Fatty liver disease is a condition in which patients have excessively high levels of fat in the liver. Although the causes of this disease are not fully understood, doctors believe it is related to obesity, high cholesterol, elevated blood glucose, and insulin resistance.
Most patients with fatty liver disease do not have any symptoms, and the condition is typically identified after routine tests conducted for other reasons. If symptoms do appear, they can include fatigue, pain in the upper right area of the abdomen, and an enlargement of the liver.
Physicians currently rely on ultrasounds, CT scans, and elastography in the diagnosis of fatty liver disease. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease does not have any specific treatment.
However, doctors generally recommend weight loss, as this is sometimes enough to resolve the symptoms a patient might be experiencing.
Guidelines for The Fatty Liver Diet
To promote weight loss and liver health, the fatty liver diet outlined below is often beneficial.
Start with High Fiber Foods
Patients who are just beginning to make dietary changes for liver health are encouraged to start with high fiber foods. Foods with high amounts of fiber can help reduce cholesterol, and high fiber intake is also associated with a reduction in the risk of diabetes.
For patients who already have diabetes, consuming high fiber foods can help improve blood glucose control. Men under fifty years old need thirty-eight grams of fiber each day, and women in this age group need twenty-five grams of daily fiber intake.
Foods rich in fiber include brown rice, oatmeal, lentils, avocados, and chia seeds. Sweet potatoes, green peas, acorn squash, broccoli, and oranges also contain lots of fiber. Animal studies have demonstrated broccoli helps reduce the accumulation of fat in the liver.
Most patients can meet their daily fiber needs through diet, particularly if they are mindful of their vegetable, fruit, and whole-grain intake.
Go for Complex Carbohydrates
Patients who need to lose weight are typically advised to go for complex carbohydrates instead of choosing simple carbohydrates.
Complex carbohydrates help patients feel satiated for much longer than simple (refined) carbohydrates, and they also provide beneficial minerals, vitamins, and fiber. By contrast, refined carbohydrates have little nutritional content, and they can be very caloric.
Simple carbohydrates include items such as sweets, baked goods, and sugar-sweetened beverages and breakfast cereals.
Examples of complex carbohydrates include whole grains such as brown rice, whole wheat bread, and oatmeal. Beans, nuts, and vegetables such as sweet potatoes are also sources of complex carbohydrates.
Cooking at home instead of eating fast food can help patients eat more complex carbohydrates.
Get Lots of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Patients with fatty liver disease may want to get lots of omega-3 fatty acids to boost liver health. Studies conducted in animals have shown omega-3 fatty acids may reduce liver scarring and inflammation, and they also improve insulin sensitivity and reduce fat in the liver.
These results have been confirmed in small clinical trials conducted on humans. In addition, studies have shown omega-3s can reduce triglycerides, a key risk factor in the development of fatty liver disease.
Fish such as mackerel, salmon, and herring are rich in omega-3s, and cod liver oil is also a good source of this nutrient. For patients looking for plant-based sources of omega-3s, Brussels sprouts, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and walnuts are ideal.
Research suggests fatty liver disease patients who consume walnuts have improved liver function tests as compared to individuals with the condition who do not eat these nuts.
Although omega-3 fatty acid supplements and fish oil supplements are very popular, patients should always ask their healthcare provider before using these products, as they can sometimes interact with certain medications, including those used to reduce blood pressure.
Where possible, it is always best to obtain these nutrients from food sources.
Avoid Processed Food and Added Sugar
Fatty liver disease tends to be more common in individuals who eat highly processed foods, and these foods often contain added sugar, an ingredient that can make it harder to control blood pressure and cholesterol.
Health experts advise patients struggling with this condition to avoid processed food and added sugar in their diets. As a start, it can help to avoid purchasing boxed crackers, chips, and cookies at the grocery store.
Choosing healthier snacks such as fruit or whole-wheat pita chips is recommended, and homemade cookies that use dates, bananas or stevia as sweeteners are typically much healthier than their store-bought counterparts.
Fast food is one of the major sources of both processed food and added sugars, and patients looking to lose weight are advised to cook at home whenever possible. A nutritionist can help with quick and affordable meal planning ideas.
Take Advantage of Garlic
Individuals who take advantage of garlic may be able to improve their liver health. In fact, a 2016 double-blind, randomized clinical trial demonstrated the use of garlic powder supplements is associated with a reduction in both body weight and body fat among patients with fatty liver disease.
The study followed 110 patients with fatty liver disease. Half of the participants received a placebo, and the others were given four hundred milligrams of garlic powder per day.
At the conclusion of the study, the participants who received the garlic powder were able to lose 2.6 percent of their body weight, and those in the control group only lost 0.7 percent in weight.
Garlic can be used as a seasoning in many dishes. For example, it can be included in pasta sauce, and patients might also enjoy it as a seasoning for bread or as a topping for chicken.
Roasted garlic is a favorite dish for some individuals as well. Patients should always ask their healthcare team before deciding to use garlic supplements in their fatty liver diet.