For many people, fatty liver disease spreads gradually and imperceptibly. This often increases the risk of developing cirrhosis and liver cancer. You can counteract this with a healthy diet and regular exercise.
About 30 percent of the adult population in Germany suffers from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, 20 to 30 percent worldwide. Fatty liver is the most common cause of chronic liver disease in the United States and the European Union. And that trend is growing: more and more people are suffering, and today children often have fatty livers – according to a German study, 36 percent of boys are between the ages of 12 and 20.
Fatty liver is considered a lifestyle related disease, it can be traced back to lifestyle choices, unhealthy diets, too little exercise, and too much alcohol. But that also means you need to keep your liver healthy!
In this article, you will learn how to use changed habits to prevent the development of fatty liver. We also explain how fatty liver can occur, how to interpret the first symptoms correctly, what treatments are possible and what the consequences of untreated fatty liver might be.
What is Fatty Liver?
In obese liver (steatous hepatitis), too much fat accumulates in the liver cells, and the detoxification organ is made up of more than five to ten percent fat. With a poor course, inflammation occurs in the liver, doctors talk about fatty hepatitis of the liver, which, in turn, can lead to cirrhosis of the liver, in which liver cells are destroyed irrevocably.
The liver is the largest internal organ in humans. It is essential for the metabolism and digestion of fat, produces important proteins and stores glucose, vitamins and minerals. At the same time, it is a detoxification organ: it filters toxic substances from the blood and removes them from the body.
Causes – Preventing Fatty Liver
There are two types of fatty liver: Alcoholic fatty liver disease, as the name suggests, is the result of chronic alcoholism. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is mainly associated with being overweight, unhealthy diets, and not getting enough exercise.
Alcohol as a cause of fatty liver
The cause of alcoholism in fatty liver is obvious: years of excessive alcohol consumption. The liver breaks down the alcohol we get ourselves. During the breakdown, fatty acids are formed that can still be easily removed by accidental drinking. But if we keep alcohol in the liver, fat gradually accumulates in it.
From science: how much alcohol is compatible?
Scientists have debated the amount of harmful alcohol for decades. Is the evening glass of red wine healthy or too much? In most European and American societies, having a large glass of wine a day can be problematic for a woman. The recommendations are as follows: women should drink less than ten to twelve grams of pure alcohol (0.2 to 0.3 liters of beer or 0.1 to 0.15 liters of wine) per day, men – from 20 to 24 grams (0.5 up to 0.6 liters of beer or from 0.25 to 0.3 liters of wine). In addition, men and women should avoid drinking alcohol two days a week.
A British research team recently examined data from nearly 600,000 people and concluded that more than 100 grams of alcohol per week shortens life.
Causes of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
Several factors can contribute to the accumulation of too much fat in liver cells. Overweight is the most important cause of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Our lifestyle is especially important: an unhealthy diet high in fat and sugar and too little exercise contributes to fatty liver formation. This lifestyle can cause a vicious cycle: it contributes to the development of type 2 diabetes and the so-called metabolic syndrome. Both diseases, in turn, can ensure that the liver continues to become fatty.
Good to know: with the term metabolic syndrome, doctors describe a combination of factors that significantly increase the risk of cardiovascular disease: obesity, especially abdominal fat, as well as increased blood pressure, sugar levels in blood and blood fat.
Is fatty liver hereditary?
How often, genetic predisposition plays a role: not everyone is equally susceptible to fatty liver. Despite alcohol, lack of exercise, and unhealthy diets, some people never get fatty liver. Experts also estimate that about six percent of normal-weight adults still develop fatty liver disease, which is especially difficult to diagnose early on.
It also means: if your family has had cases of fatty liver disease, pay special attention to risk factors and check the liver in a timely manner!
Diseases as a cause of fatty liver
Disease is less likely to lead to the development of fatty liver. Possible reasons:
- Chronic bowel disease (such as Crohn’s disease)
- Liver disease (such as Wilson’s disease)
- Hepatitis C infection
How Vitamin D is Related to Fatty Liver
Vitamin D plays a role in many metabolic and inflammatory processes, including the liver, and may be associated with fatty liver. In studies, people with fatty livers often had vitamin D levels that were too low. In addition, patients with severe vitamin D deficiency look more like complications such as inflammation of the liver’s adipose tissue or fibrosis. It is currently being investigated to what extent vitamin D supplementation may help people with obese liver.
Symptoms – Fatty Liver Detection
Excess liver fat is so difficult because people often don’t feel it. If fatty liver is visible, symptoms are usually difficult to interpret. Typical are:
- Difficulty of concentration
- Click on the right side
People with fatty liver often also have an increased waist circumference and body mass index (BMI), as well as high blood pressure, many exercise too little and eat too much.In most cases, obesity and fatty liver are interdependent.
