By Dr. Shellie L. Rosen, PhD, DOM, L.Ac.
The liver is responsible for more than 500 biological functions. An unburdened liver offers robust immunity, energy, and metabolism. The liver is resilient and rarely produces observable symptoms, even after a repeated injury. Many people are unaware that they live with a dysfunctional fatty liver. Soda drinkers and sugar bingers with a carbohydrate-heavy diet likely have a fatty liver. Those who routinely drink alcohol have a very high risk of liver dysfunction. In lab tests, elevated liver enzymes (such as ALT and AST) may indicate an inflamed liver. The good news is a fatty liver can heal.
The World Journal of Gastroenterology described nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) as a pandemic similar to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome in 2017. Sadly, the prevalence of NAFLD is 25 percent to 30 percent in general Western populations and 80 percent to 90 percent in people with dysmetabolic disorders.
Metabolic disorders are closely related to diet and exercise. The liver, the body’s largest organ, helps with digestion (sugars and carbohydrates), energy production, and filtering out toxins (alcohol and medications). Sugars from moderately consumed fruits and vegetables are not the problem. The danger is alcohol, processed foods, and drinks with concentrated sugars (high fructose) that turn into fat (lipogenesis).
There are two types of fatty liver disease – nonalcoholic and alcoholic (directly related to chronic alcohol consumption). A person with alcohol-related fatty liver may have a healthful diet and exercise plan, but alcohol consumption contributes to fat accumulation in the liver. Both types of fatty liver disease require significant lifestyle changes and cessation of drinking alcohol. When someone stops drinking, their metabolism becomes imbalanced because they remove alcohol sugars. If you change your drinking behavior to help heal your liver, do not turn to processed foods, carbohydrates, and fast sugars. As mentioned earlier, these products also injure the liver.
Protecting your liver begins with eliminating toxins such as alcohol and reducing dietary sugars. Avoid corn, soy, canola, and cottonseed oils, which contain polyunsaturated fatty acids, leading to oxidative stress and liver damage.
Omega 3 fatty acids, on the other hand, reduce liver inflammation. Find omega 3 in fish or choose a supplement form. Medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) found in coconut oil are also helpful in preventing the development and progression of NAFLD by preventing liver fat accumulation. Add a high-quality form of MCT oil directly to coffee or salad dressing daily.
Choline assists the liver in fat metabolism; a deficiency of it is linked to fatty liver. Increase grass-fed beef (beef liver), eggs, chicken, fish, and quinoa for dietary choline.
Research published in the Journal of Hepatology from Texas A&M University in 2020 links a compound called “indole” to decreased liver inflammation and cell fat reduction. To increase indole, add cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, or bok choy, steamed or cooked, with grass-fed butter to your diet. Indole is also available in supplement form. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases says that there are no approved medications to treat NAFLD. Weight loss is the No. 1 prescribed behavior modification. To heal your liver, focus on finding a method of daily activity that works for you. Abundant blessings in healing your liver this holiday season. Shellie L. Rosen, Ph.D., DOM, L.Ac.