Liver Health

Fatty Liver Disease Affects 1 in 3 Americans: Tips to Reverse It Naturally

BY Skylar Parker TIMEJuly 20, 2022 PRINT

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease affects one in three adults and is considered one of the most common liver diseases in the United States.[1] The condition results in abdominal swelling and pain as well as severe fatigue.[2] The condition can be dangerous if it continues to progress, leading to chronic inflammation and cirrhosis. 

Normally, the liver is responsible for maintaining glucose homeostasis by ensuring that glucose is used up in the most efficient way possible. This means that it will break down starch, releasing glucose and providing it to other cells in the body for use as a fuel for energy. It primarily works by maintaining the uptake and storage of glucose through glycogenesis. This is the process in which the liver stores glucose in the form of glycogen which serves as short-term energy reserves. The liver also produces bile salts which help absorb and break down fats. Waste products will then exit the body through the stool. 

However, according to Doctor Jason Fung, individuals with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease produce an abundance of fat in their liver through the process of de novo lipogenesis.[3] This occurs when you consume foods with an abundance of glucose from carbohydrates. Glucose is commonly found in foods containing starch such as potatoes, bread, rice, and flour.

Fructose is another type of sugar that the liver breaks down. In fact, the liver is the only organ that is capable of processing fructose. Fruits and honey contain natural fructose which is healthy and nutritious in moderate amounts. However, when people consume unnatural fructose, such as high fructose corn syrup, the liver will store it as new fat. This is because high fructose corn syrup is a processed form of fructose that the liver cannot break down properly. Ideally, this new fat should be excreted by the body but this does not happen in individuals whose diet is unhealthy. Instead, the extra fat will accumulate in the liver cells, leading to fatty liver disease. 

The Link Between Fatty Liver Disease, Obesity, and Diabetes

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease has also been observed in people with obesity and type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance is closely linked to developing fatty liver disease and as many as 70 percent of obese and diabetic patients have been diagnosed with the disease.[4] This is largely attributed to the failure of their bodies to properly balance glucose and lipid synthesis in the liver, leading to high blood sugar and elevated levels of fat. 

Researchers have found a positive correlation between high carbohydrate intake and liver fat. The study found that when people consumed a diet high in carbohydrates, namely starch, glucose, and fructose, they had a 27 percent increase in liver fat. [5] The liver fat resumed to a normal level when the individuals were taken off their high starch diet. The findings suggest that our diet plays a crucial part in our liver’s ability to break down and process food molecules. Consuming too much starch, especially in the form of processed carbohydrates, can overwork the liver and cause it to store and accumulate too much fat, leading to chronic disease. 

The Role of Glyphosate in Fatty Liver Disease

Research has found positive correlation between exposure to herbicides such as glyphosate and the development of liver damage. In mice studies, researchers observed liver congestion, necrosis, and DNA damage of the liver cells after being fed glyphosate. This herbicide is sprayed over farmland where many crops are grown in the United States, contaminating the food and exposing Americans to harmful chemicals. In this study, participants with suspected non-alcoholic fatty liver disease were asked to provide urine samples to analyze for the presence of glyphosate. They were grouped into two categories, with one group demonstrating NASH (Non-Alcoholic SteatoHepatitis), the most severe form of fatty liver disease characterized by extensive liver damage, and the other with just fatty liver buildup (NAFLD). Results found that glyphosate residue was significantly higher in women than men, especially amongst those with NASH. [6] The study demonstrates the effect of glyphosate on the progression of fatty liver disease as being interlinked. Continued exposure to glyphosate could worsen inflammation and liver damage in individuals with fatty liver disease, leading to the development of NASH. The primary source of exposure to these chemicals is typically through consuming contaminated food sprayed with herbicides such as Roundup and eating genetically modified crops. 

These research findings help shed new light on the effects of food treated with chemicals and serve as a reminder for all to choose organic, non-genetically modified food in order to reduce the risk of developing chronic disease.

