Most people associate liver failure or liver disease with long term alcohol consumption or hepatitis, but there is a liver disease that is brought on by something totally unrelated – non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is essentially what it sounds like, a liver disease not caused by alcohol consumption, which results in an excess of fat built up in the liver. Since the liver controls many vital operations of the body, liver disease or liver failure can result in serious health problems. There is currently no cure for NAFLD, but recent studies have shown that a reduction in weight, usually at least 10%, can lead to a lessening of symptoms.
Most patients who have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease are obese or overweight. It’s most commonly found in men over 50, people with type 2 diabetes, patients with high blood pressure, those with high levels of blood fats and cholesterol, or people who have lost weight rapidly. NAFLD often doesn’t present with any obvious symptoms and is usually discovered through unrelated tests. There are some symptoms, however, that can indicate the presence of the disease. These symptoms may include enlarged spleen or liver, enlarged blood vessels just under the skin’s surface, pain and swelling in the abdomen, jaundice, or enlarged breasts in men. If you have a combination of the risk factors and some of the symptoms, please contact Carolina Digestive Health Associates for a diagnosis.
The most important thing you can do for your health is to maintain a healthy weight, exercise, and eat a balanced diet. This holds true both for patients with NAFLD and for those who are at risk for developing it. A recent study at the University of Michigan indicates that a structured nutrition and exercise program helped reduce the appearance of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Researchers followed 495 patients, 236 of whom showed evidence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. They participated in a 12-week program that included a daily 45-minute nutritional lecture followed by 45 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise. The results showed that among the participants who saw at least a 5% reduction in BMI also saw a reduction of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
If you have been diagnosed with NAFLD or are seeking a diagnosis, contact Carolina Digestive Health Associates to discuss your options. We can help you with a plan to start on a journey to good nutrition and health.