Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is one of the most common liver diseases in the world. If you have been diagnosed with NAFLD, there are few things you need to take control over. There is no specific medication for the disease. But adopting a healthy lifestyle is one of the most recommended ways to tackle a fatty liver.
In fact, NAFLD treatment is largely about weight reduction and dietary changes. Your weight, cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure levels need to be prioritized since they could be possible causes of NAFLD.
10 Lifestyle Changes To Make
Remember, it takes years for a simple fatty liver to advance to the next stages (inflammation, fibrosis, and finally cirrhosis). The faster you make cautious decisions, the healthier (and happier) your liver will feel.
1. Focus On Losing Weight
Obesity is one of the main causes of NAFLD. If you are overweight, you need to lose 5-10% of your weight to reduce the fat accumulation in the liver and more than 10% if you have an inflamed one.1 So, watch your meals and reduce the calories you eat a day.
2. Get Physically Active
Being overweight and leading a sedentary lifestyle are some of the worst things for your vital organs. One study found out any type of exercise, including low to moderate intensity, can help to reduce a fatty liver. The study further revealed short bursts of high-intensity exercises reduced visceral fat (the muffin around your waist) and liver fat.2 Try to work out for 30 minutes a day.
If you find aerobic exercises difficult, begin with resistance training. While resistance training may not change the weighing scale significantly, it can reduce cholesterol levels, improve insulin sensitivity, and decrease liver fat.3So, just get moving!
3. Follow A Healthy And Balanced Diet
Most people with NAFLD were found to follow a diet high in saturated fat and cholesterol. Your liver (and so does the rest of your body) wants plenty of veggies, fruits, and whole grains. For protein, lean foods are your best choice, like poultry, eggs, legumes, and fish.
One study found out within 6 months of healthy eating and exercise, there was a decrease in body weight, blood sugar levels, and liver fat.4
If you’re finding it difficult to eat clean, buddy up with people who want the same thing. Also, keep a food journal and track down everything you eat. Once you begin eating healthy, you would notice your energy levels shoot up and you feel great about yourself.
Some studies reveal following a Mediterranean diet can provide the body with a truckload of benefits. This includes a reduced risk of heart diseases and metabolic syndrome – exactly what your liver needs!5
4. Avoid Foods That Are Not Liver-Friendly
Take a good look at your pantry and refrigerator. Throw out anything that is highly processed and loaded with unhealthy fats. The wrong type of food can increase blood sugar levels, fat content in the blood, cholesterol levels – a situation that could advance a fatty liver to the next stage. Cut down on fried food, junk food, and anything that’s highly processed. Avoid eating sausages, red meat, white bread, and sugary snacks.
5. Stay Clear Of Alcohol
Even if NAFLD is not caused by alcohol, it can certainly make a fatty liver worse. Alcohol can cause the liver to swell and release more triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood). High amounts of triglyceride are usually associated with high levels of cholesterol and this makes matters worse for a fatty liver.
6. Control Your Blood Sugar Levels
If you have NAFLD and you are diabetic, blood sugar levels need to be controlled. Ensure you follow a diet that is low in fat and calories along with your diabetic medication.6
7. Keep A Check On Cholesterol
NAFLD is associated with high cholesterol levels and triglycerides. A high LDL “bad” cholesterol and low HDL “good” cholesterol can lead to more fat cells in the liver and eventually cell death. In fact, one study says just targeting your diet and lifestyle to reduce cholesterol can reduce further liver damage.7
8. Quit Smoking. Like Right Now
Being diabetic and a heavy smoker has been associated with advanced fibrosis (one stage away from cirrhosis).
Smoking can make matters worse if you have NAFLD. One study found out smoking increases insulin resistance and leads to advanced fibrosis. Another study also revealed that passive smoking could lead to a 25% increased risk for NAFLD compared to those who didn’t experience it.89 So, quit smoking as soon as you can.
