Our liver is a dark reddish-brown, cone-shaped organ located in the abdominal cavity’s upper right portion. It sits atop our stomach, intestines, and right kidney and underneath our diaphragm. This three pound organ receives oxygenated blood from our hepatic artery and nutrient-rich blood from our hepatic portal vein; at any given moment, our liver has about 13 percent of our blood flowing through it.
Our liver’s main function is twofold: to excrete bile, a product that helps our body digest, as well as to regulate the amounts of most chemicals found in our blood. To date, however, researchers have found over 500 more essential functions our liver handles, such as: the production of cholesterol, the processing of hemoglobin, and the conversion of extra glucose into glycogen for storage.
Fatty Liver Disease is a condition caused by an accumulation of fat in the liver. It can be split into two subtypes: nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD). The latter is caused by excessive alcohol consumption, while the former can have various origins. NAFLD affects about a quarter of the world’s population, and is rising along with the rates of high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and obesity here in the United States.
Fatty Liver Disease is notoriously difficult to diagnose because it’s often asymptomatic; it’s frequently diagnosed after your doctor notices abnormal results on a liver test conducted for other reasons. Your physician may follow up with various evaluations, such as a liver biopsy, your medical history, a physical exam, or imaging and blood tests.
This may cause you to wonder if Fatty Liver Disease is reversible. The answer is a bit complex and depends on what iteration of the condition you have.
If you have AFLD, the NHS says that you may reverse damage done by cutting out alcohol, even for two weeks.
According to Johns Hopkins, NAFLD may be reversible if you don’t have any other medical complications. Making simple changes to your lifestyle may reverse the buildup of fat in your liver; alterations suggested by your physician could include:
- Avoiding alcohol
- Losing weight
- Controlling your diabetes
- Lowering your triglycerides and cholesterol
You may also develop a condition called Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH). It develops if you have fat in your liver along with liver cell damage and signs of inflammation. While between 10-20% of Americans have NAFLD, only about 2-5% have NASH. There is, unfortunately, no medication that can reverse the fat accumulation in your liver if you have NASH, but there have been cases in which the liver damage halts or even reverses on its own.
If you do have NASH, however, Hopkins says that you should control any other conditions that could make your fatty liver disease worse; this often involves lifestyle changes and other treatments, like:
- Seeing a liver specialist
- Limiting over-the-counter drugs consumed
- Losing weight
- Medication to reduce triglycerides or cholesterol
- Medication to control diabetes
- Medication to lower your blood pressure
The Ezra abdominal, torso, and full-body scans screen your liver for abnormalities and conditions such as Fatty Liver Disease. If you’re interested in learning more, you may do so here.