Fatty Liver - The Facts Explored Part 2
Many people with a fatty liver are unaware that they even have a liver problem, as the symptoms can be vague and non-specific, especially in the early stages. Indeed, in many cases, medical practitioners don’t even realise that these symptoms relate to any type of liver problem, let alone fatty liver. Most people with a fatty liver feel generally unwell, and find they are becoming increasingly fatigued and overweight for no apparent reason.
The condition of your liver has an enormous impact on your state of mind, so those with fatty liver may find themselves irritable, moody and angry. They may also experience memory disturbances and have great difficulty keeping up with life’s demands. Indeed, depression and poor sleep may be associated with a fatty liver and these things will resolve once liver function has improved.
Symptoms of fatty liver include:
• Abdominal obesity (see below)
• Syndrome X (see below)
• Unexplained weight gain and difficulty in losing weight
• Discomfort over the liver area (right upper abdominal area)
• Elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels
• Tiredness and fatigue
• Dull frontal headaches
• Body odour and bad breath
• Jaundice (yellowing of skin)
• Gallstones (comprised of cholesterol and bile salts) and gall bladder attacks
• Immune dysfunction
• Abdominal bloating and congestion
• Indigestion and intolerance of fatty foods
• Reflux and heartburn
• Fatty yellowish lumps in the skin and often around the eyes– these are called xanthelasma
• Overheating of the body
• Excessive sweating
• Itchy skin and skin rashes
• Red itchy eyes
• Depression and poor memory
Patients with a fatty liver find that their excess weight tends to accumulate in the abdominal area- they may have a “pot belly” and a roll of fat around the upper abdomen. I call this the “liver roll”. You may also have excess fat around your neck and trunk so that you have an “apple shape” or “Android body type”. This is also known as “upper level body obesity”.
Many people find that they put on weight once they hit the 40-year milestone. It can be infuriating, frustrating and perplexing – and it does not help when the doctor says “well it’s to be expected at your age!”. In spite of the same exercise routine and diet, you find yourself with the “middle aged spread”. Various euphemistic explanations are often given – ranging from menopause, stress, too much alcohol, slowing down, to poor metabolism, but that doesn’t help getting rid of it. Abdominal obesity is the predominant symptom of fatty liver, and unfortunately the usual low fat, low calorie diets won’t work to get the weight off or reverse the fatty liver.
Many patients with a fatty liver have a chemical imbalance known as Syndrome X. This is a metabolic disorder associated with abnormally high blood levels of the hormone insulin. Insulin is produced by the pancreas and its role in the body is to transport blood sugar (glucose) into the muscle and fat cells where it can be burnt for energy. In those with Syndrome X, the insulin does not work effectively because the body’s cells are resistant to it. To compensate for this, the pancreas produces more and more insulin so that abnormally high levels of insulin result. Insulin levels can be measured with a blood test.
High levels of insulin promote weight gain for 3 reasons –
• Insulin is a fat-storing hormone
• Insulin suppresses the production of fat-burning hormones in your body
• Insulin increases the appetite especially for sweets or carbohydrates as well as generally making you hungry.
High insulin levels are often associated with unstable or high blood sugar levels. You may even be pre-diabetic. Those with Syndrome X often have abnormalities in blood fat levels (cholesterol and triglycerides) and may have elevated levels of uric acid which can cause gout and kidney stones. Syndrome X significantly increases your risk of heart disease.
Stay tuned- Next newsletter we are going to find out the causes of fatty liver so you can prevent it!