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Got Fatty Liver?



Have you been diagnosed with fatty liver disease or know someone who has? You (or they) are not alone. In fact, millions of people are affected by liver disease.


Let’s start with what the liver’s main function is in the body. It is responsible for detoxifying all of the blood that circulates in the body, it forms bile, which helps digest fats, the storage of key nutrients, and plays an integral role in metabolic functions. When the liver is not functioning properly, the body is not able to complete those processes listed above efficiently leading to major inflammation (Mahan & Raymond, 2017).


Many associate liver disease with alcohol abuse, however, there is another form: non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (“NAFLD”). It is when the cause is not linked to a genetic disorder or alcohol abuse. It also looks a lot like how it sounds; there is visible fat on the liver. If you refer to the image above, the liver on the left is a healthy liver, smooth and dark red. The image on the right is a NAFLD liver, fat is visible on the organ and it is no longer a healthy dark red. The fat has taken up space normally filled by blood, which impacts the normal flow and function of the liver. Remember, blood needs to flow through the liver to filter blood of toxins and store nutrients. This backup can cause a major accumulation of fat on the liver.


Common comorbid conditions that one may have along with NAFLD are:

  • Type 2 Diabetes

  • Obesity

  • Metabolic syndrome

  • dyslipidemia

  • Malnutrition (vitamin and mineral deficiencies)

Do NOT panic, many can reverse the damage done to the liver. What can you do to start healing your liver? Reducing inflammation in the body/liver is a great first. Well, this is a multi-level step process putting the body back in balance by

  • Exercise

  • Dietary Changes

  • Supplementation

A great way to reduce inflammation is to increase intake of antioxidants that will attack the free radicals in the body that are the typical culprits for causing inflammation. One supplement that has shown to be an effective intervention in NAFLD is milk thistle or silymarin (Zhong et al., 2017). Milk thistle is an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant herb. Sorrentino, Crispino, Coppola & De Stefano conducted a 90-ay study on the effects of milk thistle on patients with liver disease and observed a positive effect on the liver (2015). The dosage used was between 250-376mg daily. Another study suggested that milk thistle at high doses does not show negative side effects, so dosage is something that can be adjusted along the way to see what best fits your nutrition plan (Vargas-mendoza, 2014). Since more studies are required on the proper dosage for this intervention, it is best to work with a primary care physician and nutritionist during this process.


There are some interactions that should be noted and monitored. Milk thistle could have negative interactions with:


  • Antidiabetes medication, adjustments may be required.

  • Glucronidated drugs

  • P-glycoprotein substrates

  • Simeprevir

  • Sirolimus

  • Metronidazole


In addition, if you have an allergy to ragweed, chrysanthemum or chamomile, it is best to avoid using this supplement.


References


Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (2011). Healthy Eating Plate [Image]. Retrieved from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-eating-plate/


Healthline (n.d.)a. 7 Science-Based Benefits of Milk Thistle [image]. Retrieved on November 11, 2019 from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/milk-thistle-benefits


Healthline (n.d)b. Fatty Liver: What it is, and How to get rid of it [image]. Retrieved on November 10, 2019 from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/fatty-liver


Mahan, L. K., & Raymond, J.L. (2017). Krause’s food and the nutrition care process. (14th ed.). St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Saunders.


Sorrentino, G., Crispino, P., Coppola, D., & De Stefano, G. (2015). Efficacy of lifestyle changes in subjects with non-alcoholic liver steatosis and metabolic syndrome may be improved with an antioxidant nutraceutical: a controlled clinical study. Drugs in R&D15(1), 21–25. doi:10.1007/s40268-015-0084-x


Vargas-Mendoza, N., Madrigal-Santillán, E., Morales-González, A., Esquivel-Soto, J., Esquivel-Chirino, C., García-Luna Y González-Rubio, M., … Morales-González, J. A. (2014). Hepatoprotective effect of silymarin. World journal of hepatology, 6(3), 144–149. doi:10.4254/wjh.v6.i3.144


Zhong, S., Fan, Y., Yan, Q., Fan, X., Wu, B., Han, Y., … Niu, J. (2017). The therapeutic effect of silymarin in the treatment of nonalcoholic fatty disease: A meta-analysis (PRISMA) of randomized control trials. Medicine96(49), e9061. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000009061


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