Healthy Decisions for the Love of Health

Fatty Liver and Weight Loss

             The liver is the gateway to the body and in this chemical age its detoxification systems are easily overloaded. Thousands of chemicals are added to food and over 700 have been identified in drinking water. Plants are sprayed with toxic chemicals, animals are injected with potent hormones and antibiotics and a significant amount of our food is genetically engineered, processed, refined, frozen and cooked. All this can lead to destruction of delicate vitamins and minerals, which are needed for the detoxification pathways in the liver. The liver must try to cope with every toxic chemical in our environment, as well as damaged fats that are present in processed and fried foods.

The Liver Filter
 The liver is the cleanser and filter of the blood stream and is of vital importance. It is the largest organ in the body and has an enormous amount of blood flowing through it every minute of our lives. It is between 21 - 22.5 cm in its greatest diameter, 15 - 17.5cm in its greatest height and 10 - 12.5 cm in its depth, weighing around 1200 - 1600 gms

Healthy Liver

A Normal Healthy Liver

What are the functions of the liver?
• It is responsible for the production of bile which is stored in the gallbladder and released when required for the digestion of fats.
• The liver stores glucose in the form of glycogen which is converted back to glucose again when needed for energy.
• It also plays an important role in the metabolism of protein and fats. It stores the vitamins A, D, K, B12 and folate and synthesizes blood clotting factors.
• Another important role is as a detoxifier, breaking down or transforming substances like ammonia, metabolic waste, drugs, alcohol and chemicals, so that they can be excreted. These may also be referred to as "xenobiotic" chemicals. If we examine the liver under a microscope, we will see rows of liver cells separated by spaces which act like a filter or sieve, through which the blood stream flows. The liver filter is designed to remove toxic matter such as dead cells, microorganisms, chemicals, drugs and particulate debris from the blood stream. The liver filter is called the sinusoidal system, and contains specialized cells known as Kupffer cells which ingest and breakdown toxic matter.

Liver Detox

             The liver filter can remove a wide range of microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites from the blood stream, which is highly desirable, as we certainly do not want these dangerous things building up in the blood stream and invading the deeper parts of the body. Infections with parasites often come from the contaminated water supplies found in large cities, and indeed other dangerous organisms may find their way into your gut and blood stream from these sources. This can cause chronic infections and poor health, so it is important to protect your liver from overload with these microorganisms. The safest thing to do is boil your water for at least 5 minutes, or drink only bottled water that has been filtered and sterilized. High loads of unhealthy microorganisms can also come from eating foods that are prepared in conditions of poor hygiene by persons who are carrying bacteria, viruses or parasites on their skin. Foods, especially meats that are not fresh or are preserved, also contain a higher bacterial load, which will overwork the liver filter if they are eaten regularly.

             Recently, it has become very fashionable for people to detoxify their bodies by various means, such as fasting or cleansing the bowels with fibre mixtures. Fasting can by its extreme nature, only be a temporary method of cleansing the body of waste products, and for many people causes an excessively rapid release of toxins which can cause unpleasant, acute symptoms. The liver filter, like any filter, needs to be cleansed regularly, and it is much easier and safer to do it everyday. This is easily and pleasantly achieved by adopting a daily eating pattern that maintains the liver filter in a healthy clean state. By following the methods and guidelines suggested here, you will be able to keep the liver filter healthy and clean. Although it is important to keep the intestines moving regularly and to sweep their walls with high fibre and living foods, it is important to remember that the bowels are really a channel of elimination and not a cleansing organ per se. In other words the bowels cannot cleanse, filter or remove toxic wastes from the blood stream.

It is only the liver that can purify the blood stream and we only have one liver.

Fatty Liver

What is it?
Fatty liver is also known as NASH, which stands for Non- Alcoholic Steatorrhoeic Hepatosis or Non-Alcoholic-Fatty-Liver-Disease (NAFLD) but don’t be put off by these big terms – they just mean that your liver is being invaded with fat! Fatty liver or NASH, is very common in overweight persons, over the age of 30.