Research on Reversing Fatty Liver Disease

Incorporating a more balanced, healthy diet full of organic food as well as exercising for at least 30 minutes each day can help manage fatty liver disease. Try cutting back on processed carbohydrates and sugar in your diet as the disease is caused by too much glucose and fructose. Studies have found that decreasing fructose and sugar consumption help reduce liver fat from 25 percent to 17 percent in a period of 8 weeks. [7] 

Another study aimed to investigate the effect of the Mediterranean diet on fatty liver disease. They found that participants who ate a Mediterranean-style diet displayed a significant reduction in liver fat compared to a control group who ate a low fat-high carbohydrate diet. [8] They also found that the diet helped increase insulin sensitivity. Insulin sensitivity is a key feature in both individuals with fatty liver disease and type 2 diabetes as insulin resistance can reduce the efficiency of the liver’s ability to break down glucose, worsening the condition. 

Research was conducted to evaluate the effect of a ketogenic diet on obesity-associated fatty liver disease. Researchers found after six months of following the diet, patients experienced significant weight loss and displayed a rapid improvement in liver fat composition. [9] The ketogenic diet requires adherents to consume a very low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet involving meat, fatty fish, eggs, full-fat dairy, nuts, seeds, and low-carb vegetables like broccoli, asparagus, and bell peppers, among others. People on the diet avoid eating sugar, grains, fruit, beans, legumes, root vegetables, low-fat products, sugar-free food, alcohol, and unhealthy oils. [10] The diet is said to help with weight loss, and reduce a person’s risk factor for disease. 

The ketogenic diet is just one of the many ways that individuals have used to heal fatty liver disease. It was originally formulated as a treatment for epilepsy, however, the diet is now favored among people wishing to lose weight or cure other chronic diseases. The diet is believed to be helpful for short-term use but its effects on long-term use have not been investigated, including its safety and efficacy. There have been reports of some individuals developing a condition known as “keto flu” which involves nausea, lightheadedness, fatigue, and constipation. According to registered dietician Andres Ayesta, these symptoms are attributed to the body’s rapid excretion of sodium and fluids due to severe restriction of carbohydrate intake, leading to glucose reserves being depleted. [11] Furthermore, the strict adherence to certain food components may lead to leaving out important micronutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and fiber-boosting foods leading to nutritional imbalances over time. If you do decide to try this diet, it is typically advised to work with your doctor so that they can monitor your blood, energy, and cognitive health to ensure you are in good health and flag any health concerns.

To date, there is no officially approved treatment for curing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Lifestyle changes such as exercise and healthy eating practices remain the primary treatment prescribed by medical professionals.

Swap Processed Carbohydrates for Healthier Ones

Carbohydrates are loaded with beneficial nutrients and can still be included as part of a healthy diet. If you wish to consume them, try swapping processed carbohydrates with healthier alternatives such as unprocessed organic whole grains, or sprouted grains, vegetables, fruits, beans, and lentils. These are great for the gut and have high amounts of vitamin B which is beneficial for energy metabolism, cellular function, and boosting skin and hair health. Legumes also help lower blood sugar levels naturally, thus lowering the risk of diabetes, which is equally as important for people with fatty liver disease as both conditions result in insulin resistance. [12] 

To prevent inflammation problems associated with lectins in legumes, make sure to soak beans and lentils for several hours before cooking them on high heat. This will allow the bean to soften, which reduces the amount of lectins. Soaking also allows the removal of raffinose, a trisaccharide containing glucose, galactose, and fructose. Raffinose has often been associated with causing flatulence and other problems as it cannot be properly broken down by the digestive system. Try soaking your legumes for 8 to 12 hours before discarding the water and refilling your pot with fresh water for cooking. Furthermore, sprouted grains contain lower levels of lectins as the germinating process helps remove excess starch and improves nutrient content and digestibility. One study found that sprouting cowpeas resulted in 4 to 38 times more vitamin C and 9 to 12 percent higher protein content. [13] Another study found soaking reduced lectin levels of white kidney beans by 85 percent. It also helps boost the body’s absorption of other minerals like calcium, zinc, magnesium, copper, and iron. [14]

If you wish to eat bread, try opting for organic sprouted whole wheat or Einkorn, an ancient, non-hybridized wheat packed full of nutritional benefits, including higher protein content, more beta-carotene, and four times more antioxidant content than regular wheat. [15]  Also, try swapping white rice with brown or sprouted rice also known as GABA rice which is believed to deliver significantly higher concentrations of vitamins and minerals, as well as improving mood, anxiety, and promoting a restful sleep due to the presence of gamma-amino-butyric acid. 

