Newly diagnosed with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)?
Lately, I have had a lot of clients coming to me with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Statistics show that over 25% of the global adult population suffers from NAFLD.
Many people go undiagnosed until it has progressed to cirrhosis or, in other words, scarring of the liver. There can be no signs or symptoms but some people can experience fatigue and/or pain in the upper right abdomen.
What is NAFLD?
It is basically too much fat stored in liver cells and, as the name suggests, it is in people who don't drink or drink very little alcohol. Risk factors for NAFLD can include overweight/obesity (particularly when the fat is around the abdomen), metabolic syndrome, high cholesterol and high triglycerides in the blood, type 2 diabetes, underactive thyroid, underactive pituitary gland, polycystic ovary syndrome, physical inactivity and smoking.
Unfortunately, just because you are not overweight, this does not mean you are without risk. Research shows that a typical Western diet of high saturated fat, sugar and salt can accelerate the risk of NAFLD.
What is the treatment?
The first line of treatment is usually weight loss through changing diet and also increasing physical activity. Improvement in risk factors can happen after losing between 3-5% of body weight but your doctor may want to see up to 10% decrease in your body weight.
What type of diet can help or even prevent NAFLD?
Epidemiological studies show that a diet high in whole grains, fruit, vegetables, nuts and legumes can play a preventative role. This is the Mediterranean diet and is recommended by the NHS in the UK.
The Mediterranean diet is recommended for a variety of other health issues too, like heart disease, polycystic ovary syndrome and diabetes. It can be easy to follow in the UK, as you can typically find the right food in supermarkets and restaurants. Also, it isn't expensive to follow and it doesn't require any particular culinary skills.
What should be your goals?
1. Change your eating habits to reflect the Mediterranean diet
This needs to include the right number of Kcal for your gender, age and body weight. Find out your BMR as well as your BMI. Please note, losing weight too fast can have a negative effect on your health.
2. Increase your physical activity
This not only helps with your weight goals but also your mental health goals.
3. Look at your gut health
Find out ways to improve your gut health and what works for you with your food preferences or intolerances, as well as your budget.
4. Look at ways to look after your mental health
Your health should be viewed holistically and not in isolation.
5. Get your partner and family involved
It is much easier to change your lifestyle with support from everyone in your household.
6. Find out what works for you
This needs to be a lifestyle change with new habits that will last for the rest of your life so it needs to be sustainable.