Fight Fatty Liver Disease With Healthy Eating Featured Columnist


Keep your immune system strong by eating a healthy diet, being physically active, getting enough sleep, managing your stress, and wearing a face covering. Join Brody’s medical students for the September Walk with a Doc at Lake Laupus. This month’s guest speaker is Dr. Jason Higginson, Executive Dean of the Brody School of Medicine. He will make some comments and lead the walk around the lake. All are welcome at 9 a.m. on Saturday, September 25.

Q My doctor says I have NAFLD. I don’t understand since I never drink alcohol. He told me to lose weight. Is there a special diet that I should follow? – JL, Winterville.

A You have been diagnosed that confuses many people, but it is an issue that you can remedy by making lifestyle changes. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), like other chronic diseases linked to obesity, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes, is on the rise whether or not you drink alcohol. In the United States, up to 1 in 3 adults suffer from this disease in which fat accumulates in the liver. Most don’t know it because there are few or no specific symptoms.

This accumulation of fat is not caused by heavy alcohol consumption. Scientists do not all agree with the definition of heavy drinking, but the dietary guidelines for Americans suggest that a healthy diet for many adults can include up to 14 drinks per man and 7 per man. one woman per week – but not all in a day. The directive defines a drink as 1.5 ounces of spirits distilled at 80 degrees, 5 ounces of wine (12 percent alcohol by volume) and 12 ounces of regular beer (5 percent alcohol by volume).

If you have NAFLD and don’t make lifestyle changes, it could lead to a more serious form of liver disease, including liver cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer. This condition is just one more reason to work out at a healthy weight, although some skinny people also develop NAFLD. There are no approved drugs for the treatment of NAFLD, which is why your doctor has told you to lose weight. Studies have shown that losing weight can reduce fat, inflammation, and loss of healthy liver tissue.

I like to recommend either the DASH approach or the Mediterranean diet approach with a little calorie restriction as a way to lose weight for this condition. The goal would be to decrease food and drink consumption and / or increase physical activity to achieve a deficit of 500 to 1000 calories. It is not yet ‘proven’ that a DASH or Mediterranean diet will make any more difference in the treatment of your NAFLD, but following it will certainly not make it worse. Both dietary approaches are anti-inflammatory and recognized as a healthy way to eat to lower your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, dementia, cancer, and other chronic illnesses.

Many of my former patients were surprised at how much food you were allowed to eat on the DASH plan, so they chose it because they were less likely to be hungry. Ask your doctor for a referral to a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist (RDN) who can tailor the diet to your preferences and budget. Again, this is not proven, but some of the foods you may want to limit to treat your NAFLD include saturated fat (found in animal products) and simple sugars (found in soft drinks). and sports, sweet tea, fruit drinks). Look for the “added sugar” line on Nutrition Facts labels. The lower the number, the better.

If you have trouble losing weight after seriously trying to make a lifestyle change, you can discuss medications to help you lose weight with your doctor. There are some that have been approved recently. But I always advise people to try lifestyle changes first.

By the way, DASH and Mediterranean eating habits can be followed by the whole family, and it may be important to do so in your home. The number of children and adolescents developing NAFLD is also increasing – around 1 in 10.

I mentioned that NAFLD has no symptoms, but a person may experience fatigue, weakness, weight loss, loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal pain, spider-like blood vessels. , yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), itching, fluid build-up and swelling of the legs (edema) and abdomen (ascites), and confusion.

I’m assuming you’ve had a blood test and your doctor has likely seen high levels of liver enzymes and may have given you other tests to rule out other liver disease. Often an ultrasound is used to confirm the diagnosis of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Be well and be safe.

Professor Emeritus Kathy Kolasa, Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist and Ph.D., is an Affiliate Professor at the Brody School of Medicine at ECU. Contact her at [email protected]

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