This is the second half of the blog we started last week on Fatty Liver Disease. To see Part One, click here.
How is fatty liver treated?
There isn’t a medication or surgery to treat fatty liver. Instead, your doctor will offer recommendations to reduce your risk factors. These recommendations include:
limiting or avoiding alcoholic beverages
managing your cholesterol and reducing your intake of sugar and saturated fatty acids
controlling your blood sugar
If you have fatty liver because of obesity or unhealthy eating habits, your doctor may also suggest that you increase physical activity and eliminate certain types of food from your diet. Reducing the number of calories you eat each day can help you lose weight and heal your liver.
You can also reverse fatty liver disease by reducing or eliminating fatty foods and foods high in sugar from your diet. Choose healthier foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Replace red meats with lean animal proteins such as chicken and fish.
What is the long-term outlook for fatty liver?
Many cases of fatty liver don’t develop into liver disease. The liver can repair itself, so if you take the necessary steps to treat high cholesterol, diabetes, or obesity, you can reverse your fatty liver. If you’re a heavy drinker, stopping drinking or limiting your alcohol intake to 1-2 beverages a day may heal your liver completely. A liver biopsy can help your doctor identify permanent liver damage, as well as determine the severity of damage and the best way to treat it.
If fatty liver persists and is not reversed, it can progress into liver disease and cirrhosis. The progression to cirrhosis is dependent on the cause. In alcoholic fatty liver, continuing to drink alcohol in excess can lead to rapid development of cirrhosis and subsequent liver failure.
The progression of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease varies, but in most people it does not lead to liver scarring and cirrhosis. However, if you are diagnosed with steatohepatitis, you have a higher chance of developing scarring and liver disease. Twenty-five percent of people with steatohepatitis will develop cirrhosis within a decade.
If a fatty liver has progressed to cirrhosis, the risk of liver failure and death rises significantly.
How do I prevent fatty liver disease?
Protecting your liver is one of the best ways to prevent fatty liver and its complications. This includes drinking alcoholic beverages in moderation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “moderate alcohol consumption is defined as having up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.”
Follow your doctor’s instructions, and take medications for diabetes or high cholesterol as directed. Additionally, aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week to maintain a healthy weight.
Jennifer Heipel has approximately 12 years of experience working as a hepatology nurse/clinical research coordinator for several gastroenterologists, hepatologists, infectious diseases and addiction specialists. She is trained in the treatment of Hepatitis B and C therapies as well as general hepatology and pre/post liver transplant follow up. Jennifer serves as Charlton Health’s full time Hepatology Nurse and manages the Hepatology Program. She has worked and continues to work with Dr. Puglia at McMaster University and other area Gastroenterologists to develop a comprehensive, in-house Hepatology program and Hepatitis C program here at Charlton Health.