Fatty Liver Disease: Symptoms, 8 Causes, Types, and More

Fatty Liver Disease: Symptoms, 8 Causes, Types, and More

The liver is the second largest organ in our body. It helps process nutrients from food and liquids and filters harmful substances (detox) from your blood.

Fatty liver disease is a condition when there’s an excess fat buildup in the liver. Small amounts of fat in the liver is okay, but too much of it can become a major health problem. Too much fat in our liver can cause inflammation, which then creates scarring. In severe cases, this scarring can result in failure of the liver.

In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to about the fatty liver disease.

RELATED: LIVER 101: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW

Fatty liver symptoms

For most cases, fatty liver has no noticeable symptoms. However, one may have fatigue or experience pain in the upper right side of the abdomen. Some people with fatty liver may develop liver problems like scarring (also known as liver fibrosis). A severe level of fibrosis is known as cirrhosis. It is a highly life-threatening liver disease. Observable symptoms of cirrhosis are:

  • itchy skin
  • weight loss
  • yellow skin and eyes
  • breast enlargement in men
  • web-like clusters of blood vessels under your skin
Symptoms of fatty liver disease
Image source: Verywell Health

Read further about the six other common liver diseases one can suffer.

Factors causing fatty liver disease

Fatty liver is initiated when our body produces fat more than what’s needed or doesn’t metabolise fat efficiently enough. The excess fat gets then stored in the liver cells, where it accumulates and results in fatty liver disease.

You’ll be knowing more of the factor(s) in the “types of fatty liver” section of this article, but here are some common triggers for fatty liver:

  • high levels of fat (esp. triglycerides) in our blood
  • insulin resistance
  • high blood sugar
  • obesity

Some less common causes are:

  • some infections like Hepatitis C
  • exposure to certain toxins
  • rapid weight loss
  • pregnancy

Certain genes or genetic inheritance could also increase the risk of developing fatty liver disease.

Types of fatty liver disease

There are two main types of fatty liver disease: nonalcoholic and alcoholic. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is further divided into the simple nonalcoholic fatty liver, acute fatty liver of pregnancy (AFLP), and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD) includes the simple alcoholic fatty liver and alcoholic steatohepatitis (ASH).

Read further for a detailed insight of each type.

1. (Simple) Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)

NAFLD occurs when fat builds up in the liver of those people who don’t drink a lot of alcohol. That means if you have excess fat in your liver and you have no history of alcohol use, you are suffering from NAFLD.

A clinical trial concludes that curcuminoids (found in turmeric) combined with piperine (found in black pepper) can improve nonalcoholic fatty liver. The image below illustrates the genetic and environmental factors that are responsible for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

These are the possible factors that lead to NAFLD.

Acute fatty liver of pregnancy (AFLP)

Only for pregnant women, AFLP is a rare but serious complication of pregnancy. The exact reason is unknown. If it evolves, it usually appears in the third trimester of pregnancy. If left untreated, AFLP poses serious health risks to the mother and growing baby.

If a pregnant woman is diagnosed with acute fatty liver of pregnancy, her doctor will prefer to deliver the baby as soon as possible. She will need follow-ups for many days after the baby’s birth. Her liver will likely return to normal within a few weeks of delivery.

Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)

Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis is a type of NAFLD, that has the symptom of liver inflammation along with excess fat buildup. If it is left untreated, NASH can lead to liver scarring. In severe cases, this can also lead to liver failure and cirrhosis.

2. (Simple) Alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD)

Heavy alcohol intake harms the liver most out of all the organs in the body, leading to conditions like hepatitis and alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD). Alcohol damages the liver, and as a consequence, the liver becomes incapable of breaking down fat and that’s a fatty liver for you. AFLD is the earliest stage of alcohol-related liver disease. See the image below that presents the impact of alcohol on the liver.

If there’s no inflammation or other complications along with excess fat buildup, it is known as a simple alcoholic fatty liver.

Alcoholic steatohepatitis (ASH)

This is an alcoholic fatty liver accompanied with symptoms of excess fat buildup and liver inflammation. ASH is also known as alcoholic hepatitis. Just like NASH, alcoholic steatohepatitis can cause scarring, and in severe cases, can lead to liver failure and cirrhosis.

Herbal supplement that keeps your liver at optimum levels

The liver plays a major role in detoxifying the body. And protecting this organ from fatty liver disease and other liver problems is a must to ensure its smooth functioning.

Loire Wellness brings to you an effective herbal supplement called Total Detox that is made of Curcumin, Kutki, Punarnava, and 8 other Ayurvedic herbs and works as an awesome liver detox supplement. Click on the buy button below if you feel like trying it out.

Fatty liver stages

There are four stages of progression of fatty liver:

  1. Simple fatty liver: Large amounts of fat builds up in the liver.
  2. Steatohepatitis: With excess fat, there’s also inflammation in the liver.
  3. Fibrosis: Inflammation in the liver has caused scarring.
  4. Cirrhosis: Scarring of the liver has thoroughly spread.

Preventive measures and treatment

To prevent fatty liver, it is very important to have a proper lifestyle and diet.

  • Eat a nutrient-rich diet low in fats (saturated and trans) and refined carbohydrates.
  • Take steps to control your cholesterol, blood sugar, and triglyceride levels.
  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes every day.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Limit or avoid alcohol.

BONUS TIP: Take the right herbal supplements that are doctor-prescribed and authentic.

Treatment for fatty liver can be done by the aforementioned lifestyle changes and a diet that is:

  • rich in plant-based foods like legumes, whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
  • low or having no saturated and trans fats
  • low in refined carbohydrates (limit your intake of sweets, white bread and white rice).

The verdict

Avoiding or reversing fatty liver (yes it’s reversible) altogether through appropriate lifestyle and diet is key to a healthy liver. Otherwise, severe scarring of the liver as the consequence of fatty liver will eventually cause cirrhosis, which is a fatal liver disease and is almost irreversible.

If you develop cirrhosis, it increases your risk of fatal ailments, such as liver cancer and liver failure. For best results in curing fatty liver, it’s vital to follow your doctor’s recommended treatment plan along with a healthy lifestyle.

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