The liver is an essential life-sustaining organ. It regulates the metabolism and digestion process through a series of functions. Its main job is to synthesize bile, proteins, store iron and convert all nutrients into energy. Fatty liver disease is a common condition that results in a huge build-up of fat inside the liver. It is normal for the liver to have some fat in it but when the fat content exceeds 5-10% of the liver’s weight, it turns into a serious condition called steatosis or fatty liver disease.
As far as the treatment part is concerned, Ayurvedic Treatment for Fatty Liver is the natural medium for an effective treatment. Along with ayurvedic treatment, diet and lifestyle changes also play a crucial role in the management of the fatty liver disease. Here, let’s discuss what exactly causes fatty liver and how deeply it can impact your liver functionalities.
Is Fatty Liver Disease Life Threatening?
Fatty liver disease is not a life-threatening disease unless it reaches its last stage. It develops in stages and unless you choose to overlook it for a long time, it can be cured. Doctors have divided its progression into three stages or grades of fatty liver:
- First Stage: The liver gets swollen and damages the liver tissue. It is the primary stage of the fatty liver. It is also known as fatty liver grade 1.
- Second Stage: The liver damage continues and now the damaged tissues start turning into wounds. The process is normally known as fibrosis or fatty liver grade 2.
- Third Stage: Most healthy tissues get replaced by deep scar tissues. The condition is termed liver cirrhosis.
What Is Liver Cirrhosis?
Cirrhosis is the last and worst stage of fatty liver, it results in severe liver damage. The healthy liver tissues get replaced with hard scar tissues slowing down the total functioning of the liver. If the problem continues a bit longer, it may cease the total functioning of the liver. It can result in liver cancer and liver failure.
Types of Fatty Liver Disease
Fatty liver disease is categorized into two types:
- Alcoholic fatty liver disease: Alcoholic fatty liver is caused by excessive intake of alcohol. Moderate drinking doesn’t lead to a fatty liver but when the daily intake exceeds the recommended amount.
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease happens mostly to children and teenagers. A number of factors like diabetes and obesity have been identified as the common causes of fatty liver disease.
Some women get fatty liver during pregnancy, but mostly the condition gets back to normal after delivery.
What Causes Fatty Liver Disease?
The non-alcoholic fatty liver is associated with several metabolic disorders like:
- Elevated blood sugar
- High blood pressure
- Low cholesterol
- Elevated triglycerides in the blood
Other common diseases associated with NAFLD are:
- Obstructive sleep apnoea
- Polycystic Ovaries
- Deficiency of Vitamin D
- Fatty pancreas
- Colon polyps
- Elevated levels of uric acid in the blood
Alcoholic Liver Disease or ALD is a slightly different condition as it is caused by a different list of conditions:
- Parental Link: Kids of alcoholic parents are more prone to get ALD. They may have ALD genes. People with high alcohol intake may have fatty liver changes due to high blood alcohol. The changes may reach the genetic level and pass on to the next generation. It may increase the chances of your kid turning into an alcoholic and have a fatty liver in the future. It is one of the most common reasons for fatty liver on a genetic level.
- Hepatitis C
- High iron content in the body
- Being overweight
The Relationship Between Diabetes, Obesity and Fatty Liver Disease
A lot of research has been done on what causes non-alcoholic fatty liver. The mechanism is yet to be understood, but it is said to be the result of two predisposing factors:
- Diabetes Mellitus
The long presence of these two diseases alters liver physiology. It starts faltering in its basic functioning and fails to process excess fat. This results in high levels of fat deposits inside the liver and thus results in FLD. Fat and fat cells play a key role in disturbing the regular metabolism of the body:
- Obesity is not just an accumulation of fat inside the body. Fat tissues are very active and they interact with several tissues all over the body.
- Fat cells get active metabolically when their levels increase a specific amount.
- These highly active fat cells promote the production of several proteins and hormones that are further released into the bloodstream. Slowly, these newly produced proteins and hormones start showing effects all over the body.
- Along with all other effects, these newly produced proteins and hormones enhance insulin resistance in the cells.
Insulin Resistance And Its Effects
Insulin resistance is a disorder under which the body fails to respond to insulin. Insulin helps in glucose uptake by blood cells. Initially, when the body fails to respond to normal insulin content, the pancreas compensates the incapability by releasing higher amounts of insulin. But as the condition gets worse, the pancreas fails to produce insulin. This results in increased sugar levels in the blood and then results in diabetes. Diabetes results in sugar deficit which further changes the way cells work in the body.
Fat and Fatty Acids
A few fat cells convert into fatty acids and result in increased fatty acids levels in the blood. When these levels exceed the normal limit, the acids become toxic for body cells.
Thus the increased hormones, proteins, fatty acids, and insulin resistance lead to changes in different body parts including the liver.
How These Changes Affect The Liver?
The liver bears the brunt of the above-mentioned processes. Excessive fat triggers high insulin resistance in the liver cells. Its metabolic activity gets disturbed and it starts losing its ability to handle fat.
The liver cells start absorbing more and more fat from the blood and start storing them in the organ. Simultaneously, the liver loses its ability to dispose of the accumulated fat. Alongside, the liver keeps producing and accumulating fats. These events finally result in a condition called fatty liver disease.
Globally, ⅓ of fatty liver patients suffer from diabetes and obesity. Approx. ⅔ of people who suffer from diabetes develop non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. People with lean bodies have very little chance of getting a fatty liver. Therefore, a better way to deal with fatty liver is to control blood sugar levels and overall body fat.