Fighting Fatty Liver Disease

Go from fatty liver to healthy liver by making the right food choices

According to the Malaysian Liver Foundation (MLF), some 60 percent of the Malaysian population — specifically those who are either overweight or obese — are at risk of succumbing to fatty liver. So, here’s the million ringgit question: is your life at stake?

The lifestyle choices you make which includes your daily activities and diet, play a very important role in ensuring that your liver is working well. A sedentary lifestyle, an unhealthy diet and especially an excessive intake of alcohol, can lead to a condition known as fatty liver disease (discover the details of this disease on page 30). Generally, fatty liver disease is divided into two categories namely Alcoholic Liver Disease (this occurs after years of excessive alcohol intake) and Nonalcoholic liver disease (caused by the accumulation of fat in the liver).

At present, there is no specific medication available for fatty liver disease. However, as this disease can be caused by various factors including the level of alcohol intake for Alcoholic Liver Disease or diabetes, obesity and so on for Nonalcoholic Liver Disease, your doctor will aim to help you address these causes. It is believed that by managing these contributing factors, fatty liver disease can be treated effectively.

Aside from managing the disease, a healthy diet and lifestyle is absolutely imperative in order for you to prevent the condition from advancing to a more serious stage. If you have been diagnosed with fatty liver disease, here are some simple ideas related to controlling your diet so you can successfully manage the disease.

Your fatty liver nutrition plan

A nutrition plan needs to be personalised as one person’s dietary requirement will naturally differ from another based on the cause and severity of the condition. Also, it is important to take note that your dietary requirement is very much governed by the type of fatty liver disease you’ve been diagnosed with.

Before deciding on which types of food should you enjoy and which you should refrain from, make a point to speak to a dietician about your food requirements. A healthy diet is crucial if you have fatty liver.  However, generally, here are some simple yet effective changes you can incorporate to your diet as you start your new, healthy lifestyle:

High and low

Enjoy a diet which is high in nutrition and low in fat. Nutrition is very important for a person with fatty liver. One way for you to obtain the maximum amount of nutrition your body needs is to think about the types of food you consume and to write it down. Then, highlight those that are high in fat, calories or that are highly processed. After identifying the unhealthy foods on your list, write down a healthier alternative. For example, if you have been snacking on bags of potato chips, you can opt for grilled potato slices which has been lightly seasoned with salt and pepper. If you need more ideas, speak to your dietitian or nutritionist.

Going natural

Eating food that is natural and unprocessed is one the best ways for you to receive the nutrition you need. Natural food sources also do not contain any unhealthy ‘hidden’ ingredients like excessive amounts of sugar, oil or sodium. According to WebMD, the best way to get your vitamins and minerals is through food sources that already contain them rather than from vitamin pills and other health supplements. So, be sure follow a diet that is as natural as possible and that is free from unhealthy, processed food.

B-ing Smart

B vitamins work as a powerful aid when it comes to helping your liver eliminate harmful substances in your body. The family of B vitamins does numerous tasks for your body, which includes breaking down bile from your liver. This aids digestion. B vitamins also help to break down cholesterol. Foods that are high in B vitamins include poultry and seafood.

E is for Enzymes

Fatty liver disease causes an inflammation of your liver, which will lead to it becoming stiff and fibrous. Consuming a healthy amount of vitamin E is believed to help improve liver scarring and reduce the accumulation of triglycerides (fat in the blood) in your liver. In general, a daily dosage of 800 IU of vitamin E is recommended for those who do not have diabetes and have been diagnosed with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.  You can enjoy vitamin E from food such as roasted, unsalted sunflower seeds, legumes and spinach.

Watch for hidden fats

If you would like to cut down on your fat intake, you should take note that some foods may be deemed healthy but contain high amounts of ‘hidden fats’. For instance, food such as biscuits and cupcakes may not be greasy compared to deep fried foods but they have a very high fat content. Also, do bear in mind that fresh meat also contains some amount of fat, depending on the cut. So be sure to trim off all visible fat or to save time, opt for purely lean meat.

Whipping up a healthy meal

Deep frying or cooking with large amounts of oil is certainly not the best option if you are keen to follow a healthy diet. Instead, try these other cooking methods that are much healthier, plus you won’t have to suffer a loss in flavour:

  • Steaming
  • Grilling
  • Pan-frying
  • Skim fat or oil before consuming

Fatty liver disease can affect anyone and as signs and symptoms are often not presented in the early stages, it is important that you take care of yourself from the very start. Although, fatty liver can be managed, why damage your liver in the first place? Remember, every meal and lifestyle choice counts!

Drastic weight loss for fatty liver patients…yay or nay?

Losing weight may be one of the requirements needed in order for you to manage fatty liver disease. If this is the case, it is important that you do not attempt a crash diet. According to an article published by Harvard Medical School, rapid weight loss for fatty liver patients — defined as losing more than four pounds (about 1.8 kilos) a week — can further damage your liver.

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