Fatty liver: symptoms, treatment and natural tips
Fatty liver – or hepatic steatosis – is a generally benign pathology that has symptoms and a treatment to follow to reduce fat in the liver. Discover everything you need to know about it.
Fatty liver, commonly known in the health field as hepatic steatosis, is a generally benign disease of the liver that is characterized by the accumulation of fatty acids and triglycerides in the liver cells.
Symptoms of fatty liver are usually a pain in the upper right part of the abdomen, general malaise, chronic fatigue, and heaviness, especially after meals.
Although it is also true that there are patients who have no symptoms, a dangerous issue to some extent given that the disease can progress silently to more serious stages.
Some years ago, fatty liver was related to alcohol consumption in large quantities, although nowadays there are more and more specialists who relate the increase of people with this disease to high levels of obesity, cholesterol, and triglycerides.
What is the fatty liver
Usually, and with absolute normality, our liver has small amounts of fat, which specifically means around 10% of its weight. However, when this fat accumulation is excessive and exceeds this amount is when we are facing a steatosis hepatic.
As its name suggests, hepatic steatosis is the excessive accumulation of fat in the liver, above what is considered normal.
Under the microscope, the medical specialist observes how the hepatocytes (the different cells of the liver), have fat or lipid droplets of large size and in small numbers, or of small size and in large quantities.
It is characterized mainly because this organ is unable to eliminate fatty acids and triglycerides, so that little by little they accumulate in the liver cells.
In fact, hepatic steatosis is considered serious when it causes hepatomegaly and hepatitis (steatohepatitis). That is when it causes enlargement and inflammation of the liver.
Moreover, in most cases, we have a mild hepatic steatosis, which is medically referred to as grade 1 or 2 hepatic steatoses, which usually does not lead to complications or progress to more severe stages, or cause symptoms. That is, the accumulation of fat in the liver is usually small, not causing inflammation.
Causes of fatty liver
Until very recently it was thought that the accumulation of fat in the liver was due solely and exclusively to a habitual and excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages. However, in most cases, it has been discovered that hepatic steatosis is actually found and diagnosed in people who do not drink alcohol chronically.
We can now establish the main causes of hepatic steatosis. In short, when the cause is not related to the consumption of alcoholic beverages, we are faced with a nonalcoholic hepatic steatosis:
Overweight and obesity: We must take into account that hepatic steatosis occurs especially in people with excess weight. In fact, many medical specialists agree that the higher that excess weight is, the higher the risk.
Weight loss: Unlike what is thought, excess weight is not the only cause of steatosis. Did you know that it can also occur as a result of rapid weight loss? In turn, it may appear due to malnutrition.
Consumption of alcohol: It is one of the most common causes, but not the only one, and we must differentiate it from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease evidently not caused by the ingestion of alcohol.
Diabetes Mellitus: Both type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance are two related causes since they cause the accumulation of fat in the liver.
High cholesterol: When there is high cholesterol, and especially triglycerides, we also have a directly related cause.
Consumption of certain medications: As is the case of estrogens, corticosteroids, antiretrovirals, Tamoxifen or Diltiazen.
Therefore, although it is a benign disease in almost all cases, if you do not have adequate treatment to help eliminate fat in the liver, the disease can cause the appearance of cirrhosis and/or liver cancer.
Symptoms of fatty liver
The symptoms of fatty liver, as a rule, are usually a pain in the upper right part of the abdomen, malaise, chronic fatigue, and heavy feeling, especially after meals. Although it is also true that there are patients who do not have symptoms.
Although a few years ago fatty liver was associated with the consumption of alcohol in large quantities, currently specialists relate it to high levels of obesity, cholesterol, and triglycerides.
In severe cases, in which the degree of involvement of the fatty liver is far more dangerous, it is possible to observe some symptoms such as intense pain in the upper abdomen and the possibility of developing acute liver failure.
However, not having associated symptoms does not mean that you cannot be suffering from fatty liver. In fact, it is estimated that around 30% of patients with this disease have virtually no symptoms.
In this way, being an asymptomatic condition, it is common for fatty liver to be discovered by chance, for example after performing an abdominal ultrasound, or by an examination of the abdomen if the doctor is able to feel that the liver has increased of size.
Given that some patients may not have symptoms, the best way to corroborate the existence or not of hepatic steatosis, is through an abdominal ultrasound, just after checking in a blood test that there are high transaminases. Not in vain, in some cases, high bilirubin can also appear.
Evolution of fatty liver
Generally, fatty liver is a benign disease that tends not to evolve to more serious stages of the disease.
Once the appearance of fatty liver is detected (through abdominal ultrasound), the necessary measures must be taken to eliminate that fat in the liver, and thus avoid the fatty liver evolving to steatohepatitis (inflamed liver, enlarged, in this case caused by accumulation of abundant and excess fat), and from there to a possible cirrhosis and / or cancer.
In fact, when the fatty liver is left untreated, it is possible that it may present with cirrhosis and therefore increase the risk of liver cancer.
Fatty liver treatment
Although there is no definitive treatment for fatty liver, the basic recommendations are given in this regard go through a reduction in body weight and follow a healthy and healthy diet, rich in fruits and vegetables.
The practice of exercise is adequate in all cases since we help our body to eliminate excess fat from the body. Moreover, when we also opt for the consumption of foods such as artichoke, or milk thistle capsules, which help the liver to perform its functions and, in addition, renew the liver cells.
A good option is to go to a nutritionist who tells us a proper diet for fatty liver and to control the weight that we lose since a rapid loss of weight is associated with greater damage to the liver. Of course, remember to stop drinking alcohol and never drink alcohol.
The practice of exercise is adequate in all cases since we help our body to eliminate excess fat from the body.
A good option is to go to a nutritionist who provides us with an adequate diet for fatty liver, and to control the weight that we lose since a rapid loss of weight is associated with greater damage to the liver.
However, in some cases, it is possible to administer drugs in order to treat the symptoms and thus not overload the liver. In any case, recent studies have found that some medications, such as metformin, have been shown to reduce transaminases and fats in the liver.
How to cure fatty liver
Avoid alcohol consumption
There is no doubt that the consumption of alcoholic beverages directly influences the accumulation of fat in the liver, in addition to affecting it in a very negative way by causing damage to their cells.
Therefore, it is essential and essential to eliminate almost completely the consumption of any alcoholic beverage, even those that are of low graduation as for example could be the case of beer or wine.
In most cases, when the fatty liver is due to alcohol consumption, the prognosis of the disease is very good when it is reduced and/or eliminated completely.
Do physical exercise
The practice of physical exercise is not only essential when it comes to maintaining good health; It is especially suitable for reducing fat in the liver and curing it since by staying active we reduce the fat in our body (especially in this organ, when mobilized).
In addition, it is tremendously useful to lose weight, avoid sedentary lifestyle, and reduce the excess weight we may have. In many cases, it is enough to practice at least 40 minutes of aerobic exercise each day.
Follow a proper diet
Food also influences the appearance of a non-alcoholic fatty liver, especially when you tend to consume foods rich in sugars and fats. Therefore, a good option is to follow a balanced and healthy diet and avoid refined and processed foods.
Going back to the beginning: is it possible to prevent fatty liver?
Bearing in mind that, at present, the majority of cases that are diagnosed of fatty liver are caused by the habits and by the lifestyle that we follow today, it is evident that the fatty liver or hepatic steatosis can be prevented. Even we can not only say that it can be prevented but if it is detected and is already present, it can be cured.