Your liver contains some fat, but when it exceeds more 10% of your liver's weight, you have "fatty liver." The most common reason for developing fatty liver is alcohol. However, sometimes fatty liver may occur even amongst light drinkers or teetotallers, a condition known as Non Alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH). It is difficult to find any signs and symptoms of fatty liver, but you must be on the lookout for pain in the upper right abdomen. When severe fatty liver prevails for a long time, it hardens your liver leading to a condition known as cirrhosis, and later liver failure.
Fatty liver effects around 10 to 20 per cent of Americans. People who are not alcoholics may have fatty liver due to obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol or malnutrition. For extreme cases of fatty liver, enteral or parenteral nutrition is provided. But for mild cases, which includes most of the population, dietary modification is the main therapy.
Diet for Fatty Liver
The best way to reduce fatty liver is to decrease your weight if you are overweight or obese. Once weight loss is achieved, a well balanced and healthy diet is advised. Limit your intake of refined and polished carbohydrates like white bread and bakery products made of refined flour. Substitute these with whole wheat products wherever possible. Brown rice is preferred. Your total calorie content from carbohydrates should be at least be 40 per cent. Consume high quality protein like milk and milk products, fish, chicken and eggs. Since your liver is injured, good quality protein will help it regenerate. Eat complementary proteins like beans, legumes and pulses to enrich your diet as well. Avoid fried foods and those containing saturated fats like butter, cheese, whole milk products and red meat. Choose unsaturated oils for cooking as well, like safflower oil, sunflower oil and vegetable oil. Monounsaturated fats like olive oil and canola are good too. Avoid trans fats from fried foods and bakery products. Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Fruits provide vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, selenium, potassium and vitamin E. Increase your fluid intake to flush your liver of toxins. Exercise more often to keep your weight in check and go for regular checkups to your doctor.
The main therapy for alcoholics is to stop consuming alcohol. Chronic alcoholics can suffer from loss of taste and consequently do not eat properly. They can be anorexic and suffer from vomiting and nausea. Even when food is eaten, alcoholics with damaged digestive systems are unable to absorb and digest food properly. The key for alcoholics to reduce their fatty liver is therefore to stop drinking as much as possible. If required, seek professional health.
- American Liver Foundation
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse
- "Nutrition and Diet Therapy;" Mary Moore PhD; 1998