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A hidden source of fatigue and belly fat

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This week we want to help you to understand one of the contributors to fatigue, foggy-headedness, and belly fat. This condition flies under the radar of your yearly physical testing, and it's called Fatty Liver Disease. The good news is that if you know you have it, there are great lifestyle and herbal treatments. Although the symptoms of fatigue, belly fat and a foggy head are clues to its development, the only reliable test for early detection is ultrasound.

Facts about Fatty Liver Disease,

by Chris Williams, MS

One of the most common findings I see in ultrasound screenings is fatty tissue in the liver, commonly known as fatty liver disease (FLD). I thought this would be a great opportunity to talk a bit about what FLD is, what causes it, and what you can do to detect it and do something about it!

First of all, you should understand that your liver is an amazing organ. It is the only major organ in the body that can (mostly) regenerate! You can cut off up to 75% of a human liver, and it will grow back to its original size. So why are so many people on the liver transplant list? Most diseases of the liver are not isolated to one area, but rather are spread throughout the entire organ, preventing a surgeon from simple removing the affected portion.

Because the liver is regenerative, however, most fatty liver disease, caught early, is completely reversible, and that is great news!

Just so you understand why this is an important topic to discuss, aside from my own experience in ultrasound screenings, here are some quick statistics:

- 20-30% of Americans have fatty liver disease at any given time.

- 70-90% of Americans with obesity also have fatty liver disease.

- 60-80% of Americans with type II diabetes also have fatty liver disease.

So how and why does fat accumulate in the liver? Without going into a biochemistry lesson, let me try to explain. The liver is a waypoint, a storage facility, for fat in the body. Liver cells take up fats from the blood, store them, then release them when called for during energy shortages elsewhere in the body. So when too much fat is present, when liver cell function is compromised, or when consumption for energy is decreased or compromised, fat will accumulate in the liver. This is what we call fatty liver disease.

Fatty liver disease occurs in two types: Alcoholic fatty liver disease and Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Alcoholic FLD occurs due to acute alcohol consumption, as alcohol is toxic to liver cells and impairs their normal functions. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease occurs with very high-fat diets, obesity, diabetes, and other related conditions. Either type can progress in the worst cases to hepatitis, cirrhosis, or even liver cancer.

Unfortunately, early fatty liver diseases generally have no symptoms. They will not show up in bloodwork or most imagery. The exception is ultrasound, which can detect FLD in its earliest stages, even without enlargement of the liver.

While there is currently no medical treatment for the early stages of FLD, there are definitely things you can do! Alcoholic FLD often resolves with a period of abstinence from alcohol. All types of FLD can improve with exercise and a decrease in bad fats in your diet. There are also herbs and supplements that can support healthy liver function.

As with any illness, early detection is the key to easy treatment and quick recovery. FLD is not something to be scared of in early stages, but is definitely something to be aware of and take action to reverse before it gets worse!

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