Sometimes Getting On the Healthy Bandwagon May Be Too Late For Your Liver6 years ago | Nutrition
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
You have heard this before. A high-fat, high-sugar diet is bad for the heart and waistline. And while many people are aware that this unhealthy eating habit may also have a very harmful effect on the liver, most may not know that the damage may very well be irreversible.
A recent study involving mice revealed that the mice who were fed a high-fat, high-sugar diet retained fat in their livers even after they adopted healthy eating habits. Fat accumulation in the liver can be very dangerous. And if you are more of an extreme dieter, as in you eat healthily and then go on junk food binges, you may not be doing yourself any favors.
“Going on a short-term unhealthy diet binge is a bad idea," according to one of the leads of the study in one report. “The liver remembers."
This means you can’t approach the liver in the way you would approach losing weight from a physical standpoint. For example, if you don’t like the way you look due to excess weight, losing a few pounds may alleviate this problem. But losing weight after being overweight for a very long period may not necessarily make your liver healthy.
We have previously discussed the issue known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). It is normal for the liver to have some fat, but if more than 5-10 percent of the liver’s weight is fat, then it is considered to be a fatty liver. To put it simply, NAFLD is a fatty liver usually caused by bad foods and occurs in people who drink little to no alcohol. (There is also alcoholic fatty liver disease).
“NAFLD may become even more serious. It can progress to Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH), which means that along with the fat, there is inflammation and damage to the liver. A swollen liver may cause scarring (cirrhosis) over time and may even lead to liver cancer or liver failure,” reports the American Liver Foundation.
According to a recent report, more than 80 million Americans have NAFLD. Furthermore, many don’t even know that they have it. You do not have to be overweight to have a fatty liver, so looks are not a good basis to determine whether you have a fatty liver. The American Liver Foundation also reports that 1 in 10 children (7 million) in the United States is estimated to have a fatty liver.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that “nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the most common chronic liver disease worldwide and it has overlapping pathogenesis with diabetes and cardiovascular disease.”
This is really scary when you think about how important of an organ the liver is. The liver is the largest internal organ and serves many vital purposes. These include:
- Removing of harmful substances from our blood (metabolizes drugs).
- Converting nutrients from the food we eat into materials our bodies can use. For instance, the liver excretes bile. Reportedly, “bile helps to break down fats, preparing them for further digestion and absorption. All of the blood leaving the stomach and intestines passes through the liver. The liver processes this blood and breaks down, balances, and creates nutrients for the body to use.”
- Storing and releasing glucose as the body needs it.
- Storing iron.
- Regulating the clotting of blood.
Furthermore, it appears there are no successful medical therapies for fatty liver disease. This makes being proactive about the health of our liver critical.
How Can You Be Proactive?
Of course, getting regular physical activity and eating healthily are important in preventing a fatty liver. But here are some additional tips.
- Look out for visceral fat.
Visceral fat, which is essentially belly fat, is an especially dangerous type of fat. Visceral fat grows deep inside the stomach and may wrap around your vital organs, like the liver. If you carry a lot of weight around your stomach, it is imperative that you work with a competent healthcare professional to lose some of this fat. Read more about this here.
- Learn how to use certain nutrients to your advantage.
It’s not enough to just say, “Okay, I’m going to eat healthy.” You need to know the nutrients, including vitamins and minerals, which may play a key role with your health issues and identify the foods which have those nutrients. For example, if you are overweight, there are specific vitamins and minerals that may aid you in losing weight.
For specific foods to promote a healthy liver, read here.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “poor nutrition is frequently associated with disorders of the liver, and a specific nutrition diagnosis is needed for providing best care and experiencing successful outcome.”
It is also a good idea to get a comprehensive nutrient test to determine if you have any nutrient imbalances or deficiencies. If you do, a competent healthcare professional can work with you on adjusting your diet or possible recommend taking quality supplements.
- Take care of your gut microbiome.
This may sound like a broken record, but the importance of having a diverse, healthy population of the trillions of bugs in the gut is imperative when it comes to overall health, including the health of the liver.
“The liver is the natural recipient of the messages from the gut microbiota because blood from the intestines is received in the sinusoids of the liver through the portal system. Growing evidence links NAFLD and the microbiome,” according to the NIH.
Finally, avoid smoking and drink alcohol in moderation (if at all) to help keep your liver healthy and functioning at its best.
Enjoy your healthy life!
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of healthcare and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.