It contains an excessive amount of fat and the normal healthy liver tissue is partly replaced with areas of unhealthy fats. In such a liver, the liver cells and the spaces in the liver are filled with fat so the liver becomes slightly enlarged and heavier. The liver has a yellow greasy appearance. There may be discomfort over the liver, which is situated in the right upper abdominal area. There may be gallstones composed of cholesterol and bile salts. It is often possible to see the excess fat in the liver in an ultrasound scan of the liver. There may also be elevation of the liver enzymes.

Liver dysfunction is very common and an increasing problem.

Helathy Liver

Cirrhosis Liver

Fatty Liver:
Note it is slightly enlarged and yellow in color and "shiny" or "greasy" in appearance because it is congested by fat

Severe Fatty Liver:
This is a more severe degree of fatty liver and is more often due to incorrect diet, alcohol excess or obesity

The healthy liver is much redder in colour and has a uniform texture. If we cut the liver up into tiny slices and magnify it many millions of times you will see that it is full of spaces that are red-pink colour because they are full of blood. The rows of liver cells form the walls of the spaces. As the blood flows through these spaces the liver cells remove the toxins, dead cells, micro-organisms and fat from the blood stream. Thus we call the liver the filter and cleanser of the blood stream. If the liver spaces and liver cells are full of fat, then the liver is not able to filter and cleanse the blood stream efficiently and the blood stream will become overloaded with toxins and fat. It is best to work on reversing this problem because if left unchecked poor liver function can lead to further problems such as autoimmune conditions and Diabetes type II

How do you know if you have a fatty liver?
• You will probably be overweight, especially in the abdominal area
• You will find it very hard to lose weight
• You may have elevated cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood
• You may have Syndrome X.  The characteristic disorders present in metabolic syndrome X include:

  • insulin resistance
  • hypertension
  • abnormalities of blood clotting
  • low HDL and high LDL cholesterol levels
  • high triglyceride levels

The chief abnormality present in syndrome X is insulin resistance. That is, the body's tissues do not respond normally to insulin. As a result, insulin levels become elevated in the body's attempt to overcome the resistance to insulin. The elevated insulin levels lead, directly or indirectly, to the other metabolic abnormalities seen.
• You may have diabetes type II
• You will be very tired
• You may have problems with your immune system

The consequences of a fatty liver
The healthy liver regulates fat metabolism and is the major fat-burning organ in the body. Indeed the healthy liver not only burns fat, it can pump excessive fat out of your body through the bile into the gut. Thus, if your liver is healthy you will not have much difficulty in controlling your weight. Conversely a liver which is fatty is doing the opposite of what it should be doing. A fatty liver is storing fat when it should be burning fat and removing excess fat from your body. Indeed a fatty liver becomes a warehouse for fat and if it is allowed to progress for many years, the liver may finally become just a “bag of fat” with dire consequences for your health and longevity.

How common is fatty liver?
In the USA the incidence of fatty liver is 15 to 20% of the general population and is much higher than this in obese individuals. Fatty liver is the most common cause of abnormal liver function tests in the USA. It can also occur in children.

Can you reverse a fatty liver?
Yes indeed you can. Conventional or orthodox medicine has no specific therapy or drug treatment to reverse a fatty liver. Indeed many drugs such as cholesterol lowering drugs can exert toxic effects on the liver cells.

An article in the Journal Medicine Today encouraged a gradual reduction in weight which has been shown to improve liver function and reverse liver damage. However the authors warn against very rapid weight loss from fad diets or radical surgery which may have a negative impact upon the progression of liver injury. The good news is that gradual weight reduction , with as little as a 5 to 10% loss of initial body weight over 6 months is recommended. In general the treatments discussed in the Medicine Today article were somewhat uninspiring the good news is that in reality there is much that can be done to reverse the condition of fatty liver.

So, fatty liver can be reversed but this can take some time - years in some cases. If you are overweight & find it very difficult to lose the excess weight it is important to look at all the factors relevant to your present weight & state of health.

Apart from diet and nutritional deficiencies, the most important factors are –

• Insulin resistance or Syndrome X

• Fatty Liver Syndrome
The liver contains an excessive amount of fat and the normal healthy liver tissue is partly replaced with areas of unhealthy fats.

