Fatty Liver Causes
The common fatty liver causes are:
- Simple carbohydrates
- Our body fat when in excess
The name Fatty Liver can be misleading.
The fat we eat- is usually blamed and focused on because of:
- its name and
- the fact that eating it can spur on very uncomfortable symptoms when the liver is fatty.
Eating Fat Can Cause Symptoms so Eating Lean While Healing A Fatty Liver May Be Necessary.
Uncomfortable symptoms arise when the liver is struggling with too much stored fat.
The fat we eat is then harder for the liver to handle.
Even ‘good fat’ consumption may need to be reduced for awhile. Bad fats should always be eliminated anyway.
Discomfort After Eating Fat is a Symptom
Discomfort after eating fat is a symptom of the fatty liver condition and according to Dr. W. Daniel Jackson not the cause.
And that is very important to know because if the focus is only on reducing fats to avoid discomfort the root causes will never be addressed.
Sugar – Simple Carbohydrates – Excess Body fat
Sugar – simple carbohydrates – excess body fat are where to place your focused actions when it comes to helping fatty livers get better.
How Does a Liver Become Fatty?
To unwind a fatty liver and lighten its load we need to know what is making it fatty.
An oversimplification of the process of how a fatty liver develops is:
1. Sugar in excess (glucose, fructose and the 2 together = sucrose [table sugar]) is converted to triglyceride fat and
2. Simple carbohydrates in excess are converted to triglyceride fat (think bread, bagels, pastas, crackers, cookies, things made of flour).
The excess triglyceride fats stored in the liver start adding up until there is just too much.
The liver cells start to be overtaken by fat cells. As our liver gets too stuffed it enlarges.
If we do not do anything about our excess fat in our liver then connective tissue scars and liver disease will progress.
Here’s the AMAZING news! Fatty liver can be reversed:
“Lifestyle and dietary changes are currently the most effective options for managing NAFLD” (17)
We eat to provide our cells with immediate and longer term energy.
We eat. Our digestive system breaks down our food into molecules. The molecules cross into our bloodstream.
“A molecule of glucose,….carries a packet of chemical energy just the right size for transport and uptake by cells.
….it is the ‘deliverable’ form of energy, carried in your blood….to each of your 100 trillion cells.” (2)
During this process glucose is released, used and excess shuttled into our:
- muscle cells,
- fat cells and
- liver cells.
This glucose provides us with immediate energy.
When there is more glucose than body needs for energy and its storage capacity for glycogen has been reached the liver is prompted to convert glucose into triglycerides.
At that point your excess sugars, simple carbohydrates are converted to the fat called triglyceride.
Under normal circumstances
- Muscles can store a modest amount to use as fuel between meals.
- Our fat cells get some also as a source of energy for our body to pull on when needed.
- And then the liver stores a small amount. Until there is a constant influx of excess triglycerides. The amount over what the liver is meant to store becomes a stressor on the liver.
Over time, too much excess triglyceride fat constantly shuttled into the liver for storage create the scenario where the liver’s cells gradually get replaced by these fat cells.
This leads to non-alcohol fatty liver disease.
When the liver has too much Sugar to process it converts the extra sugar – or the extra simple carbohydrate to a fat called a triglyceride.
The liver is one of the placed that stores this excess fat.
Our muscles get some to store and our fat cells get some to store.
At some point when the liver is too full of these triglyceride fats to function well we end up with a fatty liver that has more and more difficulty doing its many jobs.
Next the 3rd item on the list: Excess Body Fat.
Excess Body Fat as a Contributor to Fatty Liver.
The third item I listed in the beginning is having excess body fat.
Our excess body fat CAN be a contributor to a fatty liver.
“The prevalence rate of NAFLD (Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease) increases with increasing body mass index (BMI).” (3)(4)
“Due to the rising epidemic of obesity in the United States, the prevalence of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is rapidly increasing and is expected to overtake hepatitis C as the leading indication for liver transplant in the next 30 years,” (4)
We Can Avoid This Scenario
Addressing a Fatty Liver as soon as possible can help avoid the progression of liver disease. Caring for our liver offers many benefits including reducing our likelihood of experiencing other health problems that liver disease can create.
“The liver is a metabolic workhorse that performs a diverse array of biochemical functions necessary for whole-body metabolic homeostasis.“(3)
Why Would A Fatty Liver Lead to Other Health Problems?
Other health problems can arise because our liver is needed for pretty much everything that helps to keep our body in balance and working for us.
When our liver is strained our other systems are strained.
If possible, we want to relieve the liver of having to handle excess sugar and simple carbs so it does not continue to enlarge with excess triglycerides (form of fat). (5)(9)
This way we can avoid disease progression. The next step after fatty liver is where the liver replaces its own tissue with connective (scar) tissue which further reduces its function.
Fatty liver should be taken seriously but without panic because you can slow down and then reverse it.
Where do we begin? First Find Hidden Sugars.
The Simple Self Care Lifestyle Focus: First Find Hidden Sugar.
