1 What Is Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease?

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is a condition that occurs when the liver accumulates fat, even if the patient does not drink alcohol at all. 

The disease does not cause any symptom and complication for most people, but in rare cases, patients suffer from inflamed and scarred liver. This complication is called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. If the disease gets severe, it may cause liver failure. 

2 Symptoms

In most cases, patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease show no signs and symptoms. However, some may experience pain in the abdomen, weight loss, and fatigue. If you experience these signs and symptoms, see your doctor immediately.

3 Causes

The main cause of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is not yet determined; but, there are several conditions and diseases that are linked to it.

The condition occurs when fat builds up in the liver tissue, which happens when the liver cannot effectively process fat breakdown. 

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease are classified into various forms. These are:

  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver. The liver doesn’t normally build up fat, but when it happens, it usually has no complications. 
  • Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. In some people, a fatty liver may cause inflammation that can result to liver cirrhosis if left untreated.
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease-associated cirrhosis. When the fatty liver becomes inflamed, the liver tissue can suffer from scarring or cirrhosis. The scarring should be treated immediately or it may cause liver failure.

4 Making a Diagnosis

Making a diagnosis of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is done by performing several tests.

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease does not typically show any sign or symptom. However, if you have the symptoms mentioned above, see your doctor immediately. You may be referred to a liver specialist or hepatologist if you have a suspected liver problem. 

When making an appointment, ask the doctor or assistant of the things to do (or not do) prior your visit. Remember to ask if there’s any diet restrictions you have to observe. Typically, you will have a number of tests that may require you to fast.

When diagnosing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, doctors usually do the following tests:

  • Liver function tests. This procedure involves examining the liver enzymes.
  • Blood tests. Multiple blood tests may be done, which may include blood sugar test.
  • Imaging procedures. CT scan, ultrasound, and MRI (magnetic Resonance Imaging) may be done to diagnose the disease.
  • Liver tissue testing. If a more complicated form of the disease is suspected, your doctor may suggest doing a liver biopsy or taking a tissue sample from your liver and examining it. The procedure involves inserting a long, thin needle into the liver to get a sample of the liver cells.

5 Treatment

Since there is no treatment for the condition, doctors usually concentrate in treating the possible underlying causes of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. For example, if the disease is caused by obesity, the doctor will help you lose weight by offering weight loss options.

Moreover, getting Hepatitis A and B vaccines can help you ward off viruses that may cause other liver problems. 

6 Prevention

To prevent your risk of having nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, you may try to:

  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet. A diet rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, as well as healthy proteins and fats can help keep your liver at optimum health. 
  • Keep your weight ideal. Overweight and obese people have a higher risk of having a fatty liver. Maintain an ideal weight by eating right and getting more exercise. 
  • Exercise regularly. Not only that exercise can help keep your weight healthy, doing it regularly also helps flush out toxins, thus keeping your liver healthy.

While there’s still no proven alternative treatment for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, a number of researches are starting to be favorable with the following:

  • Vitamin E. A known antioxidant, Vitamin E may help reduce liver damage that is caused by inflammation.
  • Coffee. One study shows that people affected with the disease suffer from less damage in the liver if they are regular coffee-drinkers. 

Keep in mind that these remedies are still not proven to help treat fatty liver. If you are considering any alternative treatment, discuss it first with your doctor.

7 Lifestyle and Coping

Lifestyle modifications are necessary in order to cope with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

If you have been diagnosed with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, you can keep it under control by doing the following:

  • Lose weight: You may want to lose weight, particularly if you are obese or overweight. This can be done by lessening your calorie intake and increasing physical activity. 
  • Eat a healthy diet: A diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains can help keep a healthy weight, as well as ensure overall body health. 
  • Keep diabetes under control: If you have diabetes, make sure to follow your physician’s instructions to keep it under control. Monitor your blood sugar and do not forget to take your medications. 
  • Keep your cholesterol levels low: Keep cholesterol within healthy levels by exercising and eating plant-based food. If you are taking medications to lower cholesterol, never forget a dose.
  • Protect your liver: Avoid putting your liver under stress. The key is to live a healthy lifestyle by clearing away from alcohol and fatty food. Also, take medications only if necessary and make sure to follow instructions about the dosage.

8 Risks and Complications

Different conditions and diseases can contribute to your risk of having nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. These include:

9 Related Clinical Trials