Fatty liver is a dangerous yet misunderstood disease. In America, it affects 90 million of us and 17 percent of our children.
Think about foie gras, the French delicacy made from duck or goose liver. It is made by force-feeding the animals a combination of sugar with corn and starch, intentionally creating a fatty liver.
So if you’re overdoing it on sugar and starch, you’re essentially doing the same thing with your own liver. Fatty liver literally means your liver fills with fat, paving the path for chronic disease and inflammation.
You might be surprised to learn the primary culprit here. Research shows that carbs (and not fat) produce more fat in your belly and liver. Sugar switches on fat production in your liver, creating an internal process called lipogenesis, which is your body’s normal response to sugar. Fructose, the most detrimental sugar that heads directly to your liver, actually ramps up lipogenesis. That explains why sugar, especially fructose, becomes the chief cause of liver disease.
What’s so bad about having a fatty liver? Well, among its numerous repercussions include inflammation, which triggers insulin resistance and pre-diabetes, your body deposits fat in your liver and organs including your belly. Excess sugar and starch creates more serious problems including high triglycerides, low HDL (“good” cholesterol), and high amounts of small LDL (dangerous cholesterol particles that cause heart attacks) which also increases your risk of heart attack.
So remember, it is sugar, not fat, that creates a fatty liver. What’s interesting is: Dietary fat actually turns off the fat production factory in your liver.
Unlike carbohydrates, dietary fat does not trigger your pancreas to secrete insulin or stress out your liver. Your body prefers to burn rather than store dietary fat, unless you combine it with carbs. When you eat the right fats, you increase your metabolism, stimulate fat burning and decrease hunger.
To prevent or reverse fatty liver, you’ll want to cut out carbs and increase healthy fat intake, especially saturated – yes, saturated – fats from healthy foods like coconut and grass-fed beef and butter.
I realize all of this might sound confusing or conflicting. After all, our government tells us to limit saturated fats to 7 to 10 percent of our calories even with the updated dietary guidelines (which science doesn’t support, by the way). We’ve demonized saturated fat for so long that we’ve missed the true culprit: SUGAR.
Thankfully, newer guidelines tell us to limit sugar intake, however, they don’t go far enough. These guidelines should be fine-tuned to include whole grains, which also break down into sugar in your body. According to current guidelines, you’re still supposed to get one-quarter of your calories from sugar to be healthy. Crazy, right?
Fortunately, you can employ some simple but powerfully effective strategies to reverse or prevent fatty liver. These diet strategies can greatly improve your health and your fatty liver:
- Eliminate all high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Even when it comes in so-called healthy foods like salad dressings, don’t eat it. To put things into perspective, one serving of commercially made tomato sauce can have more fructose than a serving of Oreo sandwich cookies! Soda, juices and Gatorade like beverages are the highest containing amounts of HFCS.
- Get rid of white, processed flour and eliminate or greatly reduce all starch. Even whole grain flours can be a problem. They increase your blood sugar levels, stressing your liver and resulting in high triglycerides, which promotes a fatty liver.
- Add healthy fats like olive oil, macadamia nut oil, avocados, avocado oil, coconut oil, grass-fed butter and fish oil. Incorporate anti-inflammatory, liver-healing foods like low-sugar fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, lean animal protein like chicken and fish.
- Improve your metabolism through exercise. Routine, daily exercise improves insulin resistance and reduces fatty liver. Start out with something simple like walking 30 minutes. More seasoned exercisers might incorporate high-intensity interval training (or burst training) and weight lifting.
- Supplement intelligently. The right supplements can help bring your body back into balance while it heals. Herbs like milk thistle are great for supporting the liver. Also try nutrients like lipoic acid and N-acetyl-cysteine, which make powerful antioxidants to heal and rejuvenate your liver while increasing the powerful antioxidant glutathione. Other liver-healing nutrients include B vitamins and magnesium. Look for quality supplements, avoid discount brands and supplements.
- Eat detoxifying, liver-repairing super foods. Regularly eat foods from the cruciferous family – like broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, as well as leafy veggies like kale, collards, cabbage, arugula, and watercress. At least a cup or two every day can help repair and heal the liver. Garlic and onions are amazing sulfur-rich foods that help detox the body.
- Power up with protein. Protein at every meal and snack, especially breakfast, becomes key to balancing blood sugar and insulin, cutting cravings and providing your liver the raw materials it needs to detoxify optimally. Start the day with fresh eggs or a protein shake.
- Incorporate medium-chain triglycerides or MCTs, either from coconut oil or found sold separately as a MCT oil. Medium-chain fats are digested easily and sent directly to your liver, where they have a positive thermogenic effect on your metabolism. MCTs seem to be able to decrease risk of cardiovascular disease as well as improve other metabolic disorders such as abdominal obesity, dyslipidemia, hypertension and impaired fasting glucose levels.