During this modern digital age, we must be prepared to accept that things can change rapidly. Our health is no exception. Illnesses and diseases have the potential to transform the way we lead our lives in an instant. This is especially the case for health disorders that arise as a result of our diet. “Fatty liver disease”, for example, is a disorder that is affecting an ever-increasing number of people, including children. So, what is fatty liver disease? And how can it be a danger to us?
Fat is a natural source of energy for our bodies. Whenever we go without food for any amount of time, our bodies will use our fat stores as a source of energy. Our bodies store fat in two main places: one place is the abdomen or stomach area, and the other, larger source is within the liver. For this reason, it could be said that the largest source of energy in our body is within the liver. However, when we accumulate too much fat in the liver, it can lead to fatty liver disease, a condition which subsequently has the potential to cause numerous other health issues throughout the body.
If someone is suffering from fatty liver disease – meaning that fat has accumulated within the liver cells over an extended period of time – it can cause inflammation of the liver. This, in turn, can then lead to multiple other health complications that affect various other bodily functions, particularly with regard to any chronic health conditions that may already be present, such as diabetes, liver inflammation as a result of viral infections, obesity, high blood fat levels, high blood pressure and coronary artery disease.
Over a long period of time, liver inflammation will lead to the destruction of liver cells and a membrane forming in their place, which will eventually result in liver cirrhosis and a severely increased risk of developing liver cancer.
The main causes of fatty liver disease can be categorized into two main groups:
Symptoms of fatty liver disease are what make it such a frightening condition, as during its early stages there are often no signs whatsoever. The disease’s symptoms are usually quite difficult to spot, for instance, exhaustion, slight nausea and a tightness in the area underneath the lower right-hand side of the ribcage where the liver is located.
Fatty liver is a disease which takes time to develop, often building up for more than one or two years before it reaches a dangerous level. Usually, the condition is only discovered during a routine, annual blood test or when attending a doctor’s appointment to treat a different condition. In some cases, as identification of the condition begins, liver cirrhosis often has already taken hold.
The easiest thing to do is to make lifestyle adjustments to control your weight, for example, by exercising regularly and regulating your diet. In this respect, you should ensure that you eat food which is good for your health, paying particular attention to reduce your intake of fat and increase your consumption of fiber. Additionally, reduce or give up alcohol altogether, as this is a major factor behind the liver’s increased workload. Also avoid taking unnecessary medication or dietary supplements.
Although fatty liver disease is not as fearsome a disease as cancer, the liver is a vital organ for our body, as it helps filter out toxic substances and carries out many other key bodily functions. If we neglect to care for our liver, it can quickly result in numerous other health disorders coming knocking at our door.
Certificate in Advanced Endoscopy Siriraj Hospital . Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University , 2011