The liver is normally quiet, but I have been seeing several patients in whom it has made some noise. They want to know: what are healthy foods for the liver?
The liver is normally quiet because it is primarily a wet-sponge and filter:
- detoxifying alcohol, chemicals and drugs;
- producing bile so you can absorb fat and vitamins D, E, A and K;
- converting glucagon to glucose when your levels are low;
- managing hormones and regulating cholesterol.
But when the liver gets clogged or scarred, with fat or an infection or toxin, it begins to fail.
It no longer metabolizes the protein you eat to make more protein. It no longer detoxifies the ammonia made by the bacteria in your intestine, as they breakdown protein. It no longer effectively breaks down hemoglobin or recycles old red blood cells. And other failures.
Maybe most importantly for most people, when there are more calories than your body needs, the extra is stored in the liver and around it: viscerally. Which is toxic and evil.
People with “fatty liver” used to be rare, because they were not sick, and because liver disease in the past was primarily caused by alcohol and drug abuse.
But about 25 percent of North Americans have (undetected) Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD). NAFLD is the leading cause of cirrhosis–not alcohol, but fat. It’s become a global epidemic.
NAFLD is the stage before Non Alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH), a common reason for liver transplants. Cirrhosis is the final stage.
Kids with obesity–childhood obesity–are at high risk for NAFLD. Up to 80 percent of obese kids will develop it.
Fatty liver and NAFLD worsens insulin resistance and increases the risk of developing diabetes, especially as you age. The converse is true too: diabetes, insulin resistance and high triglyceride levels also increase your risk of liver disease, both in adults and kids.
Food quality matters as much as food quantity, and so it is with the liver: some foods make it worse, and some make it better. I will cover in the next post.