The KEY to achieving your goal of caring for your liver is to:
1. Place the focus first on finding and swapping out hidden Sugar.
This first focus may be all it takes.
This is because the swapping out hidden sugar can reduce:
- the excess conversion and storage of fatty cells in the liver and
- inflammation and
- excess storage of Body Fat
That is exponential payoff!
By simplifying our first focus we can simultaneously, positively, impact 2 other BIG contributors!
Most Common Questions
Q. What About a Special Diet, Supplements or a Detox?
It is natural for us to immediately look for a way to quickly resolve our fatty liver by following a protocol or ‘liver diet’ found online.
But how long will we stay on it? Will that have us binging and stressing our liver even more when we fall off?
Like quick weight loss plans swinging from ‘being good’ to ‘binging’ due to feeling deprived or too restricted is the most likely scenario.
Also our mood can be negatively influenced if we go on overly restrictive diets. This is often due to sugar addiction withdrawl. (12)
PLUS Rapid weight loss can make NAFLD worse. (7)
“any weight loss should be gradual — no more than a few pounds a week — because losing weight too quickly can actually worsen fatty liver disease.”
We are focused instead on finding YOUR Individual ROOT Causes First Using 4 Steps (There is a pdf below)
Once you find your own personal root causes for excess sugar you’ll choose which to slowly swap out. This way
- You can see and pick the one(s) that have the biggest impact.
- And by doing it this way you will avoid feeling deprived.
- The changes will be lifestyle changes which will allow your liver to heal and stay well life long.
What about Supplements
If I was tested and knew I was low in Vitamin D. I would consider supplementation. This is because normal vitamin D is protective.
“Hypovitaminosis D is associated with the severity and incidence of NAFLD among patients who have normal liver enzymes.”(10)
As for other supplements I’d ask my practitioner before adding any.
This is because although research states most vitamins will not do any harm- there is the fact that the liver will need to metabolize the vitamins.
Your practitioner can help you know if you would be adding a burden to your liver.
In general adding vitamins where there is no known deficiency would be something I’d consider after:
- removing what is stressing my liver and
- with a specific test to pinpoint deficiencies first.
“Even in high doses, most vitamins have few adverse events and do not harm the liver. Many vitamins are normally concentrated in, metabolized by and actually stored in the liver, particularly the fat soluble vitamins. The two exceptions to the lack of harm to the liver by higher doses of vitamins are vitamin A and niacin, both of which can cause distinctive forms of liver injury when taken in high doses.” (10)(underline, italic, bold added)
Detoxing is defined as:
“a process or period of time in which one rids the body of toxic or unhealthy substances; detoxification”.
This should happen naturally and at a pace that is comfortable to the liver as you find and swap out your excess hidden sugars.
How Much Sugar is Excess?
This of course varies by:
- how much muscle you have
- your sex
- activity level and
In general the recommendation is
Women: no more than 24 grams excess Sugar (approx 6 teaspoons) (11)
Men: no more than 36 grams excess Sugar (approx 9 teaspoons per day) (11)
What does Excess Sugar even mean?
This is sugar outside of the simple carbohydrate food sugar you should eat each day. This is what you find on the labels of every packaged/bagged/processed ‘food’.
The ‘causes of Fatty Liver’ at the top of this post are also a hierarchy from most problematic:
- Sugar (which is Excess Sugar) is the FIRST Focus
- Simple carbohydrates
- Our body fat when in excess
Figuring out what you should do:
The first step is to focus on Sugar that is not found naturally in foods.
It is the most offensive and most likely culprit when it comes to creating a fatty liver.
And honestly HIDDEN! How much sugar is in your pizza? Ketchup? Muesli? Diet bar? Corn syrup in your syrup? Coffee creamer? Protein powder?….Think anything bought in a box/bag or from a restaurant…You get the picture.
Finding out where your PERSONAL hidden sugar is the key to YOUR success.
How do we figure out how many grams of excess sugar we are eating? We explore our own personal diet.
Here’s How to Know How Much Excess Sugar You are Consuming.
Simply write down everything you put in your mouth for the week. And how many times you had it that day.
Here is a sample sheet tracking breakfasts for a week.
Blank pdfs are available for you to download below.
At the end of the week list the items you ate daily.
Those you consumed 3-6 times during the week.
And those you consumed 1-2 times during the week.
Focus first on what you are consuming daily.
Go through each item on the list and look at the label.
Write down the serving size and the grams of sugar for the serving size.
Continue down the list exploring what has sugar in it.
Here is an example of Step 3.
Now I know how much Sugar each of the items I eat has.
Next Step 4.
It is time to figure out if I actually eat the serving size!
This example sheet has actual examples from a client worksheet from many years ago.
She literally was pushing her liver from the time she got up with having almost 4 fold the amount of added sugar already at breakfast!
It is not shown here but her hidden sugars started and ended her day.
Unwinding from her hectic day with a glass of wine or two and just a few snacks during the day to take the edge off.
Finding the hidden sugar changed everything about how she went about reducing her fatty liver and excess weight she had been trying for DECADES was reducing.
