Fatty liver disease, the accumulation of excess fat in your liver, refers to a group of conditions that may not damage the liver initially but can progress into severe liver scarring and cirrhosis. Your liver performs the essential metabolic function of filtration and detoxification of any substances you eat, drink, breathe or absorb. Fatty liver disease can impede this function, but dietary changes may help you manage fatty liver disease and potentially reverse or inhibit further damage.
About Fatty Liver
Fatty liver disease can take one of three forms; steatosis, a fatty liver without inflammation; steatohepatitis, a scarred and inflamed liver associated with alcohol use; and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH, a scarred and inflamed liver not related to alcohol use. Steatosis, also referred to as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, or NAFLD, is most common and when left untreated may lead to NASH, which is serious and irreversible. NAFLD does not initially present with symptoms, but abdominal pain or fatigue can appear over time as fat accumulates in the liver. Overweight or obesity, alcoholism and unmanaged diabetes can contribute to the development of fatty liver. Treatment depends on causal factors but generally includes diet changes to limit the amount of extra fat entering the liver, weight management, alcohol abstinence and management of health conditions.
Limit Fat and Cholesterol
Animal-based foods supply you with protein to maintain healthy tissue and fat for energy storage and nutrient absorption. Excess consumption of foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol can complicate fatty liver causing disease progression. Replace fatty red meat and whole dairy foods with two servings of fish per week, baked poultry and low-fat dairy. Avoid fried foods, read nutrition labels for saturated fat contents and, if you must eat red meat, limit consumption to a few times a month instead of weekly. Consult your health care team for exact recommendations of daily fat, cholesterol and protein based on your specific condition.
Fruits, Vegetables and Grains
Carbohydrate-containing foods are your main source of caloric energy and also provide you with vitamins, minerals and fiber necessary for controlling further liver damage. A damaged liver has difficulty converting stored energy in the form of glycogen from carbohydrates; therefore, you may need a specific amount of servings daily to get an adequate energy supply. Choose fresh fruits such as apricots and citrus; raw or steamed vegetables including greens, broccoli or asparagus; and whole grains such as wheat or bran products. Consult your physician for serving recommendations based on your fatty liver condition.
Additional Dietary Tips
Limit sodium consumption to prevent abdominal fluid buildup and high blood pressure, notes the National Liver Foundation. Abstain from alcohol use, which further progresses liver disease damage. Check with your physician before taking any over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen, that may harm your liver. Consume small meal portions frequently throughout the day to combat fatigue associated with fatty liver. Limit junk snack foods with added sugar, sodium and fat. Consult your physician to discuss safe weight-loss options and use of vitamin supplements.
- National Liver Foundation: Diet and Your Liver
- Cleveland Clinic; Alcoholic Liver Disease; Kyrsten D. Fairbanks
- American College of Gastroenterology; Fatty Liver Disease; Ariel E. Feldstein, M.D,. et al.
- MedlinePlus; Diet Liver Disease; April 2009
- California Pacific Medical Center: Fatty Liver (Steatosis or Steatohepatitis)
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse; Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis; November 2006