• Toxicity
You may have a build-up of fat-soluble toxins (such as insecticides & pesticides), drug metabolites or waste products of metabolism in your fatty tissues and liver. This slows down the metabolism of the fatty parts of your body & also over-burdens your liver. This means that the liver burns fat less efficiently. Gentle and regular detoxification is very helpful when trying to lose weight. Drinking plenty of water, raw vegetable juices and other treatments as listed later on will help the detoxification process.

How long does it take to see results?
The liver has become a fat storage organ rather than a fat burning organ - so this situation must be reversed before actual weight loss can occur. Obviously this will depend on the extent of the fatty liver as to how long this will take. Also be prepared for the fact that you will more than likely hit a 'plateau' - where weight loss will stop or slow right down - this may go on for weeks or a month or two - Don't be discouraged at this time - the fat loss is occurring - but is going from within your liver so you may not see any visible fat loss from the body - stick with it! It is at this time that people will tend to give up thinking that that's it - they won't lose anymore - not true! - you must be diligent and patient - the symptoms you are experiencing have taken years to develop and cannot be reversed by a couple of weeks of "dieting" Yo Yo dieting is not advisable as the weight lost will return plus more and the metabolism will slow even more.

My Doctors said there is nothing that can be done?
Many Doctors still do not make the link between the traditional western diet and fatty liver. Many simply brush over the condition, telling patients there is nothing that can be done and that it will simply be ‘monitored’. Meanwhile the condition gets worse and worse as the functional liver tissue slowly gets replaced by fat over the years. If left unchecked, a severe inflamed fatty liver can lead to scarring of the liver tissue (cirrhosis).

Is the Doctor correct? Can nothing be done? The answer is a resounding ‘NO!”
Thankfully the liver is one of the most resilient organs in the body. It is capable of much self healing if given a chance.

My "enzymes" are raised what does this mean?
The elevated liver enzyme results indicate that there is inflammation and damage to the liver cells and their membranes. Liver enzymes are normally contained within the liver cells, and only when the cells are damaged and/or inflamed, do the enzymes leak into the blood stream. This can occur due to a fatty liver, alcohol excess, some medications such as long term antibiotics, and pain killers, oral synthetic Hormone Replacement, viral infections of the liver such as hepatitis C & B, auto-immune hepatitis, hemachromatosis, primary biliary cirrhosis, exposure to toxic chemicals such as insecticides, pesticides, organic solvents and incorrect diet.

Luckily the liver cells are very resilient and with proper diet and supplements they will repair and the enzyme levels will slowly come down over time in the case of simple fatty liver. This may take some months. It is also not uncommon for the enzyme levels to fluctuate up and down before they decrease.

What to do about fatty liver syndrome

The body needs to be provided with the correct nutrients required by the metabolic and detoxification pathways to effectively improve the liver function. This needs to be a combination of correct eating principles that should be followed generally as a way of life, the correct supplementation to give the liver/thyroid etc what it needs and nothing that it doesn't need as these 'extras' will only weigh it down even more.

• Follow your recommended body-sculpting eating plan to kick start the metabolism.
• Increase the amount of raw fruits and vegetables
• Use raw vegetable
• Avoid deep fried and processed foods

Raw Juices
Raw juices are an incredible powerful healing tool and can improve the function of the liver, bowels and kidneys. This increases the elimination of toxins and waste products from the skin.

To lose weight and improve your liver function you must avoid ALL dairy foods including milk, cheese, cream, butter, ice cream, yoghurt, chocolate etc. The fat content of milk is actually quite negligible in terms of weight loss. - dairy foods contain high levels of antibiotics, steroids and artificial growth hormones as this is what the herds are treated with in today's high tech dairies to prevent disease and boost milk production. As with humans where substances go through into breast milk it is the same for cattle - only they neglect to tell you this in the advertisements when they are telling you how great milk is.

Try some brown rice, oat or hemp milks as milk substitutes.

