What causes non-alcoholic fatty liver disease?
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) refers to a range of conditions caused by a build-up of fat in the liver. People who are overweight or obese are at a higher risk of NAFLD. The condition gradually progresses and often there aren’t any apparent signs to spot the condition during early stages.
However, if the condition worsens, it can manifest through a variety of gastrointestinal issues that continue to worsen over time. Without timely treatment, it can lead to serious liver damage, including cirrhosis.
Do you have nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)?
Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis refers to a form of NAFLD – in which the liver is inflamed and damaged due to excess fat cells.
NASH often remains silent and may lead to digestive complications in the advanced stages of fatty liver disease, when up to 75 percent of the liver is functionally inactive, according to health experts. Following are some of the digestive complications to note:
According to the World Journal of Gastroenterology, up to 80 percent of patients with cirrhosis report one or more gastrointestinal symptoms.
“The most common GI symptoms reported include abdominal bloating in 49.5 percent of patients,” noted one body of research published in the journal. Bloating may happen due to a buildup of fluid in the abdominal cavity. If left untreated, this fluid buildup can lead to abdominal infections.
Most patients with NAFLD are asymptomatic or have vague upper abdominal pain. It is usually a dull or aching pain. Along with abdominal pain, they may also experience nausea and loss of appetite.
A 2014 research titled ‘Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease increases risk for gastroesophageal reflux symptoms’ found a positive association between NAFLD and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) signs such as heartburn, regurgitation (when a mixture of gastric juices and sometimes undigested food rises back up the esophagus and into the mouth) and belching.
Trouble digesting and eliminating food
You may experience a feeling of fullness in the upper right side of the abdomen, along with having trouble digesting and eliminating food. If you experience any of the above mentioned two or more symptoms in conjunction with each other, it is advised to see your doctor. If treatment is delayed, it can lead to further complications like malnutrition and gastric bleeding.
Tips to prevent NAFLD
-Choose a healthy plant-based diet — rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats.
-Maintain a healthy weight by exercising regularly and eating a healthy, low-calorie diet.
-Exercise most days of the week. On days you cannot workout, try to increase your step count by going for a walk.
Who is more at risk of NAFLD?
NAFLD is common in people who have obesity and type 2 diabetes. According to studies, one-third to two-thirds of people with type 2 diabetes have NAFLD. Other risk factors include high cholesterol, polycystic ovary syndrome, sleep apnea, underactive thyroid and underactive pituitary gland.