Consuming foods with a low to moderate glycemic index is a good idea, these include sweet potatoes, apples, blueberries, beans, lentils, barley, rye, brown rice pasta, and lots of brain-boosting nuts and seeds. However, try to also keep in mind that some foods appear to have a higher glycemic index but may contain a low glycemic load as you will generally eat less of it in a portion. A good example of this is watermelons. According to Harvard Health Publishing, watermelons rank 80 on the glycemic index but consuming one small wedge of sliced watermelon only contains a glycemic load of 5, making it perfectly healthy to consume moderately. [16]

Meat is also a good source of protein and other nutrients especially iron, iodine, and omega-3. Some good options are poultry, wild fish, and lean cuts of unprocessed red meat. Try to avoid any processed red meat as it is considered to be a Grade 1 carcinogen when exposed to high heat. This is believed to happen because of preservatives such as nitrates and nitrites added to the meat. Instead, try opting for organic, grass-fed meat which is much healthier for the body. The key to a good, nourishing, healthy diet is ensuring that you eat everything in moderation while avoiding processed food such as candy, sugary beverages, and fast food. 

Eating raw honey compared to refined sugar will provide more health benefits in the form of trace minerals such as vitamins, amino acids, and antioxidants, especially present in dark honey. Honey is also less processed and has a lower glycemic index compared to sugar. When consumed on a minimal to moderate basis, it is considered a healthier alternative to regular sugar. [17] Honey is also much easier to digest due to the presence of naturally occurring enzymes. Dates are also another healthy substitute due to their trace minerals. High in fiber, antioxidants, iron, potassium, and vitamin B, dates are very nutritious when moderately consumed as part of a healthy diet. When blended with water, you can create a date paste that can be successfully incorporated into baking recipes as a substitute for white sugar. [18] 

It is good to remember that you do not have to completely cut out food components from your diet for the purposes of health and weight loss as this is not balanced or healthy in the long term. Choosing unprocessed foods will help rebalance your body the natural way. Foods are more than just the groups they belong to. Natural fruits, vegetables, grains, and carbohydrates all contain many trace elements and macronutrients which are very beneficial for your body. Therefore, instead of focusing on eliminating whole food components, it is better to look at food as a whole, focusing on the quality and where it comes from. In this way, we can naturally filter out the bad food in our diet while maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding chronic disease. 

 

References

[1] Fatty Liver Disease

[2]  Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

[3]  How to Reverse Fatty Liver Disease Naturally

[4]  Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease and Insulin Resistance: New Insights and Potential New Treatments

[5]  Effect of short-term carbohydrate overfeeding and long-term weight loss on liver fat in overweight humans

[6] Glyphosate Excretion is Associated With Steatohepatitis and Advanced Liver Fibrosis in Patients With Fatty Liver Disease

[7] Effect of a Low Free Sugar Diet vs Usual Diet on Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease in Adolescent Boys: A Randomized Clinical Trial

[8]  The Mediterranean diet improves hepatic steatosis and insulin sensitivity in individuals with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

[9]  The Effect of a Low-Carbohydrate, Ketogenic Diet on Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: A Pilot Study

[10]  The Ketogenic Diet: A Detailed Beginner’s Guide to Keto 

[11] The Ketogenic Diet for Weight Loss

[12] The Nutritional Benefits of Pulses 

[13] Sprouting characteristics and associated changes in nutritional composition of cowpea (Vigna unguiculata) 

[14] The degradation of lectins, phaseolin and trypsin inhibitors during germination of white kidney beans, Phaseolus vulgaris L 

[15] When It Comes to Nutrition, Ancient Wheat Can’t Be Beat 

[16] The lowdown on glycemic index and glycemic load

[17] Is honey better for you than sugar?

[18]  8 Proven Health Benefits of Dates 

Skylar Parker covers health and lifestyle for The Epoch Times. She has written for Radiant Life and American Essence magazine. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in Media and Creative Writing in 2018. Skylar is passionate about tea, nutrition, nature, psychology, and the arts.
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