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Rescuing your liver

Fatty liver should be dealt with seriously
Too much fat in the liver can cause liver inflammation, which can damage the organ
Too much fat in the liver can cause liver inflammation, which can damage the organ
Picture: iStock

Shikha Prakash   |   Published 02.11.19, 12:59 PM

Fatty liver, as the name suggests, is a condition of the second-largest organ in the body. The liver processes nutrients from food and drinks and filters harmful substances from the blood. Too much fat in the liver can cause liver inflammation, which can damage the organ. Having small amounts of fat in the liver is normal, but too much can become a health problem and is known as fatty liver and, at times, it’s also known as Hepatic Steatosis. The condition is equally common among both genders.

Types of fatty liver

When fatty liver develops in someone who drinks a lot of alcohol, it’s known as Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (AFLD). Sometimes this condition develops in people who do not drink alcohol, then it is known as Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD), which is one of the most common causes of chronic liver diseases globally. Prevalence of the disease is estimated to be around nine to 32 per cent in India and it is linked to obesity, Type 2 diabetes and other disorders characterised by insulin resistance.

What causes it

The rising incidence of NAFLD can be clearly related to the kind of food and lifestyle today’s people are opting for. Addressing NAFLD is of utmost importance as it’s an underlying factor of many other serious metabolic and inflammatory disorders. There are several factors that may cause or contribute to developing a fatty liver:

  • Obesity (according to estimates, 30 to 90 per cent of obese adults have NAFLD)
  • Poor sleep schedules and less sleep
  • Over-exercising
  • Excess belly fat
  • Insulin resistance
  • High intake of refined and packaged food
  • Sugary beverage consumption
  • Impaired gut health
  • Long gaps between meals
  • Starvation
  • Poor hydration levels
  • Diets devoid of fruit, vegetable and fibre
  • High intake of refined food, such as maida, oils, high fructose corn syrup and excessive usage of sweeteners

Symptoms

Fatty liver is usually diagnosed accidentally and is asymptomatic. Most times you may not even realise you have a fatty liver. However, one may have the following symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Slight pain or fullness on the right or centre of the abdominal area
  • Bloating
  • Drowsiness
  • Pain in right side of upper abdomen

How is it diagnosed?

Fatty liver can be easily diagnosed with an ultrasound of the abdomen and also a liver function test. Fibroscan is also an important test for this.

Prevention

There is no medication that can prevent fatty liver. NAFLD is preventable through healthy lifestyle choices such as:

  1. Make a healthy routine with a fixed sleeping schedule
  2. Give up refined processed food
  3. Make sure you exercise minimum thrice a week
  4. Do not keep a long gap between meals
  5. Be more active and give up a sedentary lifestyle
  6. Switch to non-refined forms of sugar, salt, oil and flour
  7. Avoid having late dinners
  8. Cut down on excessive drinking and binge-eating
  9. Avoid transfat
  10. Give yourself enough rest for recovery

Why does it need attention?

NAFLD is not a fatal condition. Liver is the only organ that can regenerate itself by replacing old, damaged cells with new ones. When the liver becomes fatty it struggles to get rid of the fat, scar tissue builds up, making it difficult for your liver to transport nutrients around the body and increasing pressure in the surrounding veins.

Potential complications from a scarred liver include bruising, bleeding, kidney failure, liver cancer, diabetes and, eventually, liver failure.

Today, a large part of the population is pre-diabetic and fatty liver is one of the underlying causes as people with fatty liver disease often have a condition called insulin resistance. This means your body makes insulin but can’t use it well. Glucose builds up in the blood and your liver turns it into fat.

It is one of the underlying causes of urban lifestyle disorders. According to Ayurveda, liver comprises the fire and water elements, belonging to the pitta dosha. This means, eating foods that are too fiery or hot may disturb the balance, leading to a dysfunctional liver. This means, the liver will not be able to perform its basic functions of purifying the blood of toxins and metabolising fat. In Ayurvedic context, it can be correlated with Yakrutodar roga. The diseases that are manifested in the abdominal cavity causing the distension of the abdomen is Udara roga.

As I always say, majority of modern-day diseases can be fixed easily if we a make conscious effort to change and improve our diet and lifestyle, along with medications if needed.

Shikha Prakash is an Ayurvedic consultant at Padaav Speciality Ayurvedic Treatment Centre, Dehradun, and a visiting consultant at AMRI Hospital, Dhakuria. You can reach her at Shikhaprakash@gmail.com or follow her on Facebook/Instagram @vaidyadshikhaprakash



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