9. Make Sure To Add These To Your Diet
Certain foods have been found to decrease liver fat accumulation.10
Green Tea: Green tea is well known for preventing liver diseases, thanks to a certain polyphenol known as epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). It was found to reduce oxidative stress, inflammation, and even stopped the entry of hepatitis C virus. One study revealed 85% pure extract of EGCG reduced the severity of liver injury.11 You could have 7-10 cups of green tea a day to prevent further liver damage.
Garlic: Love adding a little garlic to your dishes for that extra flavor? Turns out, garlic is exactly what your liver needs. It improves insulin resistance, reduces oxidative stress, and stabilizes lipid metabolism. This helps reduce fat accumulation in the liver and prevents further injury. Aged garlic has been found to reduce inflammation and fibrosis.1213
Goji berry: Lycium Barbarum Polysaccharides (LBP) present in goji berry has been found to work wonders for the liver. One study revealed after 8 weeks of treatment with LBP, it reduced liver fat, fibrosis, inflammation, oxidative stress, and the risk of tumor development. Also, long term use of LBP has been found to have no adverse side effects.14
Resveratrol: This is a compound that is extracted from red grapes and it’s extremely effective in tackling inflammation and oxidative stress. Studies reveal that resveratrol reduced inflammation from a fatty liver and stabilized lipid metabolism.15
Milk thistles: Silybin and silymarin are two ingredients in milk thistles that have been found to have a truckload of goodness. They are anti-inflammatory in nature and promote antioxidant effects on the liver. Silybin was found to prevent the formation of free radicals and nitric oxide. Another study revealed that silymarin can help NAFLD patients because of their high flavonolignan plasma concentrations and more extensive enterohepatic cycling (circulation of fluids from and to the liver).16
Caffeine: If you find it hard to resist a cup of good coffee, studies claim to go for it. Drinking coffee can reduce further liver damage. One study reveals that adding regular coffee to your diet can reverse the effects of NAFLD. Caffeine lowers the production of abnormal liver cells, fat cells, and boosts liver protection. Chlorogenic acid is present in regular coffee, this offers a protective effect against diabetes and in turn, lowers NAFLD prevalence.17
Bananas: These are great for the liver. Bananas are loaded with potassium and they stimulate the growth of gut bacteria (the good ones). This aids in removing toxins from the body and cleansing the liver.18
Cinnamon: A great warming ingredient and a perfect way to treat a sweet tooth, cinnamon has been found to improve liver enzymes. For people with NAFLD, it has been found to improve insulin resistance and decrease oxidative stress. In conclusion, the study suggests that taking 1500 mg cinnamon daily may be effective in improving NAFLD characteristics.19
Turmeric: If you haven’t considered adding turmeric to your diet, it’s time to do so! With its anti-inflammatory nature, turmeric has been found very liver-friendly. Thanks to curcumin present in turmeric, it reduces liver damage by decreasing oxidative stress, stabilizing fat metabolism, and reducing fibrosis. The study suggests 500 mg of turmeric (equivalent to 70 mg of curcumin) a day.20
Like any natural treatment, it takes time and patience to see results. Following the above methods is a lifestyle change. So, be strong and live healthy!
