It used to be that only alcoholics had to worry about fatty liver disease. Not anymore.
A 2013 study estimated the prevalence of “non-alcoholic” liver disease to be 19 percent, or 28.8 million adults—nearly one-fifth of us.
According to a 2012 report, fatal cases of liver disease are rising, with a 25 percent increase in deaths from the condition in less than a decade. Alcohol causes only a third of those cases.
A recent study gives us some good news in the midst of the bad—probiotics may help. The same “good” bugs that you enjoy in your yogurt, sauerkraut, and kefir that promote smooth digestion and boost the immune system may also help diminish fat accumulation in the liver.
Time to add fermented foods to the list of items that are good for the liver!
What is Fatty Liver Disease?
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a condition in which the liver accumulates too much fat. This fat then causes inflammation and scarring in the organ itself, which can, over time, lead to liver failure.
The increase in this disease is in direct relation to our national obesity epidemic. As people gain weight, the liver suffers. The Cleveland Clinic also notes that it’s strongly associated with obesity and insulin resistance, and is considered to be part of “metabolic syndrome,” which is a combination of factors that raises risk for heart disease and diabetes.
Having a fatty liver, by itself, however, isn’t always dangerous. A number of people have fat in the liver and experience no problems. The key is whether or not that fat starts to cause inflammation.
When a Fatty Liver Turns Dangerous
The Mayo Clinic explains that there are basically three stages of NAFLD:
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver (NAFLD): There’s fat buildup in the liver. This isn’t normal, but may not be harmful.
- Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH): For some reason (doctors don’t know why yet), the fat buildup causes inflammation in the liver. This can affect its ability to carry out its daily tasks, and may lead to scarring of the liver (called “cirrhosis”).
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease-associated cirrhosis: At this point, the inflammation has caused scarring. Eventually the scarring becomes so bad that the liver no longer functions, and the patient experiences liver failure. This condition is now one of the leading reasons people go through liver transplants in the U.S.
Article from Renegade Health, September, 2014, by Colleen M. Story.