Body Mass Index: Body Mass Index (BMI) is calculated based on your height and your weight (body weight in kilograms divided by size in meters squared). People are considered overweight if they have a BMI of 25 or more and obesity starts at 30, i.e. Obesity.
Fatty liver diagnostics
Fatty liver is often diagnosed by accident. For example, doctors can detect fat on an ultrasound image. Ultrasound is also the method of choice for investigating suspected fatty liver. In the images, doctors see fatty deposits in the liver, as well as any fibrosis, that is, accumulations of connective tissue that can lead to liver cirrhosis.
Potential Effects of Fatty Liver
In general, fatty liver is harmless, but often leads to complications. Approximately every third patient has liver damage due to fatty deposits, severe fatty liver hepatitis. appears. Studies have shown that this fatty liver hepatitis increases the risk of heart disease, liver cancer, and other liver diseases.
Fat and inflammation can gradually hack away parts of the liver into useless connective tissue. The functional part of the liver shrinks, which leads to cirrhosis of the liver. In the long term, cirrhosis can lead to an inability of the liver to function properly and, in the worst case, to liver failure. If not intervened in time, the detoxification organ can no longer be saved – sometimes a liver transplant is the last option.
Fatty liver splitting therapy
Fatty liver is curable! There is currently no drug therapy. However, if you know the cause of fatty liver disease and counteract it, the fatty tissue is often destroyed and the liver becomes healthy. Usually it is about avoiding alcohol or losing weight through dietary and exercise changes. If chronic liver or intestinal disease causes obesity, you should treat these conditions in consultation with your doctor.
Treatment of alcoholic fatty liver disease
If there is an alcoholic fatty liver, the affected, as a rule, are also alcoholic. Then it is important to treat alcoholism and avoid alcohol as long as possible. This is often a complex and lengthy process that must be supervised by a doctor and psychotherapist!
Therapy of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
Non-alcoholic fatty liver may regress over time. She doesn’t do it on her own, but as an influential person, you have it in hand to get your liver healthy again. In most cases, we are talking about losing weight. Doctors believe that most patients should lose at least three to five percent of their weight for fat in the liver to also melt.
That which pertains to weight loss also applies: regular exercise, reduced calorie intake, and a healthy diet are critical, which you can also maintain over the long term. For many people, interval fasting is a good alternative. If possible, all obese liver patients should avoid alcohol – this is especially true if the liver already has inflammation.
If conventional methods are not sufficient to reduce excessive obesity (obesity with a BMI of 35 or higher), surgery such as gastric tube or gastric bypass surgery.
Good to know: Bariatric surgery is the general term for the surgical procedures that doctors use to treat obesity.
Vitamin E: antioxidant against inflammation of fatty liver
For doctors with fatty liver hepatitis, that is, with inflammation in the liver, the recommendations of American doctors recommend taking vitamin E supplements. Vitamin E is an antioxidant, it neutralizes oxidative stress in cells. Among other things, it can reduce inflammation and therefore fatty liver hepatitis. The effectiveness of vitamin E has not yet been proven for diabetics with fatty hepatitis and liver cirrhosis.
Good news for coffee lovers: according to the recommendations of German doctors, two to three cups of coffee a day can reduce the risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and liver inflammation! This amount of coffee also contains a safe amount of caffeine.
In recent years, scientists have studied how probiotics affect fatty liver. Probiotics are foods and preparations that contain bacterial cultures. They alter the microbiome, which is the composition of bacteria in the gut. It can have a positive effect on gut health and probably also on the liver.
In animal experiments, probiotics in rats with fatty livers reduced, among other things, inflammatory factors in the body and maintained healthy liver function. In other studies, less fat was stored in the liver in animals receiving probiotics. These results cannot be communicated to people one-on-one, but in the future, medical practitioners may receive therapy from them.
Fatty liver: at a glance
What Happens to Fatty Liver?
With fatty liver, too much fat accumulates in the liver cells. This can lead to inflammation and scarring, including cirrhosis of the liver. In addition, fatty liver increases the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and liver cancer.
What are the reasons?
Fatty liver is caused by years of alcohol abuse, unhealthy lifestyles with poor nutrition, little exercise and being overweight, or chronic bowel or liver disease.
What are the symptoms of fatty liver?
Fatty liver often causes only vague symptoms for a long time, such as fatigue and pressure in the upper abdomen. Doctors recognize fatty liver well on ultrasound images.
How is fatty liver treated?
If you have lost enough weight, eat healthy foods and exercise regularly, you can completely get rid of fatty liver disease. When it comes to alcohol-related fatty liver disease, treatment for the underlying alcoholic condition is essential.