What is Fatty Liver Disease? And how can naturopathy help treat it?

fatty liver blog


One of the most common liver diseases in the world is Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) – and it may affect up to 30% of the population globally!

It occurs when fat accumulates in the liver in people who do not drink alcohol to excess. It has the potential to become a serious health problem, but fortunately there are natural treatment options available, and naturopathy is one of them. In fact, this was the topic of my MSc dissertation! So you’ll have to forgive my inner nerd shining bright here today 🙂

In this blog post, we will explore what fatty liver disease is, what causes it, and how naturopathy can help treat it.

Causes of fatty liver

Fatty liver disease can affect people of all ages, and several risk factors have been identified, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol or triglycerides, high blood pressure, eating a diet high in processed foods, and having high levels of iron in the body. It is typically detected during routine medical exams (such as blood tests, CT scan, or ultrasound). Symptoms may include fatigue, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice), and dark urine.

The mildest form of fatty liver disease is called non-alcoholic fatty liver (NAFL). More severe is simple fatty liver disease (SFLD), which causes mild or no signs or symptoms, but can still cause damage to the liver if left untreated. The most serious form is non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which can lead to complications such as cirrhosis and even liver failure if left untreated. Symptoms of NASH include fatigue, pain in the upper right abdomen, loss of appetite, nausea, and jaundice, and it can progress to liver scarring (fibrosis), and potentially liver failure.

How to treat fatty liver disease

It’s important to make lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of fatty liver disease. These include maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet low in saturated fats, avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, and managing any existing medical conditions.

Naturopathic medicine is a holistic approach to healthcare that focuses on natural remedies and techniques to promote overall health and wellness. It can be used to treat a wide range of health conditions, including non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and can be an effective approach to the management of this disease, as it focuses on addressing the root causes of the condition rather than just treating the symptoms. Naturopathy can also offer a more proactive approach when it comes to how to prevent further progression of fatty liver disease.

Naturopaths may use a variety of techniques to help their patients, including herbal remedies and supplements to help support liver health and improve insulin sensitivity, and nutrition counselling. They can also provide support in terms of managing stress levels, as this is an important factor for those with fatty liver disease.

When it comes to natural treatments for fatty liver disease, there are several herbal remedies that have been studied for their potential benefit. These include milk thistle, dandelion root, burdock root, and turmeric. In addition, other dietary interventions like probiotics and omega-3 fatty acids may be beneficial in reducing inflammation associated with fatty liver disease.

The benefits of naturopathic treatment for fatty liver disease

Naturopathic nutrition, in particular, is key in the management of fatty liver disease. This nutrition-focused approach to health emphasises eating whole, unprocessed foods that are tailored to the individual’s unique needs and health goals. By focusing on health-promoting foods, naturopathic nutrition can help support liver health and reduce inflammation caused by fatty liver disease.

Naturopathy also provides a holistic approach to wellness. Instead of just treating the physical aspects of the condition, naturopathy takes into account mental and emotional health as well. Naturopathic practitioners work with their patients to identify any underlying stressors or lifestyle habits that may be contributing to the condition and then develop strategies for managing these factors.

Finally, naturopathy is a complementary medicine, meaning that it can be used alongside traditional treatments like medications. While medications can provide relief for the symptoms of fatty liver disease, they don’t always address the underlying cause. Naturopathy can help fill this gap by providing natural treatments such as herbal medicine or supplementation that can help to improve liver health and reduce inflammation.


Herbal medicine for fatty liver disease

There is  evidence to suggest that herbal remedies may be helpful in the management of fatty liver disease.

For example, research has shown that some herbs, such as milk thistle and silymarin, may have a liver-protective effect and may be helpful in reducing inflammation and improving liver function in people with fatty liver disease. Other herbs, such as curcumin and ginger, may have anti-inflammatory effects and may be helpful in reducing inflammation and improving insulin sensitivity in people with fatty liver disease.

A systematic review and meta-analysis published in the journal Phytotherapy Research in 2017 looked at the use of milk thistle for the treatment of fatty liver disease and found that it may be effective in reducing liver enzymes and improving liver function. Another review published in the Journal of Diet and Nutrition in 2017 also supported this conclusion.

It is important to note that the research base for herbal remedies in the treatment of fatty liver disease is still developing, and more research is needed to fully understand their effectiveness and safety. If you are considering using herbal remedies, it is important to speak with a qualified herbalist to determine if they are appropriate for your particular health concerns. They can help you understand the potential risks and benefits of herbal remedies and recommend the most appropriate course of action for your individual needs.

If you are concerned about your risk for developing fatty liver disease, it is important to speak with a naturopath and look into adopting a healthier lifestyle. Eating a well-balanced diet, exercising regularly, and reducing stress can help reduce this risk. In addition, naturopathic medicine can help treat and manage the condition in a holistic manner.

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