• Avoid ALL margarines and similar type spreads
• Avoid deep fried and fatty foods.
• Avoid sugary processed foods and drinks
• Limit chicken and turkey that is not free range as all others contains artificial growth hormones, antibiotics and steroids that increase the livers workload.
• Drink 2 liters of water each day.
• Avoid artificial sweeteners see

Healthy Sweetener Use Guide

Sweeteners to avoid:
Sucralose (Splenda)
Acesulfame-K (Sunette, Sweet & Safe, Sweet One)

Sweeteners to Use:
Stevia *
Yacon Syrup
Barley Malt
Evaporated Cane Juice
Fruit Juice
Rice Syrup
Fructooligosaccharides (FOS) *
* Safe for Diabetics

Recommended supplement program for fatty liver

• Liver tonics
Essential should be a specific and heavy duty liver tonic, one which contains a high dose of the herb Milk Thistle with a high standardised concentration of the active ingredient Silymarin. This heavy duty liver tonic would also contain additional supporting nutrients such as other herbs, amino acids, vitamins and minerals and vegetable extracts to improve the liver's ability to detoxify and burn fat. New Roots product called LIVER meets this criteria.

This tonic could be combined with a general liver tonic that contains all the vital ingredients to enhance liver function. A good, all-purpose comprehensive herbal liver tonic consists of specific herbs and amino acids which will improve elimination and the reduction of waste via a cleansing effect on the bowel.

• Fibre
Increased consumption of fibre will speed up the passage of toxins out of the bowels and reduce the ability of these toxins to recirculate back to the liver. It will also assist the action of pumping fats and cholesterol out through the bowel actions. You can ensure you are getting enough fibre by taking a soluble fibre supplement. A good fibre product may contain rice bran, vegetable powders, whole hemp seed powder, or psylium. Slippery elm and peppermint will gently alleviate any constipation symptoms while improving bowel tone and function. It can be added to hemp, rice or oat milk, and fruit smoothies, or added in with the favourite breakfast cereal. Start on a small dose and gradually increase the amount. It is also important to drink at least 8 glasses of purified water everyday and some people will need to drink up to 12 glasses daily. Water should be consumed gradually throughout the day, in-between meals.

• Selenium
Selenium is a powerful antioxidant mineral that works synergistically to assist in protection against further damage to liver cells. A good selenium product should be combined with other antioxidant nutrients; this may help to protect the liver from damage. It may be helpful for those with viral infections of the liver or autoimmune diseases of the liver as well as fatty liver. You would need to consume at least 200 mcg daily.

• MSM with Vitamin C
MSM (Methyl-Sulphonyl-Methane) is an organic form of sulphur, which may assist in softening and preventing further scar tissue. Sulphur is a vital component of healthy bile and is needed to produce the powerful antioxidant called glutathione. Vitamin C will neutralize free radicals generated during the phase 1 detoxification pathway in the liver and reduce toxic damage and chemical overload. Toxic chemicals are far less dangerous if there is plenty of vitamin C in the liver. It also helps the liver to regulate cholesterol levels and improves immunity

Amino Acids
Threonine may prevent fat from accumulating in the liver. A fatty liver can affect liver function and is associated with diseases of the liver such as cirrhosis.

Absorption of vital nutrients & active ingredients is superior from powders, as compared to compressed tablets which often pass through the gut without being dissolved or absorbed. Start slow with the supplements at only a 1/4 of the dose and build up to the full dose recommended, over 2-3 weeks.

Other supplements that may be of assistance:

• Weight loss or blood sugar supplement
A specific combination of herbs such as gymnema and bitter melon, combined with minerals such as chromium, zinc, selenium and lipoic acid, may help to stabilize blood sugar and insulin levels; thereby reducing hunger and cravings. Try and use a supplement that contains ingredients at therapeutic doses and does not contain any caffeine. We recommend you avoid thermogenics based on caffeine, as this will aggravate unstable blood sugar levels and fatigue.

• Protein Powder
The most effective is a quality whey protein isolate.  Consuming a powdered protein isolate is a low fat and low carbohydrate alternative that is easily digestable and will provide you with instant energy. It may be added to breakfast cereals, used to make 'smoothies' or mixed with water or non dairy milks such as hemp, almond, oat or coconut. A good protein isolate can be sweetened with the natural herbal sweetener 'Stevia' and may be enjoyed at any time of the day giving an invaluable alternative to a high carbohydrate snack or meal.

