Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)


Most of us relate a fatty liver to alcohol, or maybe to an attack of jaundice. But a lot of people suffer from a syndrome called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Most of my IBD, overweight, high cholesterol, high- triglyceride and SIBO clients do. Anything above 5–10 per cent of your normal liver weight poses a problem. NAFLD is an umbrella name for a host of liver issues impacting those who do not drink alcohol or drink very little alcohol.

What happens in NAFLD?

In such cases, since the liver stores sugar glucose, detoxifies blood (chemicals), stores nutrients, insulin and other hormones, all these functions get disrupted. When the liver gets overloaded, toxins recirculate in the system and start binding to protein, forming deformed molecules. When these deformed molecules make their way back to the liver, it has a hard time processing them. These toxins add to the inflammation, and since the liver handles hormones as well, there is an imbalance. NAFLD may lead to swelling in the liver (steatohepatitis). A swollen liver may lead to cirrhosis (scarring over time).

Why does this happen?

  1. A weak gut microbiome – Research on liver malfunction points us in the direction of bad gut microbes. In an article on the role of intestinal bacteria overgrowth in obesity-related non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, people who presented with obesity had an abundant overgrowth of the bad variety of bacteria and next to little or no presence of the good bacteria. According to the findings, the gut microbiota played a key role in the defence against pathogens by defending intestinal microvilli. Bacterial translocation (BT) due to a leaky gut interferes with blood supply to the liver. This blood contains products of digestion as well as microbial products derived from gut microbiota. This is one of the reasons for the disorder taking place in the liver. The paper also points out that cirrhosis and liver disease come about due to BT. Gut microbiota may also alter the bile–acid profile, contributing to liver disease. Both SIBO and obesity predispose one to NAFLD. Your gut health is really important and plays a crucial role.
  2. Overweight and obesity – Leading to metabolic issues like high blood sugar, diabetes and insulin resistance.
  3. Polycystic ovaries – The precursor to which is insulin resistance, and hormonal fluctuations.
  4. Thyroid issues – An underactive thyroid (hypothyroid) could predispose you to NAFLD.
  5. High cholesterol.
  6. High triglycerides.
  7. Poor Nutrition – That is not paying enough attention to the kind of calories you are consuming or dieting all the time leading to rapid weight loss.

How will you know you are at risk?

  1. Your blood work will be off indicating high levels of liver enzymes.
  2. You may feel angry and irritated a lot (TCM-traditional Chinese Medicine negative emotion for liver).
  3. An ultrasound could give some indication.
  4. The pain is usually around the liver area (right side).

How to prevent NAFLD and treat it?

Eating healthy and exercising may be the only answers to prevent this issue. 

  1. Avoid alcohol completely.
  2. Exercise to lower body weight.
  3. Control blood sugar levels by eating right.
  4. Refined oils and trans fats that will load up the liver.

Follow the eating guidelines below

  1. Stay off sugars, sugary foods, refined carbohydrates; colas, sodas, soft drinks; hidden sugars in packaged foods, processed foods. This will keep you away from sugar spikes and insulin resistance which could lead to NAFLD.
  2. Complex carbohydrates are a good source of sugars and fibre, and also promotes smooth functioning of the digestive tract; ensuring proper waste elimination. Here, I cannot emphasize the necessity of whole grains from brown/red rice to any good millet that aids with the amounts of antioxidants and anti-ageing benefits (brown rice alone has 70 anti-ageing antioxidants). If someone is insulin resistant, it helps to keep these at a modicum in the diet. To minimize what you may have in the day, 20% of daily volume consumption works well. Just remember the link between gut bacteria and NAFLD.
  3. Good quality protein helps you stay satiated, keep blood sugars stable. Protein also maintains our muscles; your intestinal lining has muscle fibres; this means lean protein if you eat fish and meats and plant-based protein if you are a vegetarian/vegan. Excess protein (animal protein) is not good for you, so balance it with vegetables and greens. We don’t want those liver pathways getting blocked we must maintain the quality of blood being clean and not toxic. Too much animal protein may overload the body’s ability to detoxify if the liver is already fatty.
  4. Vegetables, which not only have good quality fibre; especially coloured vegetables that have plenty of beta carotene that converts to Vitamin A to repair skin (of the gut lining). Plus, leafy greens and green vegetables (also in the form of barley grass or wheatgrass), mimic the blood structure and are necessary for cleansing the blood and the much-needed chlorophyll they provide. Plus greens is what the liver loves, and bitter foods; so focus on bitter greens.
  5. Fermented foods, serve a crucial part of any diet plan supplying good amounts of probiotics to nourish our guts. Foods like sauerkraut, quick pickles, non-dairy kefir, kimchi are highly recommended.
  6. Nuts and seeds bring in the trace minerals, good fats, fiber and oils that are needed.
  7. Fruits again provide a plethora of vitamins, antioxidants and fiber to help gut repair.
  8. Just the right amount of water or liquids as too much will loosen and expand our tissues, a lot of water comes from the foods you eat. An excess of liquids puts pressure on the kidneys, bladder and sweat glands as well; making us tired over time. We need just enough, one way of measuring this is to ask ourselves: are we thirsty?
  9. Adding sea vegetables like spirulina helps in detoxification, vitamins, protein, minerals and antioxidants. These help with liver detoxification.
  10. Keep your lifestyle in check by establishing regular eating habits, sleep habits and positive thoughts.
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