Fatty liver or fatty liver disease is a condition in which deposits of fat form in the liver. The condition has a number of different causes including high alcohol consumption, obesity, and diabetes. It usually has no symptoms and in itself it not particularly dangerous, but fatty liver can be an early sign of much more serious liver conditions such as cirrhosis of the liver. For that reason, the detection and diagnosis of fatty liver calls for monitoring and treatment to reverse the condition before it evolves into something more serious.
The most important factor in treatment of fatty liver is diet, although exercise comes in a close second. The main dietary concerns in treatment of fatty liver disease are reduction of alcohol intake, reduction of excess body weight, and control of diabetes.
Alcohol is the culprit in more cases of liver disease, including fatty liver, than any other single factor. The liver plays a big role in the processing of alcohol by the body. The substance, although a drug, is also a nutrient of sorts and a source of calories. Alcohol in large quantities is however toxic, and the processing of it by the liver results in liver damage, in addition to the other negative effects of alcohol on bodily health.
Once a diagnosis of fatty liver disease has been made, a follow up is to examine the amount of alcohol in the patient’s diet. More than two drinks a day on the average is considered excessive and if the patient drinks heavily a diagnosis of alcoholic fatty liver disease is appropriate. The treatment for the condition is to reduce or eliminate consumption of alcohol. In most cases, complete elimination of alcohol is called for, especially when signs of alcohol addiction are present. It may be necessary for the patient to have treatment or even hospitalization for alcohol withdrawal symptoms, which are typically quite severe and may be life-
If fatty liver disease is present but alcohol consumption is moderate to none, a diagnosis of non-
Carbohydrates are a major source of calories (along with fats and proteins carbohydrates are one of the three major sources). As such, carbohydrate intake is a major concern in regard to weight control. Also, carbohydrates are the most quickly digested of the three and include sugars and starches, which makes them especially of concern for patients with diabetes.
The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how quickly blood sugar level rises after eating a particular food. Foods are indexed against the blood sugar response of consuming pure glucose (blood sugar), which has an index of 100. All carbohydrates become blood sugar eventually, but those which require more in the way of processing do so at a slower rate and have a lower GI. The index may be useful in planning a diet for
control of diabetes. Foods with a high GI should be avoided in preference for those with lower GI.
Sugars are found abundantly in fruit and honey, and in smaller concentrations in vegetables and grains, as well as in processed sugar. Sugars are “simple” carbohydrates, usually with a high GI. Starches, such as grains, beans, and potatoes, are “complex” carbohydrates that require more digestion before they contribute to blood sugar levels.
Complexity of carbohydrate should not be confused with the question of whole versus processed grains, e.g whole wheat versus white flour. Wheat, whether white or whole, contains mostly complex carbohydrate. What whole wheat has that white flour doesn’t is not complex carbohydrate but dietary fiber, which is nutritionally important and a significant factor in weight control, but has nothing to do with carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates generate two different concerns in treatment of fatty liver. If the underlying cause is diabetes, the contribution of carbohydrate to blood sugar levels is of primary concern, and regulating the speed at which blood sugar level rises and falls is important. The other factor involves weight control. As a significant source of calories, carbohydrate intake should be monitored and kept low enough to
allow gradual weight loss, along with control of fat and protein consumption.
Besides carbohydrates, the other significant sources of calories in the diet are fats and protein. Both of these are nutritionally necessary. Fat is required by the body for production of fatty acids which are necessary for health, and protein is needed for repair and growth of body tissues. However, too much of either of these in the diet leads to weight gain. (Saturated fat is also implicated in other health problems not related to fatty liver.)
Dietary fiber is very important in a diet for weight loss because it contributes to a feeling of fullness without providing any calories. Fiber is also important for other reasons and can help reduce the risk of colon cancer. When you are attempting to lose weight, a diet high in fiber can
keep you from feeling hungry when you don’t actually need to eat. Fiber-