Written by Sharon Aaron, Nutritionist (BSc. Adv.Dip.Nutr.Med)
Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)
Do I have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease?
Is my liver fat? Am I more prevalent to fatty liver because I’m going through menopause?
“Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is one of the most common chronic liver diseases in western countries” (1)
The last decade has seen links between fatty liver and central obesity (increased fat around the waist), insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
Here at Australian Menopause Centre we see many of these conditions regularly. Menopause can be a vulnerable and tumultuous period in a women’s’ life.
Fatty liver disease usually occurs during the 40 to 50’s age bracket and patients may even be asymptomatic. They can however experience many symptoms that include: fatigue, upper quadrant abdominal discomfort, arthritis, non-specific body aches, depression, sleep disturbances. Many of these symptoms could also be attributed to their hormonal imbalances making it difficult to diagnose. (1)
It has been suggested that obesity and the decline in oestrogen may be implicated in the prevalence of fatty Liver.
According to Gutierrez-Grobe et al, in 2009 in a cross sectional study of 197 women in various stages of hormonal changes, it was concluded that oestrogen may have a protective effect against fatty liver, as the condition was most common in postmenopausal women. (4)
Another large study involving over 9,000 women concluded that obese and post-menopausal women had a higher risk of developing fatty Liver. In fact, “in obese women, the prevalence of fatty liver was 48.4%.” (5)
The role of DIET in the treatment of fatty liver is critical. As a nutritionist, going back to basics is paramount in addressing poor lifestyle choices that may be contributing to this condition. Reducing weight is the principal modification. Slow, permanent healthy weight loss is important, and we need to support the liver whilst losing weight. Rapid weight loss puts strain on the liver. Diet together with exercise improves liver biochemistry. These lifestyle changes are key to the long term journey back to health. (1,3)
In my opinion, if you don’t address underlining basic lifestyle issues, long term chronic disease treatment is difficult. In fact, one step further – let’s prevent it. So, if you have a weight problem now; creeping weight particularly around the waist; address it immediately. Don’t wait 10 years when you may be staring at a fatty liver diagnosis and wondering how you got there.
Many of my clients adopt the 80/20 rule – which means eating really healthily 80% of the time. Start today. Don’t wait for a diagnosis.
Three of my favourite liver cleansing/supportive remedies:
- Lemon juice or apple cider vinegar in a glass of warm water is a naturopathic favourite. This can be included in your morning ritual upon waking.
- Liver cleansing, FRESH vegetable juice:
Beetroot, carrot, celery, ginger, spinach & half a pear.
- A hot drink of Roasted Dandelion Root used as a coffee alternative is a great way to improve digestion and clear the liver and gallbladder…and it tastes quite good too. Serve with hot milk/almond milk and a bit of honey and cinnamon – makes a wonderful winter coffee alternative that is good for the liver.
Fatty liver begs for a holistic, grassroots approach to treatment; simple is best. Poor diet and lifestyle choices need to be addressed. Don’t wait, start today, make the changes that can in turn change your long term health!
- Hechtman L, 2015, Clinical Naturopathic Medicine, Elsevier, Australia,pgs 238 -247
- Johnson RJ et al, potential role of sugar (fructose) in the epidemic of hypertension, obesity/metabolic syndrome, diabetes, kidney disease and cardiovascular disease. Am J Clin Nutri 2007; 86:899-906
- Angula P. Current best treatment for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Expert Opin Pharmacother 2003; 4:611-23
- Gutierrez-Grobe et al,2010, Prevalence of non alcoholic fatty liver disease in premenopausal, posmenopausal and polycystic ovary syndrome women. The role of estrogens, Annals of hepatology, 2010;9:4:402-409
- Wang, Zhongli MD, PhD et al,2015, Prevalence of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and its metabolic risk factors in women of different ages and body mass index, The journal of the North American Menopause Society, Menopause: 2015;22:6:667-673
- Suzuki A et al, 2005, Effect of changes on body weight and lifestyle in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, 43:6: 1060-1066
- Musso G, Gambino R, Cassader M. Recent insights into hepatic lipid metabolism in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Prog Lipid Res 2009;48:1-626