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12 Critical Ways Fatty Liver Can Affect Your Health

Fatty liver disease affects approximately 15% of the population in India. Besides, about 70% of individuals in the country have visceral fat obesity. Fatty liver, also known as hepatic steatosis, is a condition characterized by the accumulation of excessive fat in the liver cells. It is a common liver disorder that can affect individuals of all ages and backgrounds. While a certain amount of fat in the liver is normal, an excess accumulation can lead to various complications and impact the body's overall health. (source: zee news)

Wondering, What Kind of Fatty Liver Diseases Exist?

Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD): The most common cause of fatty liver is NAFLD, which is strongly associated with unhealthy lifestyle habits such as a sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, obesity, and insulin resistance. It occurs in people who do not consume excessive amounts of alcohol.

Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: Alcohol abuse can lead to the development of alcoholic fatty liver disease. Prolonged and excessive alcohol consumption causes the liver to metabolize alcohol into fat, leading to fat accumulation and inflammation.

What Are the Effects of Fatty Liver on the Body?

  1. 1. Inflammation and Impaired Liver Function

Fatty liver can trigger inflammation in the liver, leading to liver cell damage and scarring. Inflammation can progress to more severe conditions such as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which involves liver inflammation along with liver cell damage and fibrosis.

The accumulation of fat in liver cells can impair liver function, affecting its ability to process nutrients, produce proteins, metabolize medications, and eliminate toxins from the body. Over time, this can lead to liver dysfunction and a higher risk of developing liver cirrhosis.

  1. 2. Insulin Resistance and Diabetes

Fatty liver is closely associated with insulin resistance, a condition in which the body's cells become less responsive to insulin. Insulin resistance can lead to elevated blood sugar levels, eventually causing type 2 diabetes.

  1. 3. Fatigue

Persistent fatigue is a common symptom experienced by individuals with fatty liver. It can be attributed to impaired liver function and the body's increased metabolic demands due to inflammation and fat accumulation.

  1. 4. Abdominal Discomfort and Weight Gain

Some people with fatty liver may experience dull, aching pain or discomfort in the upper right side of the abdomen. This can be due to an enlarged liver or inflammation in the liver.

Fatty liver is often associated with weight gain and obesity. The excess accumulation of fat in liver cells can contribute to overall weight gain and difficulty in losing weight.

  1. 5. Jaundice

In severe cases, fatty liver can lead to jaundice, a condition characterized by yellowing of the skin and eyes. Jaundice occurs when the liver is unable to process bilirubin, a waste product produced during the breakdown of red blood cells.

  1. 6. Elevated Liver Enzymes

Blood tests may reveal elevated levels of liver enzymes, such as alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST). These enzymes leak into the bloodstream when liver cells are damaged or inflamed.

  1. 7. Swollen Legs and Ankles

In advanced stages of fatty liver disease, fluid retention can occur, leading to swelling in the legs and ankles. This condition is known as oedema and is caused by liver dysfunction affecting the body's fluid balance.

  1. 8. Disruption of hormone regulation

Fatty liver can disturb the normal functioning of the liver, resulting in hormonal imbalances. This disruption in hormone regulation can lead to emotional instability and heightened stress responses. These imbalances can give rise to mood swings, anxiety, and depression, significantly affecting an individual's overall mental well-being.

  1. 9. Impaired cognitive function

Research has indicated a connection between fatty liver and cognitive decline, including memory impairment, reduced attention span, and difficulties with executive function. The liver plays a crucial role in maintaining brain health by regulating various chemicals and nutrients. When liver function is compromised, it can negatively impact cognitive abilities and performance.

  1. 10. Sleep problems

Fatty liver has been linked to sleep disorders like sleep apnea and insomnia. A healthy liver helps promote restorative sleep, but poor liver function can disrupt sleep patterns. This can exacerbate mental health issues such as stress, anxiety, and depression, as well as impaired cognitive function.

  1. 11. Persistent fatigue

The liver is responsible for energy production, and when its function is impaired, it can result in persistent fatigue. Individuals with fatty livers often experience ongoing tiredness, which can hinder their daily functioning. This can lead to feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, potentially manifesting as depression or anxiety.

  1. 12. Social withdrawal

The physical symptoms and emotional stress associated with fatty liver can contribute to social isolation. As a result, individuals may feel disconnected from their support networks, intensifying feelings of loneliness and worsening existing mental health conditions. Coping with the stigma and misconceptions surrounding fatty liver can also lead to withdrawing from social interactions, further impacting mental well-being.

While these are the prominent health conditions fatty liver causes, there are many myths bubbling around the fatty liver. Let’s decode them

5 Fatty Liver Myths You Should Stop Believing Immediately:

  1. 1. Fatty liver is solely caused by alcohol.

Many people mistakenly associate fatty liver solely with alcohol consumption, neglecting other risk factors that can contribute to fatty liver disease. Factors like obesity, type 2 diabetes, excessive calorie intake, and high triglyceride levels can also lead to fatty liver.

  1. 2. Fatty liver is uncommon.

Fatty liver is under-reported and often goes unnoticed, which contributes to the misconception that it is not a common condition. In reality, fatty liver is more prevalent than people realize.

  1. 3. Fatty liver disease only affects obese individuals.

Revised: While obesity is a significant risk factor for fatty liver disease, it is not the exclusive cause. Contrary to popular belief, fatty liver can also affect individuals who are not obese.

  1. 4. There is no treatment for fatty liver.

Research has shown a direct correlation between liver health and physical activity. Additionally, weight loss has proven to be effective in reducing the associated risks of fatty liver. Therefore, there are treatment options available for managing fatty liver.

  1. 5. Being physically active prevents fatty liver.

Engaging in regular physical activity is beneficial for overall health, but it does not guarantee protection against fatty liver. While physical activity can lower the risk, it is not a foolproof method for preventing fatty liver entirely.

In conclusion,

Fatty liver can have a significant impact on an individual's mental health through various mechanisms, including hormonal imbalances, cognitive decline, sleep disturbances, fatigue, and social isolation. It is essential for those experiencing fatty liver to seek medical guidance and make lifestyle changes including food, rest, and exercise to manage both the physical and psychological aspects of the condition.

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