Fatty liver disease occurs when too much fat builds up in your liver. A small amount of fat in your liver cells is entirely normal; anything above 5% of fat, however, is considered a fatty liver.
There are two types of fatty liver disease: Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (AFLD) caused by drinking excess alcohol, and Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) typically, though not always, caused by consuming excess calories and the related condition, Metabolic Syndrome.
In Hong Kong, more than 1 in 4 adults have NAFLD – the most common liver disease worldwide. Unfortunately, NAFLD is a silent disease that can often go undiagnosed, so estimates are the tip of the iceberg. It’s important to get tested once you notice symptoms as it can progress to serious health conditions. The associated Metabolic Syndrome may develop into type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Arming yourself with a diagnosis can help you make the lifestyle changes needed to protect your health. Our naturopaths are skilled at recognizing signs of fatty liver and metabolic syndrome at the earliest stages and beyond.
In early stages, fatty liver does not cause obvious symptoms. You may experience fatigue, irritable bowels, mood fluctuations and bloating.
Science shows excess abdominal fat is frequently associated with fatty liver. If you are overweight, it’s a sign to undergo a fatty liver test, as well as a blood test. A blood test can measure additional indicators of excess fat on your liver.
The inflammation and oxidation caused by fatty liver can lead to liver damage.
Fatty liver may progress to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) - a more serious condition that damages the liver cells. This in turn can progress to liver scarring (liver fibrosis), severe liver scarring (liver cirrhosis) and in some cases, liver cancer.
Fatty liver can be caused by:
- Excess belly fat, obesity
- Excessive consumption of carbs
- Gut inflammation
- Pre-diabetes and insulin resistance (Metabolic Syndrome)
- High levels of triglycerides
- Specific genes
Gut inflammation (which causes insulin resistance, leading to metabolic syndrome and abdominal obesity) is a significant cause of fatty liver. In conventional medicine, gut inflammation is often not recognized and as a result left untreated.
If you are experiencing bloating, irregular bowels, and abdominal pains, it’s likely your bowel is mildly inflamed.
Inflammation (caused by “endotoxins” from excessive bad bacteria) travels into your liver in the blood returning from the intestines. This stage - when correctly identified by testing - is a mild form of SIBO and often misdiagnosed as “IBS” or irritable bowels.
Gut inflammation leads to liver inflammation, which may further lead to brain neuro-inflammation, impairing your whole system.
At IMI, we are committed to pinpointing any health conditions you may have before they can develop into more serious illnesses.
Our naturopaths can help identify the right tests for your needs in order to assess whether you have fatty liver.
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Whether metabolic syndrome is “in your genes” or the consequence of dietary and lifestyle habits, IMI’s naturopaths are skilled at supporting you at every stage.