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What is fatty liver disease?

Your liver is a large and powerful organ that sits underneath your right rib cage. Fatty liver disease is growing increasingly common, especially in the United States. There are different types of fatty liver- non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD). Both have very similar processes in the body, and under a microscope, the damage to the liver looks the same.

NAFLD is associated with metabolic dysfunction which is commonly associated with obesity, diabetes, and overall poor blood sugar metabolism. AFLD, as its name suggests, is associated with excessive alcohol consumption.

The liver has numerous functions in the body, including:

  • Producing bile (helping you digest & absorb fats and fat-soluble vitamins)

  • Storage of vitamins & minerals (eg Vitamins A, D, E, K, and B12 are stored in the liver)

  • Managing carbohydrate metabolism

  • Producing albumin

  • Supports health blood clotting (by improving absorption of vitamin K)

  • Synthesis of angiotensinogen (a blood pressure regulator)

  • Metabolize proteins

  • Filters the blood

A normal healthy liver has optimally functioning liver cells (called hepatocytes) that do all the above. In fatty liver disease normal cells start to become replaced with fat cells resulting in fewer healthy liver cells to perform their function. If left untreated, a fatty liver can become fibrotic and eventually lead to cirrhosis which is an irreversible condition. The liver is unable to function properly and cirrhosis can sometimes require liver transplantation.

Signs your liver is not functioning optimally:

  • Elevated liver transaminases (this is ALT & AST on your labs)

  • Low albumin

  • High triglycerides

  • Hormonal imbalances

  • Elevated HbA1c (poor blood sugar metabolism)

  • Elevated insulin

  • High inflammatory markers (eg CRP, ferritin)

  • Feeling sluggish

  • Inability to digest fats or slow to digest meals

  • Feeling swollen or inflamed

  • Skin itching, irritation, or poor skin health

Typically, there are few conventional treatments for fatty liver disease. However, lifestyle intervention is paramount. Improving sugar metabolism, weight loss, exercise, and eliminating alcohol can make drastic positive change in someone with NAFLD and AFLD.

Naturopathically, there are additional supports that can be offered. Here are some examples:

  • Botanical medicine - there are numerous herbs supportive of liver function, improving liver metabolism, bile production, address and even used to restore the normal function of hepatocytes, as well as, help treat fibrotic tissue.

  • Targeted supplementation & nutrients - N-acetyl cysteine, taurine, glutathione, B vitamins, magnesium, and phosphatidylcholine are all incredibly supportive of liver metabolism. They can be taken orally or intravenously in more serious cases.

  • Detoxification support - your liver is the detoxification organ in your body. Naturopathic medicine via diet, herbs, supplements, and comprehensive testing can ensure all liver detoxification pathways are functioning at their best.

  • Weight loss support & sugar metabolism support via dietary counseling and assessment for any underlying factors affecting weight loss, metabolism, hunger levels, etc.

Treating your liver disease is the route toward improving your energy, mood, strength, and overall well-being!

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