|↑1, ↑6||Fatty Liver Disease. Canadian Liver Foundation|
|↑2||Keating, Shelley E., and Leon A. Adams. “Exercise in NAFLD: Just do it.” Journal of Hepatology 65, no. 4 (2016): 671-673|
|↑3||Hallsworth, Kate, Gulnar Fattakhova, Kieren G. Hollingsworth, Christian Thoma, Sarah Moore, Roy Taylor, Christopher P. Day, and Michael I. Trenell. “Resistance exercise reduces liver fat and its mediators in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease independent of weight loss.” Gut (2011): gut-2011|
|↑4||Whitsett, Maureen, and Lisa B. VanWagner. “Physical activity as a treatment of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: A systematic review.” World journal of hepatology 7, no. 16 (2015): 2041|
|↑5||Sofi, Francesco, and Alessandro Casini. “Mediterranean diet and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: new therapeutic option around the corner.” World J Gastroenterol 20, no. 23 (2014): 7339-7346|
|↑7||Arguello, Graciela, Elisa Balboa, Marco Arrese, and Silvana Zanlungo. “Recent insights on the role of cholesterol in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.” Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA)-Molecular Basis of Disease 1852, no. 9 (2015): 1765-1778|
|↑8||Zein, Claudia O., Aynur Unalp, Ryan Colvin, Yao-Chang Liu, Arthur J. McCullough, and Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis Clinical Research Network. “Smoking and severity of hepatic fibrosis in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.” Journal of hepatology 54, no. 4 (2011): 753-759|
|↑9||Liu, Yu, Meng Dai, Yufang Bi, Min Xu, Yu Xu, Mian Li, Tiange Wang et al. “Active smoking, passive smoking, and risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD): a population-based study in China.” Journal of epidemiology 23, no. 2 (2013): 115-121|
|↑10, ↑14||Xiao, Jia, Kwok Fai So, Emily C. Liong, and George L. Tipoe. “Recent advances in the herbal treatment of non-alcoholic Fatty liver disease.” Journal of traditional and complementary medicine 3, no. 2 (2013): 88-94|
|↑11||Chung, Min-Yu, Hea Jin Park, Jose E. Manautou, Sung I. Koo, and Richard S. Bruno. “Green tea extract protects against nonalcoholic steatohepatitis in ob/ob mice by decreasing oxidative and nitrative stress responses induced by proinflammatory enzymes.” The Journal of nutritional biochemistry 23, no. 4 (2012): 361-367|
|↑12||Padiya, Raju, Tarak N. Khatua, Pankaj K. Bagul, Madhusudana Kuncha, and Sanjay K. Banerjee. “Garlic improves insulin sensitivity and associated metabolic syndromes in fructose fed rats.” Nutrition & metabolism 8, no. 1 (2011): 53|
|↑13||Xiao, Jia, Yick Pang Ching, Emily C. Liong, Amin A. Nanji, Man Lung Fung, and George L. Tipoe. “Garlic-derived S-allylmercaptocysteine is a hepato-protective agent in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in vivo animal model.” European Journal of Nutrition 52, no. 1 (2013): 179-191|
|↑15||Li, Lake, Jie Hai, Zhiqiang Li, Yongli Zhang, Hua Peng, Kun Li, and Xiaogang Weng. “Resveratrol modulates autophagy and NF-κB activity in a murine model for treating non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.” Food and Chemical Toxicology 63 (2014): 166-173.|
|↑16||Abenavoli, Ludovico, and Stefano Bellentani. “Milk thistle to treat non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: dream or reality?.” (2013): 677-679|
|↑17||Shen, Huafeng, Andrea C. Rodriguez, Ashok Shiani, Seth Lipka, Ghulamullah Shahzad, Ambuj Kumar, and Paul Mustacchia. “Association between caffeine consumption and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: a systemic review and meta-analysis.” Therapeutic advances in gastroenterology 9, no. 1 (2016): 113-120|
|↑18||Lam, Brian, and Zobair M. Younossi. “Review: treatment options for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.” Therapeutic advances in gastroenterology 3, no. 2 (2010): 121-137|
|↑19||Askari, Faezeh, Bahram Rashidkhani, and Azita Hekmatdoost. “Cinnamon may have therapeutic benefits on lipid profile, liver enzymes, insulin resistance, and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease patients.” Nutrition research 34, no. 2 (2014): 143-148|
|↑20||Rahmani, Sepideh, Sedigheh Asgary, Gholamreza Askari, Mahtab Keshvari, Mahdi Hatamipour, Awat Feizi, and Amirhossein Sahebkar. “Treatment of Non‐alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease with Curcumin: A Randomized Placebo‐controlled Trial.” Phytotherapy Research 30, no. 9 (2016): 1540-1548|