The reduction in hidden sugar helped her metabolism which helped her liver even more.
Understanding What Was Impacting Her Body Had More Positive Benefits.
Understanding what was going on and that she had control helped her overcome her frustration and anxiety about what to eat.
ALSO reducing the fear that something was very wrong with her body was helpful to her.
This of course helped her HPA axis which helped her OVER all wellness!
Not only that but the How Your Body Uses Body Fat Part 1 and Part 2 made COMPLETE sense after using the Finding Hidden Sugars Worksheets!
And the post on One of the Worlds Healthiest Foods: Flaxseed helped as well because:
“Our data indicate that FLA might be a promising functional food for preventing NASH through regulating microbiomes and BAs.”
A few SIMPLE changes and she got her body back on track.
Knowing how to calculate your hidden sugars can make a world of difference.
It is a great first step!
Other Posts about Your Body Plus Linked References/Resources for you
Linked References/Resources for you:
1. Fatty liver — and your kids. University of Utah Health. (n.d.). Retrieved July 29, 2022, https://healthcare.utah.edu/healthfeed.
2. Fabbrini E, Sullivan S, Klein S. Obesity and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: biochemical, metabolic, and clinical implications. Hepatology. 2010 Feb;51(2):679-89. doi: 10.1002/hep.23280. PMID: 20041406; PMCID: PMC3575093.
3. Ruhl CE, Everhart JE. Determinants of the association of overweight with elevated serum alanine aminotransferase activity in the United States. Gastroenterology. 2003;124:71–79.
4 Woreta, T. A. (2021, November 3). Detoxing your liver: Fact versus fiction. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Retrieved July 31, 2022, from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/detoxing-your-liver-fact-versus-fiction
5. Liu Q, Bengmark S, Qu S. The role of hepatic fat accumulation in pathogenesis of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Lipids Health Dis. 2010 Apr 28;9:42. doi: 10.1186/1476-511X-9-42. PMID: 20426802; PMCID: PMC2873482.
6. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD): What it is, treatment & causes. Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). Retrieved July 31, 2022, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/22437-non-alcoholic-fatty-liver-disease
7. Hariri M, Zohdi S. Effect of Vitamin D on Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Clinical Trials. Int J Prev Med. 2019 Jan 15;10:14. doi: 10.4103/ijpvm.IJPVM_499_17. PMID: 30774848; PMCID: PMC6360993.
8. Targher G, Bertolini L, Scala L, Cigolini M, Zenari L, Falezza G, Arcaro G. Associations between serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 concentrations and liver histology in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2007 Sep;17(7):517-24. doi: 10.1016/j.numecd.2006.04.002. Epub 2006 Aug 22. PMID: 16928437.
9. Glimcher LH, Lee AH. From sugar to fat: How the transcription factor XBP1 regulates hepatic lipogenesis. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2009 Sep;1173 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):E2-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.04956.x. PMID: 19751410; PMCID: PMC3096021.
10. LiverTox: Clinical and Research Information on Drug-Induced Liver Injury [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; 2012-. Vitamins. [Updated 2021 Jun 10]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK548888/
11. How much sugar is too much? www.heart.org. (2022, June 2). Retrieved July 31, 2022, from https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sugar/how-much-sugar-is-too-much
12. Avena NM, Rada P, Hoebel BG. Evidence for sugar addiction: behavioral and neurochemical effects of intermittent, excessive sugar intake. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2008;32(1):20-39. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2007.04.019. Epub 2007 May 18. PMID: 17617461; PMCID: PMC2235907.
13. Tsai JH, Ferrell LD, Tan V, Yeh MM, Sarkar M, Gill RM. Aggressive non-alcoholic steatohepatitis following rapid weight loss and/or malnutrition. Mod Pathol. 2017 Jun;30(6):834-842. doi: 10.1038/modpathol.2017.13. Epub 2017 Mar 3. PMID: 28256569; PMCID: PMC5935795.
14. Dr. Bipin Vibhute. (2020, December 1). Can fatty liver regenerate. Dr. Bipin Vibhute. Retrieved July 31, 2022, from https://thelivertransplant.com/can-fatty-liver-regenerate/
15. Shapiro, A., Mu, W., Roncal, C., Cheng, K.-Y., Johnson, R.J., & Scarpace, P.J. (2008). Fructose-induced leptin resistance exacerbates weight gain in response to subsequent high-fat feeding. American Journal of Physiology. Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology , 295(5), R1370â€“1375. doi:10.1152/ajpregu.00195.2008
16. Kawano Y, Cohen DE. Mechanisms of hepatic triglyceride accumulation in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. J Gastroenterol. 2013 Apr;48(4):434-41. doi: 10.1007/s00535-013-0758-5. Epub 2013 Feb 9. PMID: 23397118; PMCID: PMC3633701.
17. Wynne Armand, M. D. (2020, April 14). Fatty liver disease: What it is and what to do about it. Harvard Health. Retrieved July 31, 2022, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/fatty-liver-disease-what-it-is-and-what-to-do-about-it-2019011015746