Did you know that there’s a link between carbs and a fatty liver? Find out how carbohydrates play a role in the development of this condition here.
In this article:
The Link Between Carbohydrates and Fatty Liver Disease
The Real Culprit of Liver Damage
Have you ever had foie gras? It’s a French delicacy made by force-feeding a duck or a goose to give it a nice fat liver for a unique flavor. Pretty shocking stuff.
But what do they feed the animals to produce this fatty liver? Fat, right? Nope! Sugar, corn, and starch.
So when your doctor tells you you need to reduce the amount of fat in your diet and replace it with carbohydrates, may the alarm bells ring loudly in your head. Here’s why.
Research shows that carbs—NOT FAT—cause a buildup of fat in your belly and liver. That’s bad news and pretty counter-intuitive.
What actually happens is sugar switches on a fat-production factory in your liver– a process called lipogenesis. It’s your body’s first response to sugar, particularly fructose.
What is lipogenesis? This is the process where the body converts carbohydrates into fatty acids — the building blocks of fats.
Yes, fructose is the most detrimental type of sugar for your fatty liver. It heads straight for your liver when the lipogenesis kicks in immediately.
Consuming too much fructose can also cause obesity. In turn, being overweight or obese may also result in life-threatening diseases, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and even liver failure. Are you consuming a lot of fructose?
Fructose can be found in:
- Fruit juices
- Tea, when sweetened with sugar
- Energy drinks (e.g. Red Bull)
- Wine coolers
- Starbucks Frappuccino
- Cakes, pies, and pastries
- Candy bars and cookies
- Ice cream and other frozen treats, including low-fat fruit yogurts
- Breakfast cereals, including corn flakes, raisin bran and some granolas, cereal bars
- Condiments, salad dressings and sauces, including reduced-fat French dressing and balsamic vinaigrette
- Dried fruits: raisins, dates, and figs
- Canned fruit, jellies, and jams
- Sweet Asian sauces, including teriyaki sauce
- Honey, maple syrup, and agave syrup
- Brandy and liqueurs
Liver Damage Complications
Fatty liver is now the most common liver disease and the leading cause of liver transplant, too. It can also lead to the sort of inflammation that can trigger insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, and the formation of visceral fat (where fat builds up in the abdominal cavity and can surround arteries and organs like the stomach, intestines, and liver).
That’s not the only type of havoc excess sugar and starch can create in your body: you might be saying hello to high triglycerides, low HDL (that’s the “good” cholesterol), high bad cholesterol (yes, LDL), and a higher chance of a heart attack.
Signs of a Fatty Liver
This is quite disturbing — most people have absolutely no idea they have a fatty liver. Some do not recognize fatty liver symptoms or just completely ignore them when they appear.
The possible signs and symptoms include:
- Abdominal swelling
- Enlarged breasts in men
- Enlarged spleen
- Red palms
- Enlarged blood vessels just beneath the skin
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
Dietary Fat and Fatty Liver
Want to hear something crazy? You’d think dietary fat would make a fatty liver worse, right? Wrong!
Dietary fat actually TURNS OFF fat production in your liver. That’s weird…but cool!
Dietary fat doesn’t trigger insulin secretion in the pancreas (unless you combine it with carbs—which spells disaster). When you eat the right types of fat, you can increase your metabolism wonderfully, stimulate fat burning beautifully, and decrease hunger pangs big time.
The Fat You Need
Not ALL kinds of fat are good, though. If you want to combat the symptoms of fatty liver, here’s what you should do:
- Increase the amount of coconut or medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil in your diet
- Increase healthy saturated fat foods, like grass-fed beef
- Get plenty of omega-3 fatty acids into your meals (try chia, flax and omega-3 oils containing krill oil)
- Cut processed carbs of all kinds and whole grains (if cold turkey is very challenging, try consuming small amounts of millet, quinoa, and buckwheat while you transition)
- Consume lots of fiber-rich, low-carb vegetables, like leafy greens
Medium-Chain Triglyceride Fats Definition: These are partially man-made fats created by processing coconut and palm kernel oils together. They offer a wide range of positive health benefits including weight management and brain health improvement.
This may sound strange, but the government tells us to limit saturated fat to 7-10% of all calories consumed. This includes the whole grains! The truth is, healthy saturated fats lower inflammation when you eat them as part of a low-carb, omega-3 rich, and high-fiber plan.
The Early Tell-Alls
Watch out for the early signs that may be associated with fatty liver, including:
- Cravings for carbohydrates
- A little belly fat
- Eating lots of sugar and/or flour
You can also get a blood test or an ultrasound, which can both pick up the disease. Ultrasound is more sensitive and likely to detect it.
Reversal and Prevention
If you’re worried about getting fatty liver, or you already have it and would like to improve the situation, here are the key strategies to try:
1. Choose High-Protein Foods
Fill up on nuts, seeds, eggs, fish, chicken, and grass-fed meat. Integrate about a palm-sized serving of these foods into every meal, especially your first meal of the day.
2. Start a Liver-Repair Plan with Detoxifying Foods
Eat detoxifying foods like broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussel sprouts. Pack in around 1-2 cups of leafy greens like cabbage, arugula, watercress, kale, and collards every day.
Try increasing your garlic and onion consumption, too! Their natural sulfur content helps you flush out liver toxins. Beets and carrots are also nice.
3. Supplement Yourself to Boost Liver Health
Healing is optimized when your body is getting everything it needs to transform you into a healthier version of yourself. Some helpful liver-supporting supplements include:
- Herbs like organic milk thistle, turmeric, and dandelion. We love Purathrive — it’s an organic Turmeric.
- Nutrients, such as lipoic acid and N-acetyl-cysteine, which increase levels of the powerful mother-of-all-antioxidants– glutathione (as does milk thistle)
- Vitamins and minerals: B vitamins and magnesium are essential
4. Add Healing Oils to Get Healthy Fats
As mentioned above, healthy fats are absolutely critical if you want to have healthy liver cells. Consume:
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil or MCT oil
- Grass-fed butter
- Fish and krill oil
Healthy liver enzymes also need to get plenty of low-sugar fruits, like berries, vegetables, lean animal protein, seeds, and nuts into your body. All of these will help curb sugar cravings and combat sugar damage.
5. Get Moving to Improve Metabolism
Daily exercise improves insulin resistance. Walking for 30 minutes is a great start. Plus, your dog will love it, too.
6. Say Farewell to the Carbs for Better Overall Health
This is the last but most important point here. If you do anything, eliminate the sugar! Say ciao to high-fructose corn syrup, most significantly, from your fatty liver diet.
Tell starches you no longer need their services, that you choose health, want more energy, and are on the road to bullet-proof wellness.
With more and more people having fatty liver nowadays, it is time to take action toward healthy living.
Skip the carbs. Eliminate the sugar. After all, you only have one liver to take care of.
Have you checked your liver lately? How willing are you to change your diet for improved liver function? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Up Next: Detoxing The Body
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on April 13, 2017, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.