Did you know that nonalcohol fatty liver disease is the most common liver disease globally? Its worldwide occurrence is around 25% and affects nearly 30% of Americans.
Experts predict that childhood obesity and increasing type 2 diabetes rates are precursors to an increase in hepatic steatosis. If you aren’t a heavy drinker, you may have beginning signs of hepatic steatosis without even knowing it.
Most symptoms don’t arise until the disease has progressed to severe inflammation. If you want to know more about the common signs, risk factors, and treatments for fatty liver disease, we have you covered.
In our article, we will address all you need to know about hepatic steatosis and how medical weight loss programs could help you get started with a healthier lifestyle, so keep reading on for more information!
Table of Contents
What Is Hepatic Steatosis?
Your liver is one of the largest organs in your body. It continuously works at processing nutrients, making bile, and removing toxins. The liver also plays a crucial role in converting glycogen into glucose and metabolizing drugs.
Hepatic steatosis is also known as fatty liver disease, which occurs when the liver accumulates an excessive amount of fat. When fat builds up, it leads to inflammation and several adverse health effects like:
- Liver failure
- Abdominal fluid build-up
- Esophageal ruptures
There are four primary stages that hepatic steatosis progresses through, starting with minor fat accumulation. This stage is relatively harmless and doesn’t result in adverse side effects. If lifestyle changes and other factors are not considered, it can progress to:
Once a patient reaches cirrhosis, the fatty liver accumulation has made the disease irreversible and caused permanent damage.
Types of Hepatic Steatosis
There are two main types of hepatic steatosis, although some consider acute fatty liver of pregnancy (AFLP) a third type. During AFLP, fat accumulates on the liver upon pregnancy. It is a rare complication with unknown causes but can cause serious health risks for the mother and child.
With proper medical attention and care, the pregnancy complication risks are mitigated, and the female’s health often returns to baseline measures after a few weeks. The two most common types of fatty liver disease are:
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
- Alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD)
Most people are familiar with AFLD since it is one of the most severe complications of alcohol overuse. A person may receive a NAFLD diagnosis if they do not have a history of drinking but show signs of fat build-up. The long-term risks are the same for both groups: cirrhosis or liver damage.
Alcohol hepatitis is a more common occurrence and could quickly lead to liver failure. It is important that symptoms are caught and managed early to avoid these medical complications.
Fatty Liver Disease Symptoms
In the beginning stages of fatty liver disease, you may not notice any symptoms. As it progresses to steatohepatitis, inflammation begins settling in, and symptoms arise, such as:
- Abdominal pain
- Reduced appetite
- Weight loss
- Pale-colored stools
Most of these symptoms are mild during steatohepatitis, and the more severe side effects won’t become noticeable until cirrhosis. It is important that you receive regular physicals and check-ins with your doctor to review your health and wellness.
What Are The Risk Factors?
You may have already guessed that liver function is closely intertwined with alcoholism. When a person develops fat in the liver, it is often from poor lifestyle habits, such as heavy alcohol use and smoking. Other medical conditions that increase the likelihood of hepatic steatosis are:
- Type 2 diabetes
- High cholesterol
- Metabolic syndrome
- Old age
- Sleep apnea
- Certain medications
A risk factor doesn’t correlate with a 100% guarantee you will develop fatty liver disease. However, it is crucial to be mindful that your risks increase with specific medical conditions so that you can take preventative measures.
How To Diagnosis Fatty Liver Disease
There are four methods that a physician may use to positively diagnose fatty liver disease, such as:
- Physical examination
- Blood tests
Biopsies are often used when liver damage is already confirmed and your physician wants to know the severity of the disease. Imaging can give good results regarding liver scarring, while routine blood work is the gold-standard method to check liver enzymes.
Blood samples can determine the number of liver enzymes present; elevated numbers can indicate the beginning stages of liver damage. Liver palpations are routine checks for inflammation and are often part of a broader physical examination.
When a physician palpates your liver, they may determine whether it feels inflamed or enlarged. Ultimately, more in-depth analysis and examination are needed to determine fatty liver disease, but it is a good starting point.
Is Fatty Liver Disease Reversible?
There are limitations on prescription medications specifically outlined for fatty liver disease. New drugs and clinical trials are continuously attempting new and innovative treatments.
Recently, researchers studied the hormone kisspeptin for NAFLD patients. In mice studies, there were promising results that kisspeptin helped with reducing liver fat deposits. It is not currently approved for human use.
In the worst-case scenario, some patients may need a liver transplant. If cirrhosis progresses to liver cancer, there are several medications and treatments that can help limit the spread and progression.
Other medical treatment options include vaccinations for hepatitis A and B or regular screenings for hepatitis C. Fatty liver disease can heighten your risk for viral infections, causing more complications.
However, in its early stages, fatty liver disease is reversible. The easiest and most well-studied method for reversing fatty liver disease is lifestyle change.
In one comprehensive study, medical experts examined patients with NAFLD. Their goal was to use diet, exercise, or combination treatment. The group that had the best liver enzyme improvement was the combination group.
