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The human liver is a vital organ in the body. It is the second largest organ that performs over 500 different functions including detoxifying chemicals, working with your immune system and even building proteins and hormones. Liver functions are affected if there’s too much fat in the liver. So how long does it take to reverse fatty liver? Well, it depends. Let’s go over some information about fatty liver and how it affects your body.
Fatty liver is a condition that occurs when fat accounts for more than 5-10% of your liver’s weight. The condition can be reversed with lifestyle modifications. The liver is a self-sufficient organ that repairs itself by rebuilding new liver cells when the old ones are damaged. However, when there’s repeated damage, permanent scarring occurs leading to a condition called cirrhosis. Fatty liver does not cause permanent damage unless the condition progresses i.e if the underlying cause is not detected and treated.
Fatty liver is a common condition that affects around 10-20% of the population in the USA alone. It is common for ages 40-60 years. A lot of people with fatty liver can lead normal lives without realizing that they have a liver problem. This is because the symptoms can be vague and non-specific especially in the early stages. Nonetheless, here are some of the possible symptoms of fatty liver:
- Excess weight in the abdominal area.
- Elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
- Excessive sweating.
- Red itchy eyes.
Fatty liver is common in people with type 2 diabetes.
Causes of fatty liver
It is mainly associated with metabolic syndrome (obesity, hypertension or diabetes). It can also occur due to severe weight loss, gastric bypass, alcoholism, genetic inheritance or side effects of certain medications like steroids.
It is a fact that prevention is the best medicine. Avoid complications and the medical bills you will incur due to fatty liver by leading a healthy lifestyle. Follow your doctor’s instructions and take prescribed medications for conditions like diabetes and hypertension as directed. Minimize your alcohol consumption and strive to maintain a healthy weight by eating healthy and also exercising for at least 30 minutes during most days of the week. It is worth noting that moderate alcohol consumption according to CDC is one drink per day for women and two for men.
The Ideal Diet For A Fatty Liver
Proper diet is one of the main and successful ways to treat fatty liver. With proper diet, you will not only reduce your fat intake, you will also maintain a healthy weight and this will help in preventing problems associated with obesity. If you are already overweight, strive to reduce at least 10% of your body weight.
The proper diet for fatty liver includes high fiber plants like whole grains and legumes, no or moderate amounts of alcohol, lots of fruits and vegetables and small amounts of added sugar, salt, refined carbohydrates, saturated and trans fat.
Here are some of the foods to add to your healthy liver diet.
- Vegetables and fruits.
Vegetables like broccoli prevent the build-up of fat in the liver. Vegetables have very little sugar so you can consume an unlimited amount even when you are trying to lose weight. Most fruits are high in sugar so it’s important to watch the number of fruits you take on a daily basis. A maximum of 2 pieces of fruit is allowed when you are trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.
Cooked vegetables including starchy ones (except potatoes), is ideal since bread, biscuits and other sugary desserts are not ideal.
Get your proteins from:
Soy protein found in foods like tofu to help you reduce fat build-up. Tofu is also low in fat and high in protein.
Fish like salmon, tuna, sardines, and trout contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids which help improve the levels of fat in the liver and reduce inflammation.
Milk and other low-fat dairy products. Dairy is very high in protein. Prevent further damage to your liver with dairy.
Besides adding flavor to food, garlic powder can also be used to reduce body weight as well as fat in people with fatty liver.
- Olive oil
Control your body weight and lower liver enzymes levels by cooking with olive oil. This healthy oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
It has been proven that liver function improves with consumption of walnuts by people with fatty liver. This is because walnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Sunflower is another nut that you should consume if you have fatty liver. It is rich in vitamin E, an antioxidant that can protect the liver from further damage.
Caffeine lowers the number of abnormal liver enzymes in people who are at risk for liver diseases, therefore, coffee consumption lowers liver damage. Coffee has also been linked to lower obesity, inflammation and insulin resistance.
Avocado is a fruit rich in many nutrients that the body requires to stay healthy. It contains healthy fats, fiber which helps in weight control and research also shows that this fruit has chemicals which slower liver damage.
- Controlled carbohydrate consumption
The liver converts any excess carbohydrates into fat so consumption of large quantities of foods rich in carbohydrates can promote fatty liver. Restricting carbohydrates to 5% of your daily calories will greatly reduce the chances that your liver will convert excess energy into fat. It will also reduce your blood sugar levels, insulin as well as inflammations which could otherwise cause liver problems. This will affect the outcome of how long does it take to reverse fatty liver.
Foods To Avoid
There are certain foods you should avoid if you have a fatty liver. Avoid or limit the consumption of the following foods:
- Alcohol – Alcohol consumption is one of the major causes of fatty liver and other liver-related conditions. It causes alcoholic steatosis. If you cannot avoid alcohol consumption, it is advisable that you reduce the quantity and frequency of consumption.
- Red meat -beef and deli meat are high in saturated fat. Consumption of red meat frequently and in large quantities has been associated with non-alcoholic fatty liver and resistance to insulin.
