The nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the accumulation of extra fat in liver cells that is not caused by alcohol. The condition progresses through several stages, the last of which can be life-threatening. Unfortunately, most people with mild NAFLD are unlikely to notice any symptoms that might alert them to the condition.
«For those who develop NASH, fibrosis and cirrhosis, it can take many years before symptoms develop,» explains the British Liver Trust (BLT).
Non-alcohol steatohepatitis (NASH) is a more severe form of NAFLD, whereby the liver becomes inflamed and fibrosis is where persistent inflammation causes scar tissue around the liver and nearby blood vessels, but the liver can still function normally.
According to the BLT, dark urine is a telltale sign that NAFLD has progressed to these later stages.
Other serious signs include:
- Yellowness of the eyes and skin (jaundice)
- bruises easily
- Swelling of the lower area of the abdomen (ascites)
- vomiting blood (hematemesis)
- Dark black tarry stools (melena)
- Periods of confusion or poor memory (encephalopathy)
- Itchy skin (pruritus).
Fortunately, you can stop the progression of NAFLD with healthy lifestyle interventions.
If you have NAFLD, you should try to eat a healthy, balanced diet.
According to Bupa, this means:
- Choose whole grain carbohydrates (such as breads, rice, and pasta) that are high in fiber.
- Avoid foods and drinks that are high in sugar.
- Eat more vegetables Y fruits
- Eat less saturated fat. Replace saturated fats with monounsaturated fats or polyunsaturated fats, especially Omega-3 fatty acids. This can help reduce your risk of heart disease that may be related to NAFLD.
- Watch your portion sizes, especially if you’re trying to lose weight.
- Regular physical activity can help you lose excess weight, but it can also have direct benefits in managing NAFLD.
As Bupa explains, exercise can also help reduce damage to your liver even if you don’t lose weight successfully.
How is NAFLD diagnosed?
The NHS explains: «NAFLD is often diagnosed after a blood test called a liver function test produces an abnormal result and other liver conditions, such as hepatitis, are ruled out.»
But blood tests don’t always detect NAFLD.
«The condition also can be detected during an ultrasound of your abdomen«explains the NHS.