Lifestyle Habits and Hepatic Steatosis
There are many diets and weight loss programs that promote a healthier version of yourself. Most mainstream diets are short-lasting and can cause more harm than good.
Changing lifestyle habits for hepatic steatosis starts with examining your individual habits versus listening to what the internet tells you to do. Next, you should always consult with a medical professional. If you have the beginning stages of fatty liver disease, you will want your liver enzymes regularly checked.
Lastly, lifestyle modifications are about implementing healthy and long-lasting changes that lead to better health and wellness overall. While it may seem obvious, the most significant lifestyle change you can make for AFLD is cutting back on alcohol.
Nearly 14 million adults in the United States have alcohol use disorder. Many do not receive the help and guidance needed. Alcohol use disorder is a complex mental health illness that requires professional medical attention and treatments.
You or a loved one may need to enroll in an alcohol detox and rehab program before addressing other factors. If you don’t have AFLD or have stopped drinking, the next two factors are diet and exercise.
Why Weight Loss Programs Don’t Work
Obesity and type 2 diabetes are two risk factors for hepatic steatosis. Many times, diet plays a crucial role in the development of these medical conditions. If you are looking at cutting back on excess weight, you may immediately turn to diet options.
When you perform a simple Google search, you will find many diets out there like:
- Intermittent fasting
- Whole 30
Most of these diets restrict when and what you eat. Unfortunately, these are not sustainable. Short-term diets can result in quick weight loss but lead to long-term weight gain and poor health outcomes.
In some instances, you could regain more weight than before. Additionally, chronic dieters could struggle with intense food cravings, binge eating, or other eating disorders. It does not facilitate a healthy relationship between you and food.
Instead, medical weight loss programs offer complete supervision and individualized programs. Medical weight loss programs like UnCraveRx® also provide you with:
- Nutritional coaching
- Lifestyle behavioral support
Ultimately, it teaches you how to start fueling your body with healthy foods and monitoring the outcomes. The combination of lifestyle and behavioral coaching helps you create goals, monitor progress, and receive advice.
Food Cravings and Weight Gain
The reason that many people struggle with losing weight and reducing liver inflammation is food cravings. Unfortunately, most food cravings result in people turning toward unhealthy foods loaded with preservatives and added sugars.
Instead, a medical weight loss program focuses on finding healthier food alternatives and addressing the why behind food cravings. For example, if you notice that your cravings increase when you’re stressed, you could try:
These programs can teach you stress relief techniques and teach you how to find healthy food alternatives like fruit when you crave something sugary. Additionally, consuming protein and drinking more water can help your body remain fuller for longer periods.
Benefits of Regular Exercise
Exercise and liver function go hand-in-hand with many studies looking at how exercise affects NAFLD, which is increasing in prevalence globally. In current studies, researchers implemented health-enhancing physical activity (HEPA).
The criteria for HEPA were exercising three days per week of vigorous activity or seven days a week of combination activities. They found that aerobic and resistance exercise helped promote weight loss, reduce hepatic steatosis, and decrease cardiovascular health risks.
The experts recommended seeking professional advice on tailoring treatments toward your tolerance. However, regular exercise is a long-term and effective treatment for NAFLD.
Unfortunately, the pandemic did not help exercise plans. Nearly 45% of Americans gained weight during the pandemic.
One of the reasons was that people moved less. With gyms shut down and many people working from home, it became easier to sit for most of the day. In fact, updated research shows people sat approximately 28% more during the pandemic.
A simple way to increase activity, blood flow, and reduce fatty liver disease is taking short, frequent walks. You could also invest in a standing desk or other measures that engage muscles and increase your cardiac output throughout the workday.
Can Supplements Help You With Liver Function?
Your liver is your natural filter system and helps remove toxins and waste. When inflammation increases, this process slows down and leaves you with less energy. Some have turned to liver supplements to boost function and improve health.
They may be labeled as a “detox” supplement. Most claims are not based on any hard-standing facts. Limiting the amount of fat in your diet, reducing alcohol, and implementing regular exercise are still gold-standard methods.
Additionally, many liver or weight loss supplements can be dangerous. Supplements are not regulated by the FDA, and multiple laboratory testing has shown that weight loss supplements could contain:
These are unlisted ingredients found in many prescription medications such as Viagra or banned appetite suppressants. Taking supplements without medical guidance could result in many side effects and worsen organ function.
There are a few FDA-approved weight loss medications. Sometimes, these medications can be used indirectly to help with liver function. However, these prescriptions are only used in specific cases by physicians.
Start Improving Your Liver Health
Hepatic steatosis is a serious condition that could lead to liver failure. Unfortunately, many Americans unknowingly have the beginning stages of fatty liver disease.
The best way to check your liver function is to visit your primary care physician. Afterward, they may suggest diet and lifestyle changes.
Rather than turning towards fad diets, talk with a provider regarding medical weight loss programs. These programs offer far more than diet changes.
They also work on lifestyle and behavior changes for long-lasting and healthy results!
UnCraveRx is a complete medical weight loss program designed to foster a healthy lifestyle.
Find an UnCraveRx provider and get started toward better health https://uncraverx.com/find-provider/ .