If your gut health improves it increases your liver’s health by reducing inflammation in your body. Find foods with probiotics like kombucha or natural, unsweetened yogurt with no sugar.