Fix your liver: Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is surging in the U.S.
(Naturalhealth365) According to a recently-published study in the World Journal of Hepatology, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease – or NAFLD – has reached epidemic proportions worldwide. And the disease is particularly entrenched in the United States, with researchers estimating that up to 35 percent of American adults are affected.
While mild forms of NAFLD may feature no symptoms, untreated NAFLD can progress to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, a more serious condition that causes inflammation and scarring. Even more troublingly, researchers predict that complications from liver disease will constitute the leading cause of liver transplants by 2020. However, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease can be eliminated!
Editor’s note: Click here to register today for the Fatty Liver Docu-Class and discover how to avoid liver damage and disease. This event is hosted by yours truly, Jonathan Landsman and features over 30 of the best experts on natural health and integrative medicine. Don’t miss this important event.
Liver disease trigger: The standard American diet (SAD) is worse than you can imagine
As its name implies, NAFLD is characterized by the presence of excess fat in the liver, in people who consume only moderate amounts of alcohol – or none at all. Untreated NAFLD can progress to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (or NASH), which can potentially lead to cirrhosis, liver failure and raised risk of liver cancer.
According to Donald B. Jump, PhD, a professor at Oregon State University, the standard American diet – high in sugar, fats and cholesterol – is the culprit behind the soaring rates of liver disease. It is certainly appropriate that the acronym for the standard American siet is “SAD!”
“Many people eating a common American diet are developing extensive hepatic fibrosis, or scarring of their liver, which can reduce its capacity to function, and sometimes lead to cancer,” warns Dr. Jump.
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It’s worth noting: among people who are obese, diabetic, or both, the odds of having NAFLD rise to 60 percent.
Lowering fat and cholesterol are not enough to treat NAFLD
In a recent study published in PLOS ONE, researchers fed two groups of mice a “Western” diet, high in saturated and trans fats, cholesterol and sugar. After the mice became obese and developed high blood sugar and high triglycerides, they were switched to healthier (low-fat, low-cholesterol) diets.
However, one diet was much higher in sugar than the other (35 percent sucrose as compared to 5.5 percent sucrose). The team found significantly higher levels of inflammation, oxidative stress and liver fibrosis in the higher-sugar group.
They concluded that while a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet can promote weight loss and improve liver damage from NAFLD, it can’t completely resolve the condition. On the other hand, the team reported, “a diet low in fat, simple sugar and cholesterol can reverse many of the whole body, plasma and hepatic features associated with Western diet-induced NASH (nonalcoholic steatohepatitis).”
“For more significant liver recovery, intake of sugar must come down, along with other improvements in diet and exercise,” notes Dr. Jump, one of the study’s co-authors.
Adequate levels of glutathione are central to liver health
Increasingly, research is illustrating the essential role of glutathione in preventing – and recovering from – liver disease.
A key antioxidant and protective agent, glutathione exists in every cell of the body. However, it is particularly concentrated in the liver. In fact, the concentration of glutathione is a thousand times greater in the liver than anywhere else.
Glutathione plays an essential role in detoxifying the liver from drugs, alcohol and toxins. It also fights harmful free radicals that are naturally produced by normal liver functions, such as creating ATP for energy to run the cells. Other vital functions performed by the liver include the metabolism of fats, proteins and carbohydrates, the regulation of blood sugar, the storage of vitamins and minerals and the production of bile, the digestive enzyme that breaks down fats.
In light of this, glutathione seems like a tailor-made intervention for NAFLD, and studies are supporting its effectiveness.
In a pilot trial published in BMC Gastroenterology, researchers created glutathione supplementation with decreasing fats in the liver and lowering liver enzymes in patients with NAFLD.
Boost glutathione levels naturally
Glutathione is produced naturally in the body from three amino acids: glycine, cysteine and glutamine. But a variety of factors – including normal aging, poor diet, environmental toxins, medication, alcohol, stress, injury and infections – can decrease stores of precious glutathione.
Fortunately, you can boost glutathione levels and combat NAFLD with a variety of foods and supplements. Eating foods rich in sulfur – such as garlic, onions, broccoli, kale, cabbage and Brussels sprouts – can promote the production and recycling of glutathione.
Bioactive whey protein, which is rich in cysteine, can also help replenish glutathione levels.
And don’t forget about juicing – a great way to nourish and support the liver. Juices made from beetroot and carrots are particularly beneficial, as they are both rich in a natural antioxidant pigment known as beta-carotene – a vitamin A precursor that helps to flush out toxins.
Apples – which contain a toxin-busting fiber known as pectin; kale – which is rich in chlorophyll, a natural detoxifier of heavy metals and pesticides; and ginger root – which is anti-inflammatory and strongly antioxidant – are all great ingredients that can help alleviate NAFLD.
In addition, oranges, grapefruits and lemons are high in vitamin C, which helps to make toxins water-soluble and more easily eliminated.
Supplements that promote healthy glutathione levels include N-acetyl-cysteine, alpha lipoic acid, B-complex vitamins, selenium and the antioxidant vitamins C and E. Of course, always check with your integrative doctor before supplementing.
Simply put, as the latest research illustrates, avoiding refined sugar (along with fatty, fried, and processed foods) is of paramount importance in preventing and reversing NAFLD – and supporting optimal liver health. If you have NAFLD – or would like to work on preventing it – opt for a natural sweetener, such as stevia. Your liver will thank you for it.
Editor’s note: Don’t forget to register today for the Fatty Liver Docu-Class – featuring over 30 of the world’s top experts on natural health and integrative medicine. You’ll discover how to avoid liver damage and reverse disease conditions – quickly and effectively. Click here to register now.
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