The Causes

Fatty liver may develop as a result of incorrect diet (by far the most common cause) such as those:

  • High in refined carbohydrates
  • High in unhealthy fats such as deep fried foods, chips, preserved meats and hydrogenated vegetable oils containing trans-fatty acids
  • Low in unprocessed plant food such as fruits and vegetables and legumes
  • Low in anti-oxidants especially vitamin C and selenium
  • Low in good quality protein

Liver damage from prescribed medications such as some anti-inflammatory drugs, immuno-suppressants, analgesics, and cholesterol lowering drugs. Drugs that may cause or contribute to fatty liver include – Amiodarone, Perhexiline, Paracetamol, calcium channel blockers (eg. diltiazem and nifedipine), methotrexate, chloroquine, hycanthone, synthetic oestrogens, glitazone drugs used in diabetics, and Tamoxifen. This list is not exhaustive and some people can have very severe unusual reactions to drugs that other people do not have; these are called idiosyncratic drug reactions. Always check with your doctor if you are taking long term medications, to find out if they have potential toxic effects on your liver. If they do, make sure that you have a regular liver function test, and if any damage shows up, ask your doctor to change your medications to a more liver-friendly type.

Liver damage from recreational drugs such as alcohol, narcotics, and amphetamines etc, especially as huge doses of these substances may be used in addicted persons.

Liver damage from exposure to environmental toxins such as solvents, dyes, plastics, glues, insecticides, pesticides, dry cleaning fluids, harsh detergents and many industrial chemicals. Many of these toxins find their way into our waterways and food chain, so this further increases the workload of the liver. Those in the following occupations are more at risk of chemical-induced fatty liver damage – dry cleaners, agricultural workers, plumbers, painters, printers, mechanics, hairdressers, nail technicians and factory workers in some industries.

Family history of fatty liver or cryptogenic cirrhosis increases your risk of developing a fatty liver.

Being overweight and/or diabetic increases your risk of fatty liver, and fatty liver is present in 57-74% of obese individuals. Fatty liver is found in 95% of patients undergoing surgery for morbid obesity. This association can be compared to the “chicken and the egg” relationship. In other words, what comes first? In the majority of cases the fatty liver leads to being overweight in the first place and then the excess weight makes the fatty liver progress to a more severe degree. This is why it’s so hard for overweight persons with a fatty liver to lose weight, unless they first improve their liver function.

Rapid weight loss – such as in those with eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia. It is important to avoid very rapid weight loss if you have a fatty liver and that is why fasting or extreme fad diets are dangerous in such cases.

Gastric bypass surgery for the treatment of morbid obesity can cause fatty liver.

Lack of exercise will make you insulin resistant, especially if you have a high carbohydrate diet

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