Case Study: What does a fatty liver have to do with hot flashes?
Most people assume that hot flashes in a 50 year old woman are caused by menopause. This is not always the case, as you can see in this case study.
Helen was a 50 year old school teacher who came to my clinic seeking help for several symptoms. She was approximately 40 pounds overweight and she carried most of the weight on her abdomen. She frequently suffered with indigestion and took the stomach acid blocking tablet Zantac with dinner every evening.
However, the symptom that bothered Helen the most was overheating. She was extremely sensitive to heat and would regularly burst into a sweat while at work. She could not tolerate the air conditioning; it was always too hot in the building for her, while others kept their cardigans on because they felt cold.
Helen mainly felt the excess heat in her head; her face would become red and flushed while beads of perspiration formed on her forehead and upper lip. On some occasions she sweated quite a lot, so that her hair became visibly damp. Apart from the extreme discomfort, Helen found this problem very embarrassing.
Helen naturally assumed that her hormones must be responsible for these hot flashes. She was still menstruating regularly and would probably continue to do so for a few years, since her mother and sisters all experienced a rather late menopause. Helen visited her doctor about this problem and asked for hormone blood tests. Everything came back normal and her doctor said there is nothing wrong with her hormones.
One interesting piece of information that was obtained from the blood test was mildly raised liver enzymes. Her doctor made a passing comment that she probably has a fatty liver and she should lose some weight. I agreed with that statement, but unfortunately Helen’s doctor didn’t tell her exactly how to overcome the fatty liver, nor did he explain that her liver was more than likely producing the excessive heat in her body.
Why does a dysfunctional liver cause the body to overheat?
The answer goes back to Chinese medicine which explains that when the liver is overworked or under pressure, it generates too much heat within itself. Because the liver is such a large organ this causes our whole body to overheat. The excess sweating is a reaction of the overheated body to cool body temperature and allow increased excretion of toxins through the skin. These symptoms are very unpleasant especially if you live in a hot, humid climate and the associated fatigue can be overwhelming.
Often these people find it very difficult to get a good night's sleep because they feel hot and bothered during the night, wake frequently and feel completely exhausted in the morning.
My recommendations for my patient
- Firstly I asked Helen to follow the eating plan in my book Fatty Liver: You Can Reverse It. The eating plan is lower in carbohydrate and higher in protein. In the majority of cases fatty liver is caused by eating too much carbohydrate: sugar, flour, bread, pasta, breakfast cereals, rice and potatoes, if eaten in excess will be converted into fat by the liver. Industrial seed oil rich in omega 6 fats also promotes a fatty liver, therefore I instructed Helen to avoid all vegetable oil other than extra virgin olive oil, macadamia nut oil and organic coconut oil. I asked Helen to base her diet on protein and vegetables – protein such as seafood, eggs, poultry, grass-fed meat and whey protein powder. The avoidance of dairy products and grains should put an end to her reflux and indigestion, hence there will no longer be a need to take Zantac.
- I gave Helen my liver tonic Livatone Plus. This contains the nutrients the liver needs for efficient fat burning and detoxification, plus the herb milk thistle helps to repair damaged liver cells. It should help to normalize her liver enzymes sooner than diet changes alone.
- I ordered a blood test for Helen and determined that she was vitamin D deficient. This was not surprising, as most of my patients don’t have enough vitamin D in their bloodstream unless they have an outdoor job. I gave Helen 5000 IU of vitamin D3 in capsule form.
- I recommended a fish oil supplement for Helen. The omega 3 fats in fish oil are anti-inflammatory and help to heal the liver cell membranes. I asked Helen to take 2 capsules twice daily with meals.
An overworked liver is a very common cause of excess body heat and it’s often overlooked. So the next time you think it must be your hormones, spare a thought to your liver.
The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.