Fatty liver disease is a health issue no longer limited to those with alcohol dependency. It’s a very real problem that is directly connected to the overconsumption of sugar, an ongoing issue in the typical American diet.
What is fatty liver?
The liver processes everything we eat and drink, and removes harmful substances from our blood. It’s the second-largest organ in the body and it works very hard to remove toxins. It has to work even harder when we overload it with too much sugar.
When we store too much fat in our bodies we lose the ability to metabolize it fast enough in order to burn fat for energy. The excess fat is stored in the liver, where it accumulates and causes inflammation and/or fatty liver disease.
What’s scary is that there are typically very few obvious symptoms of fatty liver, and people often do not even know that they have it. Although symptoms have been reported of fatigue, poor appetite, physical weakness, and abdominal pain, only a doctor can provide an accurate diagnosis.
What causes fatty liver?
Drinking too much alcohol can cause fatty liver, however there are a number of other ways that the liver can get overloaded. Consuming too many processed sugars, low physical activity, and high body weight have all been linked to fatty liver disease.
This is especially concerning when it comes to children. Childhood obesity is on the rise, and high amounts of added sugars in processed foods, including fruit juices, are a big part of the problem.
Why is fatty liver so bad?
If fatty liver goes untreated, it can lead to cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), cancer, or liver failure. Even without the consumption of alcohol, these symptoms can develop early in life when children have high sugar diets.
The good news is that in many cases, fatty liver can be treated with a change in diet.
How should I change my diet to prevent fatty liver?
There is no one-size-fits-all diet that works across the board for everyone. However, there are some small changes you can make to create a healthier environment in your body, and take some of the load off your hard-working liver.
Diet changes to reduce the risk of fatty liver:
- Avoid sugary drinks.
Beverages are the biggest culprit for increased sugar intake, and one of the easiest to reduce. We often ignore the amount of sugar contained in beverages, whether we simply don’t read labels, or assume because a drink contains fruit or fruit juices then it is healthy.Although fruit sugars seem better than processed sugars, our bodies are not built to process the abnormally high amounts that we consume. Some doctors even recommend removing fruit juice from your diet all together, especially for children. Cutting juice with water, or switching to True Citrus are great ways to reduce sugar intake through beverages.
- Eat less processed foods.
Navigate your grocery cart away from those center aisles, and instead purchase unprocessed foods as much as possible. This means preparing and cooking more meals at home, and increasing the amount of fresh foods in your fridge and pantry. If the food can go bad, it usually means that it is healthier for you to eat!
Consult your doctor, nutritionist, or dietitian to find the best diet plan for you.
Fatty liver is a big problem on the rise in the U.S., but new research is showing that there are definite ways to combat it. We are constantly surrounded by sugary processed foods, and it is up to us to take our lives into our hands and make healthy changes in our diets.
If you’re unsure of where to begin, our blog is a great resource for ways to create a healthier diet through reducing the amount of sugar you eat or drink!
[Credit: O’Connor, Anahad. “To Fight Fatty Liver, Avoid Sugary Foods and Drinks.” New York Times.]
[Credit: Healthline. “Fatty Liver.”]