Did you know that an estimated 15 to 40% of Asians suffer from fatty liver disease? Perhaps, because of myths such as “it only affects alcoholics” or “it’s a disease of the middle-aged and older people”, you might have developed a false sense of security that you’re not at risk of fatty liver. The truth is, with the prevalence of high-fat diets today, even children and seemingly skinny people may be at risk. Let’s find out more.
What is fatty liver disease?
Fatty liver disease, as it name implies, is a condition where there is an excessive build-up of fat in your liver – making up more than 5 to 10% of your liver’s total weight. When there is too much build-up of fat in your liver, its function, which is to filter and process harmful substances from your blood, becomes impeded.
Fatty liver is a reversible condition that can usually be corrected with some lifestyle changes such as reducing alcohol intake, cutting down on sugar intake, losing weight and exercising regularly.
The liver has the ability to repair itself by building new, healthy cells. However, with excessive and repeated damage, permanent scarring can occur, leading to cirrhosis or hardening of the liver.
How do you know if you have it?
Often times, there are little or no symptoms associated with fatty liver. You may experience some tiredness, bloatedness, loss of appetite or pain in your upper right abdomen. Your doctor may also be able to detect an enlargement of your liver during a physical examination.
While blood tests and ultrasound scans may indicate some abnormality with the liver, the only 100% way to be sure is through a liver biopsy. In this procedure, the doctor will insert a needle into your liver to remove a piece of tissue, which will then be sent to a lab for further analysis.
Who’s at risk?
If you consume large amounts of alcohol, you run a high risk of suffering from alcoholic fatty liver. However, fatty liver disease is not confined to heavy drinkers. Even non-alcohol drinkers can be at risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver (NAFL). As a result of high-sugar, high-fat diets, the body often times cannot metabolise fats fast enough, leaving excess fats stored in liver cells, which then results in fatty liver.
In addition, people who suffer from obesity, diabetes and low metabolic rates also run a higher risk of getting fatty liver disease.
What can you do about it?
For those who consume alcohol, it is a good idea to practise moderation. This means no more than one standard drink a day for ladies and two for men.
Even for those who do not consume alcohol, making a few disciplined lifestyle changes can help to reverse fatty liver. These changes include:
Cutting down on carbohydrates – The Recommended Dietary Allowance specifies around 250 to 350 grams of carbohydrates for adults or not more than 60% of your total caloric intake. This equates to around five to seven servings of the following: 2 slices of bread, ½ a bowl of rice, ½ bowl of noodles or 1 large potato (all equivalent to one serving).
Eliminating refined sugar from your diet – Added sugar should contribute no more than 10% of dietary energy. This works out to around 40 to 55 grams of sugar (8 to 11 tsp) daily. A good way to start is by not adding sugar into your coffee or tea.
Exercising regularly – This means moderate exercise most days of the week for at least 30 minutes each time.
Introducing antioxidant supplements into your diet – Supplements such as BRAND’S® Sesamin with Schisandra have been scientifically proven to help promote liver detoxification. Sesamin is an antioxidant that purges the body system of harmful substances, while Schisandra complements it to protect the liver and maintain liver health.
Remember, early action can help restore healthy liver function. Don’t wait any longer and start making changes today.
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