Fatty liver disease: an early warning signal

Farmer's Market - Organic ProduceRecently the CBC reported that a team of researchers in Halifax is looking to find ways to “de-fat” livers so they can be more readily used for liver transplants.

What’s happening is the prevalence of fatty liver disease is so high that even most donated livers are unusable due to the disease. The researchers are testing their hypothesis that if the fat can be removed within a short period of time after donation the outcomes will be better.

Also know as Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, NAFLD is caused primarily by poor diet and lack of exercise. Alcohol used to be the main cause of liver disease in the Western world, but now it’s fatty liver disease.

The piece on CBC stated, in Atlantic Canada, with our high obesity rates, up to 40 per cent of us has fatty liver disease. These are shocking numbers. And it’s not just that fatty liver disease itself is harmful, it can lead to other serious health conditions like cirrhosis, fibrosis or cancer.

The good news is that fatty liver disease can be curbed, and perhaps even reversed, with diet and lifestyle. Just like pre-diabetes fatty liver is an early warning signal that shouldn’t be ignored.

Here are five ways you can take control, boost your liver health and prevent any further damage:

Minimize alcohol – We know alcohol is the second main cause of liver disease so the best thing you can do for you liver is to reduce, or better yet, eliminate alcohol. The process of the liver breaking down alcohol can cause inflammation and scarring as the liver tires to repair itself. And alcohol can damage the intestine causing toxins from the gut to get into the liver, also leading to inflammation and scarring.

Reduce carbohydrates – Poor diet is the top cause of fatty liver disease. To start cleaning things up, you’ll want to look at the amount of sugars and carbohydrates you eat. The liver turns excess carbs into fat and that’s where the problems start. Reduce the usual suspects like candy, soda, desserts, chips, baked goods but also bread, pasta, cereals, pastries, rice, crackers, packaged snacks and foods made with flours and grains. Fructose, the sugar in fruit, can also be very hard on the liver so you may want cut back on your fruit intake for a period of time.

Eat more of the good stuff – Vegetables, lean animal protein and healthy fats are the foods that will promote better health. Vegetables are nutrient dense and do a great job of detoxifying and healing the liver. Protein builds and repairs tissues, keeps you feel gin full and helps to stabilize blood sugar. Go for the fish, chicken, beef and eggs. Healthy fats will also help to keep you satisfied and full. Choose coconut oil, olive oil, butter, full fat yogurt, seeds, nuts. The combination of fat fibre and protein with each meal is key for balancing your blood sugar.

Get moving – Exercise is one of the key lifestyle prescriptions for fatty-liver disease. It not only helps to reduce weight but actually reduces the visceral fat around the internal organs including the liver. Whatever form of movement works for you is great. Aim to get 20 minutes of movement a day.

Do a liver cleanse – If you really want to stop the damage, you can take a short period of time like 10-14 days to really flush out the toxins to repair and restore liver function and health. This could involve minimizing foods like dairy, gluten, sugar, animal products, processed foods, caffeine and alcohol. And eating an abundance of liver boosting and cleansing foods like garlic and onions, high-antioxidant fruits (berries, plums, oranges, pink grapefruit, cantaloupe, apples and pears), beets and carrots, leafy green & cruciferous veggies, avocados, lemons & limes, turmeric and cilantro.

Try these five tips to halt the progression of fatty liver disease and prevent further complications down the road.

This post was first published in the Halifax Citizen on June 1, 2015. View the post here.


  1. Genevieve Kennedy on June 23, 2015 at 1:52 pm

    Hi Michelle,
    Many thanks for “ALL” the wonderful information and advice. I am trying little by little to improve my eating habits. Sugar is my downfall but your continued emails reinforce my desires to improve and help me soldier on in my journey to better eating. Many thanks, Genevieve

    • Michelle on June 23, 2015 at 1:55 pm

      Thanks Genevieve. Small, consistent steps is what it takes. Keep your eye on your vision for a healthy and well life, and you’ll get there. Keep up the great work.


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