- Salt – excess salt consumption can make your body hold excess water hence increasing the amount of fluid surrounding cells and the volume of blood in the bloodstream. Increased blood volumes increase the heart’s workload and the pressure on the blood vessels increases, this stiffens blood vessels leading to high blood pressure, stroke and heart attacks. Excess sodium leads to misshapen cells, lower cell division rates and high rates of cell death. All these can lead to liver fibrosis.
- Sugary foods like candy, soda among others increase blood sugar levels and this increases the build-up of fat in the liver.
- White bread, rice, fries, pasta, breakfast cereals, pastry, chips and any food made of flour. These foods lack fiber so it increases your blood sugar levels compared to whole grains.
The risk factors for fatty liver
The primary cause of fatty liver has not been properly established but there are a certain group of people who are more at risk for fatty liver than others. The condition is prone to middle-aged people but it can also affect children. Diabetes, pregnancy, obese or over-weight, malnutrition, excessive alcohol intake, high cholesterol and metabolic syndrome are some of the health conditions that increase the risk of getting fatty liver.
How Long Does It Take To Reverse Fatty Liver?
There is no medication or surgery to reverse fatty liver, however, it is possible to reverse fatty liver depending on the severity of damage to the liver. Simple forms of fatty liver can be reversed by adopting a healthy lifestyle. Sadly, severe forms of fatty liver might not be reversed so the primary goal will be to slow down progression and delay the need for a liver transplant by leading a healthy lifestyle.
Work with your doctor to come up with a plan that will work for you. Reversal of fatty liver could take months or even years depending on how much fat is deposited in the liver. Be patient, stick to the proper diet plan and allow your liver to regenerate.
Some of the ways to reverse fatty liver are:
Diet & Lifestyle
Lose weight and eat healthy.
Overweight or obese people are more susceptible to fatty liver so it is important to lose weight to reverse the damage to your liver or prevent fatty liver. If your BMI exceeds 25 then losing weight is paramount. Adopt a plan that will help you lose weight gradually (aim at 1-2 pounds a week). Losing weight drastically can be harmful to your body. Studies show that losing at least 9% of your body weight can reverse the damage caused by fatty liver. A lesser percentage might not reverse the effects but it will reduce the build-up of fats in the liver.
Ensure that the food you take is a balanced diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, proteins, whole grains and oily fish. It is also very important to eat food that is low in refined carbohydrates, saturated fat, and red meat. Avoid unnecessary medications and make sure that you consume healthy fats.
Staying physically active not only helps you drop weight, maintain a healthy weight, it also improves your circulation which in turn improves the body’s ability to disperse fats throughout the body. With regular exercise, your body will be forced to use carbohydrates for energy instead of converting them into fats. Fat burning cardio and weight training exercises like jogging, Zumba, brisk walking, weight lifting and resistance training melts away excess calories and help you lose weight.
Cut down on alcohol consumption.
Whether your fatty liver is as a result of excess consumption of alcohol or not, it is important to cut alcohol from your diet or restrict it. Alcohol causes liver inflammation or damage liver cells.
Although smoking is not a direct cause of fatty liver, studies show that it exacerbates fatty liver. Giving up smoking will do wonders for your overall health and also help keep your liver healthy and functional.
Treating The Risk Factors
Treating the risk factors associated with fatty liver like diabetes and hypertension will go a long way in reversing fatty liver. Consult your physician and find the best treatment plan for you. Visiting the hospital for regular check-ups is also very important. By doing this, you will be able to know if the treatment is working, what you need to avoid, what you should be taking or even come up with an alternative plan if the original plan isn’t working. If you decide to take medication for weight-loss, it is also very important to consult your doctor. He/she will guide on the best plan to adopt.
There are some natural supplements that help support a healthy liver and in turn, help reverse the effects of fatty liver. Some of these supplements are
- Vitamin E – it helps prevent damage to cell membranes and also lower liver enzymes associated with liver diseases. Vitamin E can even cure liver scarring.
- Phosphatidylcholine (PC) – this is an extract of Lecithin which helps to regenerate liver cells.
- Milk thistle – it helps rejuvenate and repair damage to the liver.
- Curcumin – it has a long list of benefits including protecting the liver from damage associated with fatty liver, heart health and obscuring signs of aging.
Final Thoughts About Reversing Fatty Liver
In the end, reversing fatty liver is possible but of course, can vary from person to person. How long does it take to reverse fatty liver you ask? Well, the severity is one of the more important factors in this question. Changing your lifestyle may not be easy, but it is necessary in order to give you a chance of reversing a fatty liver. It is important for you to consult a medical professional regarding treatment lifestyle options to reverse your fatty liver. We have compiled some popular information and guidelines into this post to summarize some methods of reversing a fatty liver. Always consult with a professional before making any major changes to your diet or lifestyle. Remember, don’t give up and keep your head high! It may be a long and tough road but it is not impossible to reverse or slow the progression of a fatty liver.