Managing Fatty Liver Disease With Nutrition

What is Fatty liver disease? [1]

Fatty liver is a condition caused by excess fat build up in the liver. Generally being obese, overweight, uncontrolled diabetes, high blood cholesterol, high triglyceride levels can put you at risk of developing fatty liver. Fatty liver can be classified as alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD) for those who consume alcohol, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) for those who abstain from alcohol, alcoholic steatohepatitis (ASH) which is a form of AFLD and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) which is a form of NAFLD both with liver inflammation, acute fatty liver of pregnancy (AFLP) which is a pregnancy related complication.

Stages of fatty liver disease [2]

Fatty liver can progress through several stages namely, simple fatty liver with excess build-up of fat in the liver, to steatohepatitis with excess fat and liver inflammation, to fibrosis resulting in inflammation and scarring of the liver, to finally cirrhosis resulting in widespread scarring with a permanent damaged liver which is irreversible and life threatening. This is why it is important to prevent the progression of the disease and manage this through food, lifestyle and medical interventions early on.

Diet and Lifestyle tips to manage fatty liver disease [3-6]

1.Eat a balanced diet.

  • Follow the balanced plate method

Aim to eat ½ plate of vegetables, ¼ plate of carbohydrates and ¼ plate or a palm size portion of lean protein sources.

  • Fill up on high fibre foods

Choose wholegrain, whole meal, atta flour-based products, legumes, vegetables and fruits with skins to increase your fibre intake.

  • Choose healthy fat options

Include monounsaturated fats such as extra virgin olive oil, avocados, nuts and polyunsaturated fats such as sunflower seeds/oil canola oil, nuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, salmon, sardines and tuna.

  • Limit added sugars

Choose a sweetener for your tea/ coffee and choose fresh fruit and unflavoured yoghurt options as dessert.

  • Limit added salt

Use herbs and spices to season your food instead of adding extra salt.

2. Avoid smoking and alcohol consumption.

3. If you have diabetes, ensure that your blood sugar levels are controlled.

4. Treat high blood cholesterol and pressure as per medical advice.

5. Engage in regular exercise

  • Start exercising 3-4 times a week depending on your level of physical activity and gradually increase the frequency of exercise per week.
  • Think about movement as an opportunity to improve your health and make you feel good.
  • Increase incidental exercise e.g. cleaning the house/garden, taking the stairs etc.

References

  1. Information H, Disease L, NASH N, Facts D, NASH D, Health N. Definition & Facts of NAFLD & NASH | NIDDK [Internet]. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. 2021 [cited 11 November 2021]. Available from: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/liver-disease/nafld-nash/definition-facts
  2. Hepatocellular Carcinoma. Brisbane (AU): Codon Publications; 2019 Oct 24.; 2019.
  3. Abenavoli L, Boccuto L, Federico A, Dallio M, Loguercio C, Di Renzo L et al. Diet and Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: The Mediterranean Way. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2019;16(17):3011.
  4. Papandreou D. Role of diet on non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: An updated narrative review. World Journal of Hepatology. 2015;7(3):575.
  5. Akhavan Rezayat A, Dadgar Moghadam M, Ghasemi Nour M, Shirazinia M, Ghodsi H, Rouhbakhsh Zahmatkesh M et al. Association between smoking and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: A systematic review and meta-analysis. SAGE Open Medicine. 2018;6:205031211774522.
  6. Hallsworth K, Adams L. Lifestyle modification in NAFLD/NASH: Facts and figures. JHEP Reports. 2019;1(6):468-479.

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