Liver disease has been commonly associated with alcohol consumption. Frequent consumption of alcohol may lead to cirrhosis–damage of liver cells and tissues. But what is widely unknown is that teetotallers are in equal danger of liver disease.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a broad term describing a range of liver conditions which affects people who drink little to no alcohol. Meaning, the damage to the liver is caused by factors other than alcohol consumption.
So what exactly causes this deadly disease?
We asked Chennai-based, Dr Qhizar Shaik to know how the disease progresses. “Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is a condition in which there is a buildup of fat in the liver. A healthy liver has little to no fat in it,” explains Dr Shaik.
He continues, “In the early stages of NAFLD, there are no symptoms, and the diagnosis is usually made while running liver function tests for other reasons, for example, to check the patient’s fitness for surgery etc.”
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease occurs in every age group but especially in people in their 40s and 50s. But if alcohol is not the culprit, what is?
Dr Shaik answers, “The exact cause is unknown, but it is linked to other risk factors like being diabetic, having a sedentary lifestyle, obesity, and insulin resistance.” And there is no specific medication to treat the illness either.
However, steps can be taken to reduce its progression, like exercise, a healthy diet, reducing smoking, feels Dr Shaik.
As diet is a major part of our lifestyle, we looked into foods that can help your liver health and put you out of risk of NAFLD.
Greens are a great way to reduce stress in the liver. It is an overall weight loss diet. Greens contain a lot of antioxidants and fibre, stuff that your liver needs.
This is why a sabji curry is the best supplementary for your liver. The great thing about sabji curry is that you can include various types of greens in one single dish– from capsicum and french beans to potatoes and onions. You can also make a less oily version of the curry to suit your dietary needs.
Oatmeals are a wonder food for the liver. Oats are reported to possess varied properties such as lowering blood cholesterol and blood sugar, boosting our immune system, and are anticancer, antioxidant, and anti-atherosclerosis (which means it reduces the build up of fats in arteries and other organs).
And oatmeal has found a place in desi diet more than often. These white grains come in different varieties, but they can be used to make upma, dosas and idlis in almost the same way that you would conventionally prepare them. They could also be consumed as a snack!
Indians love to use garlic in their foods. The pungent taste that it brings to the food goes well with our spices. Garlic is naturally high in allicin and selenium, which helps in liver cleansing.
For garlic to maintain all of its beneficial properties when it comes to the fatty liver, it should be crushed, chopped or minced before eating or adding it to food.
SUNFLOWER SEEDS & ALMONDS
Almonds and sunflower seeds are excellent sources of unsaturated fats. And these fats are crucial for the body to survive. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that you make up 29 percent of your diet with fat, but at least two-thirds of this should come from unsaturated fats.
This is because unsaturated fats allow your liver to flush “bad” cholesterol from your body and keep your blood pressure down.
Sunflower seeds can be incorporated in any salad to give it a crunchy factor or can even be consumed as a standalone nutritious snack. Almonds too can be consumed similarly.
Though diet is a large part of maintaining a healthy body, exercise is crucial too. No matter how much healthy food one can eat, it cannot replace the benefits of exercise.
Depending on your convenience, preference and budget, you could join a gym, run in the park or your neighbourhood or perform yoga asanas, which can help improve bodily functions, especially that of the liver.
So, even if you don’t drink, there could be other factors that may be affecting your liver. Have a healthy lifestyle, a healthy diet, and you wouldn’t have to worry about a fatty liver.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)