What is Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)? It is defined as the build up of extra fat in the liver that is not caused by alcohol. As it progresses, it can develop into liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.
It is the most common liver disease in the Western Population with an estimated prevalence rate of 20-46%!
The reason I am writing about NAFLD today is because of the information and research that was presented at a recent conference I attended by the American Academy of Environmental Medicine in San Diego, CA.
I see so many people in my clinical practice coming in with elevated liver enzyme levels. When they are sent for an Ultrasound, the results usually come back normal. So historically I have accepted this as being “normal liver function”. I attended a very interesting lecture by Dr. Lyn Patrick ND. She discussed the reference ranges used by liver doctors for elevated liver enzyme function as being >30 IU/L for males and >19 IU/L for women as being abnormal. Standard labs usually flag ALT levels >30 IU/L as abnormal for both men and women.
Many of my patients have ALT levels above these numbers. So I wanted to discuss taking a proactive role in supporting the liver when one has elevated ALT levels (using the initial ref ranges above). I am a Naturopathic Doctor and the foundation of my practice is preventative medicine. The liver is an organ we focus on when working to improve a patient’s overall health. The liver is a foundation to a healthy body. So it only makes sense to start thinking about protecting our liver when liver enzyme levels are elevated. If you have elevated liver enzymes and some of the following conditions I have listed, you may be at a risk for developing NAFLD later in life. I suggest doing something about it NOW when you can prevent liver damage.
Possible risk factors / signs include:
- Being chemically sensitive to scents like perfumes
- Becoming intolerant or sensitive to caffeine
- Becoming sensitive to alcohol
- Developing liver spots
- Diagnosed insulin resistance
- Obesity especially visceral or belly fat
- Having type 2 diabetes
- Diagnosed PCOS
- Having a history of IBS or IBD
- Diagnosed hypothyroid
- Sleep apnea
There are some basic diet and lifestyle changes you can make if you have elevated liver enzymes with no identified underlying cause. These changes can dramatically improve your liver health.
- Weight loss: a loss of about 10% of your body weight (if you are over weight) can dramatically reduce your risk of developing NAFLD and reduce mortality if you do have a fatty liver.
- Reduce oxidative stress and increase antioxidants. This can be in the form of organic fruits and vegetables or supplements.
- Test your RBC glutathione levels, especially if you have type 2 diabetes. If you have elevated oxidized Glutathione from blood tests, this indicates increased hydroxyl free radicals and damage to liver. Add antioxidants to your diet and supplement regime.
Key to treatment of NAFLD is antioxidants to quench free radical treatment to liver. And support Mitochondrial function. Give methionine. Support methylation.
Start with your diet!!! Treat insulin resistance (avoid sugars), eat lots of green leafy veggies, you should eat organic and GMO free, treat the microbiome (start with probiotic and avoid Roundup), eat healthy fats, and treat constipation.
Avoid farmed salmon high in PCB, High fructose corn syrup, a high fat diet, and avoid glyphosate which will cause leaky gut.
Supplements helpful in supporting the liver include Momardica, curcumin, milk thistle, NAC, Glutathione, and Alpha lipoic acid.
I also recommend cleaning up your toxic environment!!!!!!!!!! Avoid obvious toxic sources such as alcohol, smoking, processed foods, avoid pesticides.
Treatments to consider include Sauna therapy, sweating. Heavy metal elimination and IV therapy may be beneficial.
Treat the gut, heal the lining of the gut to reduce toxin load going to the liver. If you have been diagnosed with IBS or IBD or SIBO and have elevated liver enzymes, start supporting your liver. Prevent potential NAFLD before it progresses.
It is important to remember elevated liver enzymes does not mean you have NAFLD. I am only suggesting you consider adding some treatment strategies to support liver health, especially if you have risk factors such as the ones I mentioned above.
This is the practice of preventative medicine.
Yours in health,
Dr Tasreen Alibhai, ND