Fatty liver is a condition commonly observed in obese individuals. It is characterized by the accumulation of excess fat in liver cells. When a person is obese, their adipose tissue (fat tissue) releases fatty acids into the bloodstream at an increased rate. The liver take up these fatty acids and store them as triglycerides, leading to fat accumulation in liver cells.
Symptoms of fatty liver:
Patients with fatty liver may experience varying degrees of symptoms. Grade 1 fatty liver disease is typically asymptomatic, while others may present with:
Weight loss or loss of appetite
Abdominal discomfort or pain in the upper right area
Enlarged liver (hepatomegaly)
Elevated liver enzymes in blood tests (asymptomatic fatty liver)
The causes of fatty liver include
Excessive weight gain and obesity result in an increased accumulation of fat in the body, including the liver. When the body’s fat stores exceed the capacity of fat cells to store it, fat starts accumulating in other organs, such as the liver.
Excessive alcohol consumption leads to alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD):
This condition is unrelated to alcohol consumption and is associated with factors such as obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and metabolic syndrome.
Certain medications like corticosteroids, tamoxifen, and methotrexate can contribute to this condition.
Rapid weight loss:
Losing weight too quickly can cause fat to accumulate in the liver.
Some genetic conditions, such as inherited liver diseases, can increase the risk of developing this disease.
Diagnosing fatty liver:
The diagnosis of fatty liver typically involves a combination of medical history, physical examination, blood tests, and imaging studies. A common diagnostic tool is a fatty liver ultrasound examination, which assesses the liver for excess fat accumulation by visualizing its texture and detecting changes in echogenicity (the ability to reflect ultrasound waves).
The treatment takes a holistic approach, starting with healthy lifestyle changes, including weight loss (if overweight), regular exercise, and a balanced diet.
A healthy diet plays a crucial role in managing and potentially reversing this condition. The primary goals of a fatty liver diet are promoting weight loss (if necessary), reducing fat accumulation in the liver, improving insulin sensitivity, and supporting overall liver health. Here are some pointers for planning your diet:
Opt for whole grains (e.g., whole wheat bread, brown rice, quinoa) instead of refined carbohydrates. These complex carbohydrates have a lower glycemic index and help regulate blood sugar levels.
Include plenty of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains to boost fiber intake, aiding digestion, promoting satiety, and potentially assisting with weight management.
Incorporate lean protein sources (e.g., skinless poultry, fish, tofu, beans, legumes) into your meals, as they are lower in fat and beneficial for liver health.
While it’s important to reduce overall fat intake, including healthy fats in your diet is equally crucial. Choose sources like olive oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds, providing essential fatty acids that positively impact liver health.
Foods to avoid with fatty liver are saturated and trans fats, high carbohydrates, refined foods, and fried or greasy meals.
Medications are prescribed in some cases to manage specific underlying conditions or improve liver health. However, there is currently no specific medication approved for the treatment of this disease.
For obese patients, surgery is sometimes recommended when other measures and medications are ineffective. The conventional surgical option for obesity are Gastric Sleeve and Bariatric bypass procedures, which comes with numerous complications and requires a prolonged recovery period. A new treatment for fatty liver disease is a minimally invasive approach called GAMMA-Block-BAE gamma block bariatric arterial embolization, pioneered by Dr. Imtiaz Ahmad and introduced for the first time in November 2017.
Dr Imtiaz is an expert interventional radiologist and an endovascular surgeon who works on the principles of minimally invasive treatment. This procedure was introduced by him for the very first time in Pakistan. It helps the patient to lose weight and ultimately the fatty liver gets treated.
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