A Heavy Liver: More About Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

The liver is one of our vital organs and has multiple functions within the body. Naming a fraction of its role; it can metabolize carbohydrates, detoxify the blood, store iron, and produce bile. Mistreating the body also abuses the liver and fat accumulation can occur. 70 million adults in the United States alone suffer from the most prevalent liver disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). The worst form is nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) which can elicit a liver transplant due to cirrhosis or an increase in connective tissue that impedes the liver’s function.

Why so many cases of fatty liver?

Obesity is a common factor in most of the individuals. Excessive energy intake, especially carbohydrates and fat, can lower insulin sensitivity and raise free fatty acids in the blood that can be stored in the liver. The liver is not designed to store fat so the accumulation causes major problems. Combating NAFLD means adjusting carbohydrate and fat ratios, becoming and staying active, and losing at least 5-10% of body fat.

What can help a fatty liver?

Nutrition and exercise are the keys to reducing fatty liver, with nutrition being the main factor. When weight loss is achieved through diet alone the liver’s enzymes lower to normal levels and hepatic steatosis (fatty degeneration) is reduced. A diet of 25 kcal/kg/day consisting of lower carbohydrates (no more than 35%) can help reverse NAFLD. The carbohydrates should be whole grains, nothing processed or white, and the removal of soda and high fructose corn syrup is recommended. The Mediterranean diet is a great option because it can provide the right kind of fats and lean protein. Reducing saturated fatty acids to 10%, increasing monounsaturated fats like olive oil, and consuming 1-2 g/day of Omega-3 is suggested. Additionally, supplements and nutrients can be beneficial. Vitamin E and probiotics have been shown to reduce lipid peroxidation and reduce inflammation. Ginger and caffeine may have a role in protecting the liver, as well.

Weight loss is the objective to help a fatty liver, but sustained, controlled, and slow weight reduction is ideal. In some people, weight loss of more than 2.5 lbs/week can cause more injury to the liver. Along with a solid diet plan, moderate-vigorous exercise no less than 150 min/week can improve the liver and increase weight loss.

How can I transform a heavy or fatty liver?

Transforming your heavy liver to a fit and lighter version can be easy with goal setting and some lifestyle changes. If you have been diagnosed with a fatty liver, contact one of the doctors at Human Health Specialists who will work with our nutritionists and exercise physiologists to create a plan to regain your health. Or, contact our front office to schedule.


McCarthy EM, Rinella ME. The Role of Diet and Nutrient Composition in Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. J Acad Nutr Diet – April 2012 (Vol. 112, Issue 4, Pages 401-409, DOI: 10.1016/j.jand.2011.10.007)

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