Online Health Articles

Fast Food May Cause Cirrhosis of the Liver

[print_link]

We all know that our citizens are becoming more and more obese and with that obesity comes a variety of illnesses that start with high blood pressure, advance to Type II diabetes and eventually lead to heart attacks and strokes and even cancer.

However, the obesity epidemic is giving rise to the fastest growing and most common type of liver ailment – non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which affects 1.4 million Canadians. It is a potentially life-threatening condition that has been overlooked until very recently. The Canadian Liver Foundation is trying to raise awareness of the disease and the fact that it has absolutely nothing to do with alcohol or drugs.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is a spectrum of liver conditions that develop in people who drink little or no alcohol. It is thought to begin with an accumulation of excess fat in liver cells from fatty foods and sugars that the liver turns into fat. A person has a fatty liver when fat makes up to 5 to 10 per cent of the liver.
By itself, fatty liver does not cause liver damage. However, a liver infiltrated with fat is more likely to develop more injury, which can lead to inflammation and scarring and a more serious form of fatty liver disease called non-alcoholic steathepatitis (NASH). Although the term hepatitis is used, this is a general term for liver disease and has nothing to do with the viruses that cause Hepatitis A, B, or C.

About 10 to 20 per cent of individuals with simple fatty liver disease develop NASH and up to 20 per cent of those with NASH develop irreversible, advanced scarring called cirrhosis. Yes, this is the same cirrhosis of the liver caused by excessive alcohol consumption.
Scarred liver tissue results in blocked blood flow, making it difficult for the liver to carry out essential tasks such as detoxifying the blood, making proteins and regulating hormones. The liver is your only organ of detoxification and if it is incapacitated toxins normally eliminated through your skin, feces and urine may leach back into your blood stream. This accounts for the yellowish skin and eyes of people with liver disease.

According to the Canadian Liver Foundation. 75 per cent of obese people are at risk of developing a fatty liver. Almost one-quarter (23%) are at increased risk of developing fatty liver with inflammation.

But you do not have to be overweight to develop the condition. In the documentary Super Size Me, Morgan Spurlock’s month long McDonald’s binge led to signs of fatty liver. However, even at his heaviest, Mr.Spurlock was not considered overweight or obese. Yet his daily intake of fat and sugar exceeded what his liver could handle. You are also more likely to develop a fatty liver if you already have high blood pressure, diabetes, high blood cholesterol, or high blood triglycerides (fats). Physicians refer to this group of people with the term “metabolic syndrome” which is a short form of describing this type of patient.

Fatty liver disease affects people of all ages. Because of the large increase in child obesity, the condition affects 3% of children and up to 53 per cent of obese kids.
Fatty liver rarely causes any symptoms. It usually shows up when you have a blood test and your physician becomes concerned over elevated liver enzyme levels. Your doctor may think that you are consuming too much alcohol or taking excessive amounts of acetaminophen and will not very likely attribute your fatty liver to excessive high fat and high sugar fast foods.

If your physician is in doubt he can order an ultrasound examination of the abdomen and this will confirm the blood test results.
The good news is that if you are in the early stages and most of these cases are detected quite early, then weight control, proper diet and exercise can totally reverse the condition and bring your liver back to its normal state.

LOSE EXCESS WEIGHT
If you body mass index (BMI) is over 25, losing weight can reduce the amount of fat in your liver. Most studies of weight loss in NAFLD have demonstrated a great improvement in liver function tests. Your recommend target for weight loss is 10 per cent of your body weight over a 6 month period. Weight loss should be gradual and anything more than a kilogram (2.2 pounds) a week can actually worsen liver damage.

REDUCE FAT
A low-fat calorie reduced diet will reduce fatty deposits in your liver. Limit your intake of saturated fats and choose lean meats such as poultry breast, legumes and non-fat dairy products. Avoid commercial baked goods, snack foods, fast foods at a restaurant or food court and try to limit your purchases of prepared meals. When you break down the fat, carbohydrate and protein percentages of fast foods, fat is nearly always 50% of the total meal.

EAT GOOD CARBS
Curb your intake of deserts, drinks with high sugar content and foods that contain refined sugars. It is important to note that a package that contains zero fat may contain a large amount of sugar that your body will convert to fat within 20 minutes of consumption. Try and get most of your carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables and keep your portions of cereal, rice, potato, pasta and breads very small. Bread is one of the worst culprits, almost instantly converted to sugar then fat. So at least switch to whole grains but still reduce your intake significantly.

LOW GLYCEMIC FOODS

Most nutritional studies show that swapping fast-burning (high-glycemic) for slow-burning (low- glycemic) carbohydrates may help treat and prevent fatty liver disease. Low glycemic foods which are converted to blood sugar more slowly are whole grain breads, steel cut oats, 100% bran cereals, brown rice, sweet potatoes, pasta, apples, citrus fruit, legumes, nuts milk, yogurt and soy milk.

SUPPLEMENTS
Vitamins C and E may reduce liver damage caused by free radicals: unstable oxygen molecules that damage cell membranes. Take at least 500mg of Vitamin C and 400 units of Vitamin E per day. Also a liver cleanse consisting of a high dose of milk thistle either in liquid or capsule form will be of great benefit to your liver.
You should also change your eating habits to include good sources of Vitamins C and E which include citrus fruit, kiwi, mango, strawberries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, red pepper and tomatoes. Vitamin E is plentiful in wheat germ, nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, whole grains and kale.

ALCOHOL AND DRUGS
If you have NAFLD, especially non-alcoholic steathepatitis (NASH) you must avoid any and all alcoholic beverages to help prevent further damage. All prescription medications are harmful to your liver especially Coumadin (warfarin) and Tylenol (acetaminophen). You must talk to your doctor and try and get off of some of your medications because they all go to your liver for detoxification.

EXERCISE
I save this one for the last because I know that this is one regimen for which you seem to have the most reluctance. It is absolutely necessary that a person with fatty liver disease do moderate to high intensity exercises for 30 minutes, three to five times a week. Power walking or just walking for a long time will improve blood-sugar and blood-fat levels and subsequently reduce liver fat content.

Categories