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But I’m Not An Alcoholic – Fatty Liver Disease

Fatty Liver Disease - It doesn't just affect alcoholics
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Did you think that the only people who had liver problems were those who abused alcohol? WRONG! It is estimated that approximately a third of Americans have some form of fatty liver disease.  And what’s worse, most don’t know they do.  But what is it exactly?

Fatty liver is pretty much what it sounds like – a liver that has too much fat in it.  More specifically, if the liver becomes more than 5% fat, it is considered a fatty liver.  The liver is highly resilient and able to repair itself in many cases.

However, over time, if left untreated, a fatty liver can advance to fatty liver disease, steatohepatitis, cirrhosis or even liver cancer.


** There are several causes of fatty liver disease
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* Regular and/or heavy alcohol use
* Obesity
* Metabolic syndrome
* Diets high in sugar and processed foods
* Leaky gut/gut bacterial imbalance
* Hepatitis C infection


** Some symptoms that people who have fatty liver disease may experience include:
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* Chronic fatigue
* Muscle weakness
* Chronic pain in muscles and/or joints
* Abnormal lab test results
+ High triglycerides
+ High liver enzyme
+ High blood glucose

One natural treatment to help heal and alleviate the symptoms of fatty liver disease is milk thistle.  Milk thistle (Silybum Marianum) is a plant that has been used since the times of ancient Greece for a variety of reasons.

One of the most common uses of milk thistle is to detoxify, heal and protect the liver from illness and infection. It works by inhibiting free radicals that cause damage to lipid cells in the liver and increasing hepatic antioxidants that work to heal and protect the liver. It also increases the synthesis of hepatocytes, so not only does it help protect the liver, it also helps the liver regenerate healthy cells.

In one study, patients with alcohol-related fatty liver disease were given 140mg of milk thistle three times per day for over 3 years, and their conditions improved significantly.

In another study, patients who had non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, patients were given a combo treatment 94mg of milk thistle, 194mg of choline and 90mg of vitamin E over six months, and all participants showed improved liver enzyme levels (and they even lost a little weight despite not having made any lifestyle or diet changes).

Another study among patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease used milk thistle (3.5mg twice daily), and still the level of fatty liver disease was significantly reduced in all participants.
The Good News - You Can Probably Fix It!

The good news is that fatty liver disease is largely preventable, and can even be healed in most cases IF you get it in check early AND make the appropriate lifestyle changes:

* Eat a nutritious, balanced diet (check out the Mediterranean diet (https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/mediterranean-diet-meal-plan) – it’s a great one for disease prevention)


* Exercise regularly (3-5 times per week for a minimum of 150 minutes per week...include strength training, cardio, and stretching for balance)


* Get an annual physical exam with liver lab screening from your primary care physician (knowledge is power)


* Reduce or eliminate refined sugars and carbohydrates from the diet


* Supplements such as milk thistle, vitamin E, and choline may be beneficial (check with your health professional to be sure)


* Reduce or eliminate alcohol consumption

- written by Jonene Ford

Resources

Cacciapuoti, F., Scognamiglio, A., Palumbo, R., Forte, R., & Cacciapuoti, F. (2013). Silymarin in non alcoholic fatty liver disease. World journal of hepatology, 5(3), 109-13.

Examine.com. (2018). Milk Thistle – Scientific Review on Usage, Dosage, Side Effects. Retrieved November 17, 2018, from https://examine.com/supplements/milk-thistle/

Federico, A., Trappoliere, M., Tuccillo, C., de Sio, I., Di Leva, A., Del Vecchio Blanco, C., & Loguercio, C. (2006). A new silybin-vitamin E-phospholipid complex improves insulin resistance and liver damage in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: preliminary observations. Gut, 55(6), 901-2.

Sorrentino, G., Crispino, P., Coppola, D., & De Stefano, G. (2015). Efficacy of lifestyle changes in subjects with non-alcoholic liver steatosis and metabolic syndrome may be improved with an antioxidant nutraceutical: a controlled clinical study. Drugs in R&D, 15(1), 21-5.

Spritzler, F., RD. (2016). Fatty Liver: What It Is, and How to Get Rid of It. Retrieved November 17, 2018, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/fatty-liver

Vargas-Mendoza, N., Madrigal-Santillán, E., Morales-González, A., Esquivel-Soto, J., Esquivel-Chirino, C., García-Luna Y González-Rubio, M., Gayosso-de-Lucio, J. A., … Morales-González, J. A. (2014). Hepatoprotective effect of silymarin. World journal of hepatology, 6(3), 144-9.

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