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A sliver of fat on the liver can lead to a condition known as Non-Alcohol Liver Disease (NAFLD).  This is a process that occurs when an excessive amount of Fat builds up in the liver over time.  Studies have shown one of the primary causes of this condition is obesity, where being overweight as a child and adolescence increases your risk for developing NAFLD.   The real danger of having this disease is how the excess fat acts as a toxin to the liver cells creating inflammation, and scarring which turns into Cirrhosis and ultimately End Stage Liver Disease.

NAFLD is at an epidemic level within the U.S. affecting an estimated 80 to 100 million people.  Initially you do not have any symptoms until cirrhosis develops with the first sign of fatigue and pain in the right upper body.  The cause of NAFLD is not due to an excessive amount of alcohol consumption, many who have the disease drink very little or not at all.  However, it is due to the contributing factors of our Life Style choices which results in the development of high cholesterol/triglycerides, abdominal obesity (fat around the mid-section), insulin resistance (Type 2 Diabetes/Pre-Diabetes) and metabolic syndrome – (cardiovascular issues/hypertension).

Currently, there is not a cure for NAFLD, however we can take preventative risk measures such as making positive Life Style Modifications/Changes.  It is a well-known evidence-based fact that positive life style changes are the key to health and wellbeing on every level, now NAFLD is added unto the list.  The following changes are recommended:

NUTRITON: Consume natural or whole foods avoiding processed or convenience foods.  The liver’s main function is to remove toxins and bacteria from the bloodstream.  When the liver tissue is damaged as with NAFLD, it is unable to perform this task.  By eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, lean fresh meats, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans and low-fat dairy products helps improve our overall health.  Avoid junk foods such as chips, cakes, cookies, and candy as much as possible.  Caution become a label reader and avoid foods that contain a lot of artificial additives and preservatives in the ingredients.

Limit Sodium intake by avoiding all high sodium foods such as canned soups, frozen TV dinners, foods that have been pickled, smoked foods, processed meats (bacon, sausage, brats, ham and cold cuts). Maintain a daily sodium limit of 2,000 mg/day (1 teaspoon salt) please note this include the natural sodium found in the food you consume throughout the day as well.

ALCOHOL:  Alcohol will worsen NAFLD especially if it has reached the point of Cirrhosis of the liver.  If you must drink (in the absence of cirrhosis) keep it at the recommended levels of one drink for women and two for men per day (detailed in blog “Last Call for Alcohol”).

EXERCISE:  Moderate activity can help get rid of some of the accumulated fat in the liver.  It is recommended that you get in at least 150 minute of exercise every week. Something as simple as walking has been shown to be beneficial.

WEIGHT LOSS:  As stated obesity is the main cause of NAFLD, however rapid weight loss which is considered more than 3 pounds per week will worsen NAFLD.  One to two pounds per week is considered to be a safe and beneficial weight loss goal.

PROTECTION: Become proactive in providing protection for your liver by getting the Hepatitis A and B vaccines as well as the flu and pneumococcal vaccinations.  Always consult your physician concerning vaccinations.

I understand now why one individual who have shared with me their recent diagnosis of NAFLD, as I have witnessed an attitude of denial and refusal to change or modify Life Style Choices; how I hope they would only take heed to my counsel.   As this individual carelessly stated: “It’s just a little Sliver of Fat on my Liver”.