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Liver disease: NHS Doctor talks about link with alcohol
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Fatty liver disease is a common condition caused by having too much fat build up in your liver. When this fatty build-up is caused by drinking too much alcohol, it is called alcoholic fatty liver disease. Your liver is an essential organ which provides a host of important functions, such as producing bile, which helps with digestion. When fat accumulation interferes with this function, it can show up in your poo.
According to the Carr Lab, part of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine, coumadin and blood platelets stools “might be dark, bloody, black, or tarry”.
This can indicate the liver function is worsening, warns the health body.
Early symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain and tenderness
- Loss of energy, fatigue
- Poor appetite and weight loss
- Small, red spider-like blood vessels on the skin.
How is fatty liver disease diagnosed?
Fatty liver disease 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, explains the NHS.
But blood tests do not always pick up fatty liver disease.
As the NHS points out, the condition may also be spotted during an ultrasound scan of your tummy.
This is a type of scan where sound waves are used to create an image of the inside of your body.
Am I at risk?
Although alcohol consumption is the main driver of fatty liver disease, experts don’t know exactly why some people accumulate fat in the liver while others do not.
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Similarly, there is limited understanding of why some fatty livers develop inflammation that progresses to cirrhosis.
Cirrhosis is scarring (fibrosis) of the liver caused by long-term liver damage.
According to the British Liver Trust (BLT), people are more likely to develop fatty liver disease if they have:
- An unhealthy diet
- A weight in the overweight or obese range
- High blood lipids
- Type 2 diabetes
- An underactive thyroid
- Insulin resistance for example Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.
Although most cases of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease are linked to excess weight, you can develop the disease if you are a healthy weight.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease relates to the accumulation of fat in the liver that’s not related to alcohol consumption.
“In a small number of people NAFLD can be caused by other things including rare genetic conditions, prolonged fasting, rapid weight loss due to malnutrition, starvation, or surgery for obesity (bariatric surgery), some drug treatments, or intravenous feeding (parenteral nutrition),” explains BLT.
A wide range of diseases and conditions can also increase your risk of fatty build-up in the liver.
According to the Mayo Clinic, these include:
- High cholesterol
- High levels of triglycerides in the blood
- Metabolic syndrome
- Obesity, particularly when fat is concentrated in the abdomen
- Type 2 diabetes.
How to reduce your risk
Fatty liver disease is a largely preventable condition if you commit to a healthy lifestyle.
According to the Mayo Clinic, choosing a healthy diet is a first-line defence.
“Choose a healthy plant-based diet that’s rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats,” advises the health body.
It also recommends:
- Maintain a healthy weight. If you are overweight or obese, reduce the number of calories you eat each day and get more exercise. If you have a healthy weight, work to maintain it by choosing a healthy diet and exercising
- Exercise. Exercise most days of the week. Get an OK from your doctor first if you haven’t been exercising regularly.
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