Friday, May 3, 2013

The Liver Disease Affecting 1/3 of American Adults

Over the past ten years of my practice I have observed a rapidly increasing number of patients with elevated liver enzymes. On investigation, the majority of them suffer from nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.  Alcoholic fatty liver disease has been the major cause of cirrhosis of the liver until recently.  Now roughly one in three Americans suffers from the stealth condition known as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease or NAFLD.

Most of those with fatty liver disease don't know they have it.  NAFLD may go undetected for years, and may progress to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), liver inflammation and scarring (cirrhosis) or full-blown liver failure.

Cause of NAFLD
NAFLD is linked to obesity, metabolic syndrome, pre-diabetes and diabetes.  It is related to poor dietary choices, but genetic factors can also play a role in NAFLD’s progress.  High fructose corn syrup is implicated in the dramatic rise in NAFLD.  But the Standard American Diet (SAD) of high sugar, high flour (processed grains) and high fat diet is the biggest culprit.

Diagnosis of NAFLD
The early stages of NAFLD are without signs or symptoms.  As it progresses there may be no physical symptoms, or there may be a vague feeling of discomfort in the right upper part of the abdomen, which many people mistakenly cosider to be a gallbladder problem.  As the problem gets worse there may be elevated liver enzymes.  On this finding many doctors will do a liver ultrasound, but until it progresses the ultrasound may be normal.  The gold standard of diagnosis is a liver biopsy. 

If a person has elevated liver enzymes, does not drink a lot of alcohol or use a lot of tylenol, and has not had viral hepatitis, more likely than not they are suffering from NAFLD.

Treatment of NAFLD
Medical science has proven relatively helpless at preventing or treating NAFLD and NASH, leaving millions of Americans vulnerable to their effects. The only medication shown to help somewhat is the diabetic medication Metformin.

However, when a person goes on a healthy diet such as my Sugar Stabilization Program (which can be accessed in earlier blogs or downloading my free e-book on diabetes on, lose weight, exercise, and stay away from alcohol and tylenol, the level of fat in the liver can decrease.

I add for my patients Dr. Christopher's Liver-Gallbladder Formula (I use the Western Botanicals brand), 2 capsules twice a day until liver enzymes come down, then 2 capsules per day. I also add SpringTree Glucose Balance, 2 with each meal, to balance the insulin.  Insulin increases sugar conversion to fat.  I will recommend SpringTree SuperMulti Plus for the high levels of mixed tocopherols (Vitamin E) and antioxidants, and recommend 3-4,000 mg of high quality fish oil per day to lower triglycerides.  I may also recommend L-carnitine 500-1,000 mg for better fat utilization in the cells.

In every instance, if the patient is consistant with this regimen, the liver enzymes will decrease and go back into the normal range, which is proof of improvement.  This will guarantee that the problem will not progress to cirrhosis and death.

Prevention of NAFLD
Prevention is through diet:  reducing sugar, flour, high sugar drinks (including large amounts of fruit juice) and processed food intake, avoiding high fructose corn syrup, changing to healthy fats (olive oil, coconut oil, grape seed oil, walnut oil, etc.).

Exercise changes how much insulin is produced and how the body utilizes fat. 

A recent study has shown that Vitamin E prevents NASH in mice with a genetic propensity to NAFLD.  SpringTree SuperMulti Plus has 800 mg of mixed tocopherols.

If you find that you have metabolic syndrome, pre-diabetes or diabetes, follow the Sugar Stabilization Program.

Ask your doctor to check your liver enzymes, your Hemoglobin A1C, and your triglyceride levels.  If any of them are elevated, you either have or are at risk of having NAFLD. 

Until we meet again,
Dr. Judi

1 comment:

Dr. Judi said...

Exciting news: recent study shows the improvement in fatty liver disease and triglyceride levels from taking resveratrol.