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. At the earliest stages, fatty liver can be easily reversed, but – undiagnosed and untreated – it can progress to serious health conditions. The associated Metabolic Syndrome may develop into Type 2 Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease. These can be corrected before becoming diseases, so it’s important to pay attention to such problems early on.
At IMI, our integrated approach to healing means we look beyond the obvious to identify and address the underlying causes of health concerns. Our naturopaths are skilled at recognizing signs of fatty liver and metabolic syndrome at the earliest stages and beyond. If you have fatty liver, we will work with you to create a tailored treatment plan to help you lose excess liver fat, heal your liver, and protect your long-term health.
Fatty liver can be caused by:
- Overweight and obesity
- Excess belly fat
- Excessive consumption of carbs
- Gut inflammation
- Pre-diabetes and insulin resistance (Metabolic Syndrome)
- High levels of triglycerides in your blood test
- Specific genes
In fact, gut inflammation (which causes insulin resistance, leading to metabolic syndrome and abdominal obesity) is a significant cause of fatty liver. In conventional medicine, however, gut inflammation is often not recognized and as a result left treated.
If you are commonly experiencing bloating, irregular bowels, and possibly abdominal pains, it’s likely your irritable bowel is mildly inflamed. The inflammation (caused by “endotoxins” from excessive gram-negative 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 (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth). “IBS” or irritable bowels, is commonly correctly diagnosed as SIBO.
Gut inflammation leads to liver inflammation, which may further lead to brain neuro-inflammation, impairing your whole system.
In the earlier stages, fatty liver does not cause obvious symptoms. You may experience fatigue, irritable bowels, or mood fluctuations, as well as a bloated tummy and an increase in abdominal fat. Too frequently, these symptoms are temporarily treated, and the root cause ignored.
However, by itself excess abdominal fat is frequently associated with fatty liver. If you do have excess tummy fat, it’s a sign to undergo a fatty liver test (fibroscan), as well as a blood test. A blood test can measure elevated levels of triglycerides, liver enzymes, fasting insulin levels, and blood glucose (as HbA1C) to indicate a build-up of excess fat on your liver.
Undetected and untreated, the inflammation and oxidation of the fats (rancidity) in a fatty liver can lead to more 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.
At IMI, we are committed to pinpointing and addressing underlying health conditions before they develop into serious illnesses. If you have fatty liver, or NASH, we will work hand-in-hand with you to restore your liver health and protect your wellbeing. Reversal of these trends is achievable through proven botanical remedies and vitamins for the quenching of fat rancidity (with certain antioxidants), managing metabolic syndrome (insulin resistance), and addressing gut bacterial imbalances. Tailored to your needs, your naturopath will create a personalized plan that includes lifestyle and dietary recommendations to reverse these issues, naturally.
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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.