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The Dangers of Fatty Liver and How to Heal It

Fatty liver is a dangerous yet misunderstood disease. In America, it affects 90 million of us and 17% of our children.

Think about foie gras, the French delicacy made from duck or goose liver. It is made by force-feeding the animals a combination of sugars from corn and starch (a sad and horrible practice), intentionally creating a fatty liver.

Humans are no different, and if you yourself gorging on sugar and starch, you’re essentially doing the same thing with your own liver. Fatty liver literally means your liver fills with fat, paving the path for chronic disease and inflammation.

You might be surprised to learn that fat consumption is not the primary culprit here. Rather, research shows that carbohydrates produce more fat in your belly and liver that dietary fat consumption.

Sugar switches on fat production in your liver, creating an internal process called lipogenesis, which is your body’s normal response to sugar.

Research further shows that fructose is the most detrimental sugar, heading directly to your liver and ramping up lipogenesis. This explains why sugar, especially fructose, becomes the chief cause of liver disease and the leading cause of liver transplants.

What’s so bad about having a fatty liver? Its numerous repercussions include inflammation, which triggers insulin resistance and pre-diabetes, meaning your body deposits fat in your liver and organs including your belly (called visceral fat).

It gets worse. Excess sugar and starch creates more serious problems including high triglycerides, low HDL (“good” cholesterol), and high amounts of small LDL (dangerous cholesterol particles that cause heart attacks). Fatty liver also increases your heart attack risk.

Sadly, most people have no idea they have a fatty liver. Today we’re even seeing children often as young as 12 years old with fatty liver who require liver transplants. In most instances this is the result of years of elevated consumption of soda and believe it or not fruit juice. Fructose, the primary sweetener in sodas and a natural occurring sugar in fruit, is a key player in the ever-increasing rates of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

We’re feeding children excessive quantities of fructose and other highly toxic substances, setting the dismal stage for liver transplants, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and abnormal cholesterol. Doctors then prescribe numerous medications in an effort to counter these and other issues. Overall, it becomes a bleak picture.

As mentioned earlier sugar, not fat, creates fatty liver. Here’s where it gets interesting: Dietary fat actually turns off the fat production factory in your liver.

You see, unlike carbohydrates and protein, dietary fat does not trigger your pancreas to secrete insulin or stress out your liver. Your body prefers to burn rather than store dietary fat, unless you combine it with carbs. When you eat the right fats, you increase your metabolism, stimulate fat burning and decrease hunger.

One of our favorite fats is medium-chain triglycerides or MCTs, either through consumption of coconut oil with food including fresh organic vegetables, or a stand-alone oil such as Bulletproof Brain Octane MCT Oil.

Preventing and Reversing Fatty Liver

To prevent or reverse fatty liver, you’ll want to start by cutting out processed carbs and increasing your intake of healthy fats, especially saturated – yes, saturated – fats from foods like coconut and grass-fed beef.

We realize this might sound confusing and counter intuitive, after all, our government tells us to limit saturated fats to 7 to 10 percent of our calories even with the updated dietary guidelines (which science doesn’t support, by the way but trade groups have money and money can sway science and buy political influence). We’ve demonized saturated fat for so long that we’ve missed the true culprit: SUGAR.

While newer guidelines warn us to limit sugar intake, unfortunately, they don’t go far enough. These guidelines should be fine-tuned to include whole grains, which also break down into sugar in your body. According to current guidelines, you’re still encouraged to get one-quarter of your calories from sugar to be healthy. Crazy, right?

In Dr. Mark Hyman’s book, Eat Fat, Get Thin, he discuss how fat can benefit your liver and many other dietary fat issues. The take-home message here is that healthy saturated fats lower inflammation when you eat them as part of a low-carb, high-fiber, omega 3 fatty acid-rich diet.

So how do you know if you have a fatty liver? If you eat lots of carbohydrates including sugar and flour, have a little bit of belly fat, or if you crave carbs and experience blood sugar swings, you probably have a fatty liver. To heal that fatty liver and avoid its vast detrimental repercussions, you want to get to the root of those problems.

Blood tests and an ultrasound can both detect fatty liver. If your blood test comes back abnormal, you must take it seriously. Even if your test comes back normal, don’t think you’re off the hook. A liver function test doesn’t always detect a fatty liver. An ultrasound is more sensitive and a more effective testing method.

Fortunately, you can employ some simple but powerfully effective strategies to reverse or prevent fatty liver. I’ve found these diet, exercise and supplement strategies greatly benefit my patients.

  1. Eliminate all high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Even when it comes in so-called healthy foods like fruit juices and salad dressings (stick to whole fruits that contain the fiber which not only slows absorption and reduces blood sugar spikes, but also feeds the healthy gut bacteria). To put things into perspective, one serving of commercially made tomato sauce can have more fructose than a serving of Oreo cookies! Ketchup is just as bad!
  2. Get rid of white, processed flour and eliminate or greatly reduce starch. Even whole grain flours can be a problem. They increase your blood sugar levels, stressing your liver and resulting in high triglycerides, which promotes a fatty liver.
  3. Add healthy fats. Functional Medicine has a simple concept: To heal the body, you remove the bad stuff and add in the good stuff. Incorporate anti-inflammatory, liver-healing foods like low-sugar fruit (berries including strawberries and blueberries are examples), non-starchy vegetables, nuts, seeds, lean animal protein like chicken and fish and good, healthy fats like olive oil, macadamia nut oil, avocados, coconut oil, grass-fed butter and fish oil. A great way to combat sugar damage is to eat plenty of these healthy fats. You can get a powerful 21-day plan to easily incorporate healthy fats in Eat Fat, Get Thin.
  4. Improve your metabolism through exercise. Daily exercise and increased movement throughout the day improves insulin sensitivity and reduces fatty liver. Start out with something simple like walking 30 minutes. More seasoned exercisers might incorporate high-intensity interval training HITT (or burst training) and resistance training (weight lifting).
  5. Supplement intelligently. The right supplements can help bring your body back into balance while it heals. Herbs like milk thistle are great for supporting the liver. I also use nutrients like lipoic acid and N-acetyl-cysteine, which make powerful antioxidants to heal and rejuvenate your liver while increasing the powerful antioxidant glutathione. Other liver-healing nutrients include B vitamins and magnesium. You can find these and other quality supplements in our store.
  6. Eat detoxifying, liver-repairing super foods. Regularly eat foods from the cruciferous family – like broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, as well as leafy veggies like kale, collards, cabbage, arugula, and watercress. At least a cup or two every day can help repair and heal the liver. Garlic and onions are amazing sulfur-rich foods that help detox the body. You’ll find amazing recipes and more ways to incorporate these amazing foods in The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet.
  7. Power up with protein. Protein at every meal, especially breakfast, becomes key to balancing blood sugar and insulin, cutting cravings and providing your liver the raw materials it needs to detoxify optimally. Start the day with farm fresh eggs or a protein shake. Include nuts, seeds, eggs, fish, chicken or grass-fed meat for protein at every meal. A serving size is four to six ounces, or about the size of your palm.

You need a healthy liver to combat toxic junk and chemicals in your environment. A healthy liver means your body stays healthy, you don’t get sick and you maintain plenty of energy.

You need a healthy liver to combat toxic junk and chemicals in your environment. A healthy liver means your body stays healthy, you don’t get sick and you maintain plenty of energy.

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