Raw juices are an incredible powerful healing tool and can improve the function of the liver, bowels and kidneys. This increases the elimination of toxins and waste products from the skin. The fresh raw vegetable juices are vitally important. It is good to use both whole fruits and vegetables in the diet as well as the juices as the juices provide an easily absorbable form of nutraceuticals that are very beneficial for the liver.

Juices made freshly from raw fruits and or vegetables have unique healing & rejuvenating properties. For those who feel they need an extra boost there is nothing better than having a raw juice everyday. It will brighten up the day by providing extra energy & endurance. Juices are unique because they allow the gut to receive very concentrated amounts of phyto-nutrients that could not be obtained by eating a normal amount of raw vegetables & fruits.

Juices are high in --- Vitamin C, bioflavonoids, carotenoids, living plant enzymes to aid digestion & vitamin K in green leafy vegetables .

Letters, Questions and Answers

Dear Dr C,
My son who is 18 years old has a fatty liver and is 30 kilograms overweight. We have a family history of type 11 diabetes and I am worried that he is heading in that direction. He craves sweet foods like biscuits, ice-cream, cakes and candies. He seems to be always hungry and tired. I had no idea that he could have a fatty liver at this young age but the doctor found it on an ultrasound scan. The doctor also surprised me when he told us that he sees fatty livers in children as young as 10 to 12 years of age! There were streaks of fatty infiltration through his liver, which the doctor pointed out to us on the ultrasound scan. His liver enzymes were slightly raised. The doctor told us that he must lose weight and start to exercise, but it is very difficult because he is always tired and hungry. What do you suggest?
Thank you

Answer from Dr C:
Your son has the condition called “NASH”, which stands for “Non-Alcoholic- Steatorrhoeic Hepatosis”. Due to modern day diet and lifestyle factors this condition has become very common. I often say it is because the “food keep getting faster and faster, and we keep getting slower and slower”

It is true that your son must lose weight and start to exercise, but special techniques are required to achieve this easily.

They are –
Improve the liver’s ability to burn fat
Find out His Metabolic Bio Type and follow the Six week body makeover program to kick start his metabolism.
Avoid all fatty foods such as deep fried foods, processed meats.
Avoid refined sugars as found in cakes & biscuits.
Take raw vegetable juices every day
Take a strong liver tonic, a fiber supplement and MSM with Vitamin C at recommended doses everyday.

By improving his liver function and stabilizing blood sugar he will have the energy to exercise. In those with a fatty liver, there is often excessive and constant hunger because of high blood sugar levels, which cause high blood insulin levels. High levels of insulin make you feel hungry. Thus we need to reduce his levels of blood sugar and insulin.

To do this he needs to do the following:
Ensure that he eats first class protein with every meal (3 times daily) – such as lean red meat, free range chicken, eggs, seafood, or legumes. See your six week body makeover sheets.

Make sure that this is combined with cooked vegetables and raw vegetable salad. Dressings may consist of cold pressed oils, balsamic vinegar or citrus juices. It is best to minimize the ingestion of carbohydrates especially those containing refined flour and sugar such as many breads and breakfast cereals. Take a good quality protein powder in water as a snack or breakfast accompaniment.

Take a supplement that may contain the herbs Gymnema Sylvestre and Bitter Melon combined with chromium picolinate, lipoic acid, carnitine fumarate, selenomethionine, magnesium aspartate, manganese, zinc and vitamin E to lower blood sugar and insulin levels thereby reducing excessive hunger and increasing energy levels.

These strategies will make it much easier for him to lose weight, as his hunger will be greatly reduced. If he becomes hungry offer him protein, vegetables and salad.

Unless specific strategies to improve the liver function and reduce blood sugar and insulin levels are followed, his chances of success are not high. Try to get him involved in enjoyable sports such as walking, rowing, golf or swimming.


Copyright © 2005 HealthSmart Nutrition. All rights reserved.
Revised: October 07, 2006

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