Healthy diet for a healthy liver

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A nutritious diet coupled with exercise can help prevent fatty liver disease. Fatty liver disease has become a menace for people suffering from metabolic syndrome (pre-diabetic) and obesity. As opposed to what is considered common knowledge, drinking alcohol is not the only reason for the condition.

What is a fatty liver?
Fatty liver is a reversible condition where fat accumulates in liver cells. The type of fatty liver associated with obesity is called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

Reasons for a fatty liver
NAFLD is observed mainly in developed countries. The reasons include a sedentary lifestyle, high calories and fat intake, which lead to high prevalence of obesity, insulin resistance and diabetes.

Correlation between the disease and obesity
Individuals who are overweight are more prone to developing diabetes. People who have diabetes or pre-diabetes (when blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not in diabetic range) are more likely to have a fatty liver disease. A simple fatty liver does not require treatment, since it does not result in damage to liver cells. Obese patients with a fatty liver can reduce excess fat in liver cells and other cells in the body, through weight-loss.

Signs and symptoms of NAFLD
Symptoms depend on the stage of the condition. During the early or middle stages, patients typically have no symptoms directly related to liver disease. In its advanced stages, patients may experience fatigue, fluid retention in the abdomen or legs, varices (bleeding from veins in the esophagus), or other internal bleeding.

Treatment for a fatty liver
The single most effective treatment for obese people with NAFLD is to lose weight through diet and exercise. Losing extra kilos is the key to treating the condition.

Include the following food in your diet
Fibre: Have wheat, ragi, barley or breakfast cereals such as oats, wheat flakes or wheat bran.
Dairy products: Replace whole milk with skimmed milk and low-fat milk.
Protein: Go for food products which are rich in proteins like egg whites, white meat (chicken, fish), and sprouts. Have nuts such as almonds and walnuts.
Fibrous fruits and vegetables: These include apples, oranges, sweetlime, pomegranate, guava, pear, broccoli and radish.

The following steps can also be taken in order to prevent the condition:
Always opt for gradual weight-loss, and focus on maintaining it.
Your diet should be low in saturated fats and high on fibre.
Exercise at least four times a week. Include what you might enjoy doing —such as walking, swimming or gardening. Avoid alcohol.

Avoid including the following in your diet:
Food products with high glycemic index, like white bread, white rice, bananas, grapes, mangoes, yams and potatoes.
Food which is rich in fat, like butter, ghee or margarine, can prove harmful.
Don’t include products which are high on cholesterol like red meat, shrimps, prawns and cheese, in your diet.
Junk food: Avoid carbonated drinks and fast food like burgers or pizzas.

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