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By Boris M | 11 July, 2020 Published in Resources
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Hepatic steatosis, also known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a liver condition that around a quarter of the population currently suffers from. It is caused by an accumulation of more than 5% – 10% of hepatic fat within the liver from non-alcoholic causes. [1]

There are many common liver issues, but NAFLD is currently considered the most prevalent liver disease for the entire world. Nearly a billion people are estimated to have it. This equals around 20-30% of the population in both Europe, Asia, and America.

Causes of Hepatic Steatosis

There are multiple causes of NAFLD, and a likelihood of it developing has even been tied to specific genes. Most of them are related to lifestyle choices.

Below is a list of the standard origins of hepatic steatosis: [2]

  • High BMI or obesity
  • Resistance to insulin
  • High blood sugar
  • Higher than normal levels of fat in the blood

The following are more rare causes:

  • Pregnancy
  • Unusually quick or extreme weight loss
  • Hepatitis C and some other infections
  • Side effects from valproic acid (Depakote), tamoxifen (Nolvadex), methotrexate (Trexall), and amiodarone (Pacerone)
  • Some toxins

Risk Factors

Risk factors for NAFLD are tied to weight gain or loss, but the most prevalent factor is insulin resistance. This can be caused by a lifestyle that does not include any exercise or being obese.

Below are a few other risk factors:

  • Either form of diabetes though Type II is more common
  • Unusually high levels of either cholesterol or triglyceride
  • Using corticosteroids or certain medications for cancer treatments (e.g., tamoxifen)
  • Pregnancy

abdominal pain hepatic steatosis

Symptoms of Hepatic Steatosis

The initial stages of NAFLD do not have very noticeable symptoms. Later stages begin to present significant physical and mental distress due to the liver cells being so damaged they can no longer function (e.g., cirrhosis).

The first stage symptoms include the following:

  • Ascites, pain on the right side of the abdomen, or stomach swelling
  • Tiredness
  • Enlargement of liver or spleen.
  • Yellowing of skin and eyes (e.g., jaundice)
  • Enlarged blood vessels
  • Red palms
  • (For men) An increase in breast size

End-stage symptoms, when cirrhosis sets in, will usually involve the following symptoms: [3]

  • Confusion
  • Inhibited liver function
  • Internal bleeding
  • Retaining fluids

Diagnosing Hepatic Steatosis

Diagnosis starts with a typical medical history and physical examination; then the doctor may order additional tests to determine the extent of liver damage.

Tests may include biopsies or any of the following. [4]

  • Blood work
  • CT
  • MRI
  • Ultrasound

Treatment for Hepatic Steatosis

The most recommended treatment and the easiest is weight loss, as most causes of hepatic steatosis are obesity. Losing weight through exercise, nutrition, and healthy eating is often the treatment prescribed by doctors.

If the cause was something else like a medication side effect, then you should follow your doctor’s advice, and they will most likely have you stop taking it.

Never stop taking any medication without consulting a medical professional. In cases where the damage is so severe that the liver is irreversible, then a liver transplant or partial transplant may be necessary.

diet for hepatic steatosis

Home Remedies for Hepatic Steatosis

Since lifestyle changes make the most significant impact on NAFLD, you can start treating it at home by making some significant alterations to your exercise routine and eating habits.

Losing weight will make the biggest impact, and there are several ways to do that. Nutrition is essential and making sure that you replace empty calories and fats with nutrient-rich foods.

Exercising at least 30 minutes every four to five days of the week when combined with better eating habits is all you need to start making progress with weight loss.

Can Diet Help With Hepatic Steatosis?

You will want to follow your doctor’s instructions about changing daily caloric intake rather than choosing to cut calories without input. Your doctor will know the best types of foods to eat and how many calories your body needs to function correctly.

In addition to decreasing caloric intake, it is also vital that you keep any alcohol consumption down or abstain entirely. [5]

Nutritional changes that are usually encouraged when people are trying to treat their hepatic steatosis include:

  • Foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes are ideal
  • Try to cut down on high carb and trans fats foods like sugary treats, white rice, white bread, and refined grain and sugar products
  • You should also eat red meat in conjunction with other saturated fats

Can Hepatic Steatosis Cause Complications?

When NAFLD is not noticed soon enough, damage to the liver can occur. This could lead to physical and mental symptoms. Sometimes treatments can fix the problem, but when hepatic steatosis goes on too long, the entire organ can fail, or liver cancer can develop.

Liver transplant and further treatments are required but are not guaranteed to bring you back to perfect health. The liver is in charge of a lot of essential things, and when it stops working correctly, the entire body suffers.

What is the Outlook for People With Hepatic Steatosis?

If left untreated for too long, or entirely, it will inevitably lead to either death or a failing liver and related medical issues. This is especially dangerous for pregnant women because so many of the signs can be overlooked until it is too late, and a failing liver will affect both mother and baby.

Immediate treatment increases the likelihood of returning to full health. Residual liver damage can increase the chances of getting other liver-related diseases. The sooner you treat NAFLD, the better the odds of a successful recovery.

What Is Its Association With Metabolic Syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome is closely tied to hepatic steatosis. It consists of several symptoms, including high blood pressure and sugar, an excessive amount of stomach fat, and high cholesterol. More research is needed to determine why: but most people with metabolic syndrome are also diagnosed with NAFLD.

It is uncertain if they are merely two different presentations of the same thing or if one tends to lead to the other: more research is required. Mothers with metabolic syndrome or who eat a high-fat diet while pregnant lead to their children being more likely to develop NAFLD in adulthood.

Looking for advice?

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Resources

[1] https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/liver-disease/nafld-nash

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5743497

[3] https://www.fattyliverfoundation.org/symptoms_of_nafld

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6511364/

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6367556/