Fatty Liver Symptoms, Treatment and Diet


fatty liver

Fatty liver is a condition when there is too much fat accumulated in a person’s liver. This is specifically found in people who are overweight and who have diabetes. Although it may not always lead to any physical symptoms, it can cause significant health issues. It is because of this reason that it is important to make relevant lifestyle changes to prevent and improve the condition (Stefan, N., Kantartzis, K. and Häring, H.U., 2008. Causes and metabolic consequences of fatty liver. Endocrine reviews, 29(7), pp.939-960). Before we discuss what fatty liver is, let us see why liver is important. The liver is the main organ of the body that helps to process food and waste materials. A healthy liver is one that contains very little or no fat. When you eat excessive amounts of unhealthy foods or drink too much alcohol, your body deals with this excess by turning some of the calories into fat. The fat is thereafter stored in liver cells. Fatty liver is a condition when fats make up more than 5% to 10% of the total weight of a person’s liver. This is becoming more common as people are becoming prone to eat more added fats and sugars.  

Fatty Liver Symptoms

Fatty liver disease usually does not cause any symptoms. However, in many cases, people having fatty liver may have symptoms like the following:
  • Feeling unwell or tired
  • Weight loss
  • Pain in the upper right side of the abdomen

Some of the common signs that a patient is suffering from more serious fatty liver disease include the following:
  • Yellow skin and eyes
  • Dark urine
  • Bruising
  • Swollen tummy
  • Vomiting blood
  • Black stools
  • Itchy skin

Fatty Liver Treatment

Prompt diagnosis and treatment is crucial for people suffering from fatty liver disease. Higher levels of liver enzymes turning up on blood tests for other conditions may raise a red flag. One of the most common signs that your liver is injured is such elevated liver enzymes. To diagnose this condition, doctors may recommend an ultrasound or a CT Scan to get a picture of the liver. Liver biopsy is done to determine how far the liver disease has progressed (Ahmed, A., Wong, R.J. and Harrison, S.A., 2015. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease review: diagnosis, treatment, and outcomes. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, 13(12), pp.2062-2070). In many cases, fibroscan may also be recommended. This is a special ultrasound often used instead of a liver biopsy to find out the amount of fat and scar tissue in the patient’s liver.  
There is no specific medication for fatty liver disease. Doctors usually emphasize on helping patients manage the factors that contribute to this condition. In addition, patients are also recommended to make different lifestyle changes that may help them to improve their health significantly (Nseir, W., Hellou, E. and Assy, N., 2014. Role of diet and lifestyle changes in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. World journal of gastroenterology: WJG, 20(28), p.9338). Some of the best approaches and treatments for managing fatty liver problems usually includes the following:

  • Losing weight 
  • Avoiding alcohol
  • Taking medications to manage cholesterol, triglycerides and diabetes
  • Taking Vitamin  and specific diabetes treating drugs in certain cases.

Fatty Liver Diet

Following a proper diet for fatty liver is crucial. A good fatty liver diet usually includes fruits and vegetables, whole grains and legumes while abstaining from alcohol and minimizing intake of foods and drinks that are high in salt, added sugar, saturated fat and refined carbohydrates. Patients are mostly recommended to have a nutrient-dense, whole-food-based diet that is rich in protein, unsaturated fats and fiber. Consider the following while planning your diet if you suffer from fatty liver disease:

1. Coffee

Coffee is known to help decrease abnormal liver enzymes. Regular coffee consumption is linked to a lowered risk of developing NAFLD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease) and a decreased risk of advancement of liver fibrosis in patients diagnosed with NAFLD (Catalano, D., Martines, G.F., Tonzuso, A., Pirri, C., Trovato, F.M. and Trovato, G.M., 2010. Protective role of coffee in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Digestive diseases and sciences, 55, pp.3200-3206).  

2. Green leafy vegetables

Leafy green vegetables like spinach help to fight fatty liver disease while lowering the risk of NAFLD. This is primarily due to the polyphenols and nitrate found in leafy greens.  

3. Beans and soy

Legumes like lentils, soybeans, peas and chickpeas contain resistant starches that assist in improving gut health. It also helps to lower blood glucose and triglycerides in obese individuals. It has often been found that diets rich in legumes help to lower the risk of NAFLD (Zhang, S., Kumari, S., Gu, Y., Wu, X., Li, X., Meng, G., Zhang, Q., Liu, L., Wu, H., Wang, Y. and Zhang, T., 2020. Soy food intake is inversely associated with newly diagnosed nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in the TCLSIH cohort study. The Journal of Nutrition, 150(12), pp.3280-3287). Soy contains a high amount of protein β-conglycinin, known for helping to lower triglyceride levels while protecting against visceral fat buildup.

4. Fish

Fatty fish like tuna, trout, sardines and salmon are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. Supplementing with Omega-3 benefits people suffering from NAFLD as it helps to reduce liver fat while boosting protective HDL cholesterol and reducing triglyceride levels.

5. Oatmeal for fiber

Whole-grain and fiber-rich foods such as oatmeal is associated with a lowered risk of fatty liver and NAFLD related diseases (Cinque, F., Cespiati, A., Lombardi, R., Guaraldi, G. and Sebastiani, G., 2023. Nutritional and Lifestyle Therapy for NAFLD in People with HIV. Nutrients, 15(8), p.1990).

6. Nuts

A diet that is rich in nuts is linked to reduced inflammation, oxidative stress, insulin resistance and a lower risk of fatty liver and NAFLD.

7. Turmeric

High doses of curcumin, one of the active ingredients in turmeric helps to reduce markers of liver damage in people suffering from NAFLD. 

8. Unsaturated fat intake

It is beneficial for patients suffering from fatty liver to swap out saturated fat sources like butter, sausages, fatty cuts of meat and cured meats for unsaturated fat sources  like nut butter, fatty fish, olive oil and avocados (Meex, R.C. and Blaak, E.E., 2021. Mitochondrial dysfunction is a key pathway that links saturated fat intake to the development and progression of NAFLD. Molecular nutrition & food research, 65(1), p.1900942). 

9. Garlic

Garlic may help to reduce fat and body weight in people suffering from fatty liver disease. It leads to improved enzyme levels and reductions in liver fat.


  What are the most common symptoms of fatty liver disease?  

Some of the most common symptoms of fatty liver disease are yellow skin and eyes, dark urine, bruising, vomiting blood, swollen tummy, itchy skin and black stools.

  What are the best fruits for people with fatty liver?  

Some of the best fruits for people with fatty liver are grapes, apples and citrus fruits like lemons and oranges.


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