Ayurveda is a holistic system of medicine and self-care originating in India. It attempts to identify the energetic imbalances within the body that cause a disease and restore balance with diet, lifestyle changes and herbal remedies. Ayurvedic methods may help to treat fatty liver disease. However, all treatments for liver problems should be approved and supervised by a medical doctor.
Ayurvedic Approach to Healing
According to the Ayurvedic system, disease is caused by imbalances between the three types of physical energy, or doshas. Each of the doshas – vata, pitta and kapha – is present in varying degrees in each of us, though usually one is dominant. Vata is the energy of creativity, intellect and spirituality. In the physical system, it is responsible for circulation and heartbeat. Vata types are physically thin and fine-boned with dry hair and skin. Pitta forces regulate digestion and elimination, including liver function, and pitta types are characterized by sensitive skin and hot tempers. Kapha energy controls growth, moisture and the immune system. Kapha types tend to gain weight easily, have oily skin, abundant hair and calm, loving personalities.
Fatty Liver Disease
Fatty liver disease is caused by an accumulation of fat in the cells of the liver. There are two types of fatty liver disease: alcohol-induced and nonalcoholic. Alcohol-induced fatty liver is caused by excessive alcohol consumption, and causes the liver to swell and become tender on the right side. Its symptoms include fever, jaundice, spider veins and increased white blood cell count. Nonalcoholic fatty liver is usually a less serious condition in which fat builds up in the liver for reasons unrelated to alcohol. While usually harmless, in rare cases this causes inflammation and interferes with liver function. Only a medical doctor can correctly diagnose the condition of your liver.
Ayurveda and the Liver
In Ayurveda, the liver is considered a fire – or pitta – organ, since it is essential to digestion and elimination. Therefore, the health of the liver requires balance in the pitta dosha to support the liver's ability to flush toxins from the body. When the liver is overloaded with toxins like alcohol or fats, it will work too hard and burn too hot. This causes inflammation and problems throughout the body. Ayurvedic practitioners treat liver problems like fatty liver with a combination of dietary and lifestyle modifications and herbal remedies.
Ayurvedic Treatment for Fatty Liver
Although Ayurveda cannot guarantee a cure for fatty liver, some guidelines and herbal preparations may help support healing. Avoid spicy and fried foods and fatty meats, which are heating and overstimulating. Avoid all alcoholic drinks. Cooling, non-acidic fruits like melons, mangoes, pomegranates, berries and pears are good choices. Vegetables should be lightly steamed and served with ghee and small amounts of whole, unmilled grains like quinoa. Triphala is an Ayurvedic herbal blend that helps balance the liver and digestive system. The bitter tonic kutki is a good short-term liver tonic. Aloe juice or supplements are cooling. Hellebore root, embelia root, chicory seed, ginger and long pepper fruit may also be helpful. An Ayurvedic practitioner can help you select the right treatments. However, they should not be used as a substitute for evaluation and treatment by your medical doctor.
- AyurBalance; Ayurvedic Guide to Wellness: What Is My Dosha?; 2005
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Ayurveda
- American Institute of Vedic Studies; Ayurveda and Liver Pathology; Craig Williams
- “Clinical Nutrition Insights”; An Ayurvedic Herbal Approach to a Healthy Liver; Scott Treadway; 1998
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Liver Disease
- MayoClinic.com; Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease; 2011