Non-Alcoholic fatty Liver Disease (NAFDL) affects approximately 30% of the US population, and half of deaths associated with NAFLD are due to risk factors of cardiovascular diseases and other malignancies associated with this disorder, yet awareness of this epidemic remains low.
We aimed at providing you with insightful and resourceful information about Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, its signs and symptoms, causes and treatment options for your general well-being.
What is Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)?
Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) is a group of conditions that occur when there is accumulation of excess fat in the liver of people who drink little or no alcohol, that is, it’s common in non-alcoholic individuals. The advance stage of this disorder could lead to a more serious condition named Alcoholic Steotohepatitis (NASH). A condition where fat accumulation is associated with liver cells inflammation and different degrees of scarring(Cirrhosis). In cirrhosis, the liver does not work very well and you can develop a liver failure, liver cancer, and could result to death from related illness.
This condition is majorly suspected if you’re obese or overweight, and when diagnosed of mild elevations in liver tests during a routine blood testing. The diagnosis may be confirmed by imaging studies, such as liver ultrasound, which shows accumulations of fatty cells in your liver. However, the only currently reliable way of telling whether or not a patient has NAFLD or NASH is by a liver biopsy.
SIGN, SYMPTOMS AND CAUSES OF NAFLD:
There are no overall defined symptoms for this condition, as patients are often asymptomatic. However, common clinical indications are abdominal pain, enlarged liver in children, and some patients especially children may have patchy, dark discoloration of the skin of the neck and the under arm area, a condition known as Ancanthosis nigricans.
NAFLD is generally characterized by
- Being overweight or obese,
- Elevated blood lipids( Dyslipidemia) such as cholesterol and triglycerides
- Cardiovascular diseases associated with high blood pressure
- Metabolic syndrome
However, there are several other risk factors that may be associated with the more complicated stage of this condition known as Alcoholic Steotohepatitis (NASH). These include:
- Liver cell necrosis or death, a condition known as apoptosis
- Oxidative stress
- Body’s own inflammatory proteins or cytokines
There are currently no medical treatments that reverse fatty disease and cause fat within your liver to resolve. Weight loss may be associated with regression of fat within the liver, therefore lifestyle modification aimed at weight loss and increased physical activity is vital for all patients with NAFLD.
Thus common recommendations for patients with fatty liver are:
- Weight loss for overweight or obese individuals
- Following a balanced diet
- Avoiding unnecessary medication and alcohol intake
- You should control your diabetes, and treat elevated cholesterol levels, as well as other risk factors associated with NAFLD and NASH.
- Pharmacotherapy interventions including:
- Antioxidant supplement such as vitamin E
- Insulin sensitizers such as pioglitazone and metformin
- Lipid-lowering agent such as statins
- Cytoprotective agent such as ursodeoxycholic acid
You should know that healthy eating is the forefront in early recovery from NAFLD. Calorie- restricted diets are highly recommended if you’re predisposed to this condition. Most guidelines regarding hypocaloric (Reduced caloric) diets suggest that 1000-1200 calorics per day for women and 1200-1600 calorics per day for men with a goal to achieve weight loss of 0.5-1.0kg per week. Also macronutrients including carbohydrate, protein and fat, and micronutrients including vitamins, minerals, and supplements must be balanced. You should avoid incorporating saturated fats, and sweetened drinks as these supplements are indicators of obesity and weight gain, which are risk factors associated with NAFLD and NASH.
National Health and Nutrition Examination survey showed that caffeinated coffee and dietary supplementation with omega-3-polyunsaturated fatty acids decrease liver fat and thus lower your risk for NAFLD suggesting potential protective effect.