One of the secrets to great health is a healthy liver. Modern living and lifestyle habits are very hard on this multitasking organ, and we are seeing the effects of this in the increasing prevalence of liver diseases.
One of these “new” diseases caused by modern living – nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) – is problematic because it can be silent and not cause obvious symptoms in its early stages, much like type 2 diabetes. This means that it can go undetected for some time while it is damaging the liver and compromising health.
NAFLD is actually quite common, affecting as much as 46 percent of the American population. This disease can cause symptoms such as vague upper right abdominal discomfort, fatigue and malaise, but often it is asymptomatic and is first identified by elevated liver enzymes in routine blood work.
The liver may be the most overworked and underpaid organ in our bodies. It is responsible for many jobs that keep our bodies running smoothly, so when the liver is ailing, it affects every cell in the body. The liver processes blood and determines which substances in the blood are useful nutrients and which are waste. It distributes the nutrients throughout the body and packages the wastes, so that they can be safely disposed.
Why is NAFLD so damaging? Because it is caused by the deposition of fat into the liver that replaces functional liver cells. The fat takes the place of working liver cells and compromises liver function. This leads to poor digestion, a buildup of toxins in the blood, poor blood clotting, bad cholesterol management, poor immune function and many other health consequences.
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease develops from poor diet and lifestyle habits combined with an overwhelming exposure to toxins in our food, water and air that ultimately cause the liver to malfunction. NAFLD is associated with obesity and metabolic syndrome. Most people with a body mass index above 30 have it.
If you have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, natural medicine treatments can help your liver heal. One of the most effective treatments is weight loss, if you are overweight. Safe weight loss is important and consists of no more than one to two pounds per week. More rapid weight loss actually can make things worse by increasing inflammation and fat deposition in the liver.
Of course, eliminating refined foods from your diet can help with weight loss and help relieve the burden of toxins on the liver. Eliminating alcohol also will take a load off of your liver and foster repair.
Natural medicine treatments should focus on correcting metabolic syndrome, reducing inflammation in the liver and increasing the level of antioxidants in the body. Omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin E, SAMe and NAC (n-acetyl cysteine) all can be very helpful. Get your vitamin D levels tested, and if they are less than 50, then add vitamin D to your regimen.
So love your liver, and it will love you back by giving you healthy radiance. The benefits of a happy liver are well worth the time and effort of caring for it.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Nancy Utter is a naturopathic doctor who works in Durango with people of all ages and varying illnesses.