Menopause: Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)

Menopause: Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)
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Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is common amongst women during menopause and post-menopause

Fatty liver disease is beginning to reach epidemic proportions, especially in women of menopausal age. Estrogen levels may influence body fat distribution and many women in the early menopausal years gain fat mass as their estrogen levels drop. Women of childbearing age tend to store fat in the lower body, while men and post-menopausal women store fat around the abdomen. This is commonly known as being ‘apple-shaped’. Animal studies have shown that a lack of estrogen can lead to excessive weight gain. However, the exact mechanisms are not yet understood.

More than 60 percent of menopausal and post-menopausal women suffer from obesity due to the drop in their estrogen levels. Moreover, women going through menopause are more likely to be diagnosed with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease than men. Studies have shown that decreased levels of estrogen specifically target the liver and alters metabolic processes that cause fat accumulation. [1]

Women going through menopause have an increased tendency to store visceral fat in their livers. A condition which often leads to symptomatic problems including inflammation.

Miller said fatty liver disease is a public health issue that will affect many people. Although it is usually associated with alcoholism, it is increasingly diagnosed in individuals who consume little to no alcohol, especially those who are overweight or obese, including adolescents and children. [2]

Symptoms

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease usually causes no signs and symptoms. When it does, they may include:

  • Enlarged liver
  • Yellow tinge to the skin and eyes
  • Fatigue
  • Pain in the upper right abdomen
  • Poor digestion and sometimes indigestion
  • Very dry skin
  • Red palms
  • Headaches
  • Itchy skin rash
  • Bloating and gas
  • Dark urine
  • Bruising easily
  • Excessive sweat
  • Constipation
  • Dry and dark patches on neck and under arms
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Confusion

The liver filters out dead cells, toxins, drugs, chemicals and all sorts of debris. It processes bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. And most importantly a healthy liver is the cornerstone of a healthy immune system. You need a clean liver!

Complications of fatty liver disease

There are several different stages of fatty liver disease. The first stage is where fat builds up in your liver without any inflammation or scarring. For many people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, the condition won’t get any worse than this and a serious liver condition won’t develop.

However, in some people, the build-up of fat causes inflammation and scarring, leading to cirrhosis. Cirrhosis can gradually affect how well your liver works, and it can be life-threatening. Fatty liver disease can also increase your risk of getting liver cancer.

 

Fatty Liver Disease: apples and grapesThankfully there is a way to prevent fatty liver disease through diet and exercise

Now researchers have shown in studies of postmenopausal animals, that a mix of phytochemicals, along with vitamin D, may help protect the liver against inflammation caused by fat accumulation. [1]

Four key ingredients used together make up the phytochemical compound that causes fat cells to burst and release their contents:

  • Quercetin (found in apple peels and onions)
  • Resveratrol (found in grapes)
  • Genistein (found in soybeans)

These four ingredients eaten regularly along with vitamin D and magnesium supplementation are known as fat busters. They cause fat cells to burst and release their contents. A decent diet high in astringent fruits and vegetables, full of fat busting nutrients along with regular, moderate, aerobic exercise should increase successful weight loss.

Miller said it’s nearly impossible to get enough of any of these compounds through food or supplements to gain any benefit. However, she said, together they have a synergistic effect that “cuts the doses you need.”

“We were able to demonstrate that our phytochemical treatment is shuttling the fat away from the fat tissue to be burned or stored elsewhere,” Miller said. “Ultimately what we saw was that there was no damage in the liver being caused by this increased fat associated with menopause.”

They are now discovering that children as young as 5 are developing fatty liver disease, through over consumption of sugars, sodas, fructose, corn syrup and lack of exercise.

A 2012 study reported that the incidence rate of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease occurs in:

  • 3.5 percent of premenopausal women
  • 7.5 percent of menopausal women
  • 6.1 percent of postmenopausal women
  • 5.3 percent of women receiving hormone replacement therapy.

The study concludes that aging in women increases the likelihood of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.  Since we can’t stop aging, we must look to other options to protect our bodies as we transition through life stages. [3]

There is currently no medical treatment for fatty liver disease

So increasing your phytochemicals and Vitamin D may help protect your liver and your health. However, liver disease is also reversible with a complete lifestyle change. Meaning more exercise and a healthier diet. It is the one organ of the body that can regenerate itself given the right conditions.

Eating beets and carrots can help stimulate and improve overall liver function. Beets and carrots are rich in glutathione, a protein that helps detoxify the liver. Both are extremely high in plant-flavonoids and beta-carotene.

There is also a natural herbal drink called “Liver Flush” by Omega Alpha. Its main ingredients include milk thistle, dandelion, burdock root, and wormwood shoot.

Another herbal supplement is “Livamend” which has some great reviews. It contain milk thistle along with, artichoke extract, sarsaparilla extract and wasabi powder. Livamend helps to fight cell mutation, reduce tissue inflammation, and kill bacteria and fungi. It is a wonderful natural formula which helps to stimulate the flow of bile from the liver and assists in cleansing the liver and blood.

HealthForce Nutritionals Liver Rescue Liver Support is another liver supporting supplement.

Foods to avoid

A damaged liver is unable to metabolize proteins properly and break down the amino acids produced in the body from eating animal-based foods. Avoid red meat, such as beef and bison. As well, you should eliminate or limit the eggs and dairy products you eat.

Also avoid sugary foods such as candy, ice cream and cake and salty foods like potato chips, which are simple carbohydrates with high levels of sugar and sodium, respectively. Eat foods with natural sugars and fibrous carbs, such as strawberries, oranges or apples, to avoid unhealthy levels of sugar and sodium in your liver.

Avoid alcohol; depending on the severity of damage to your liver, a chance for regeneration can occur if you abstain from all alcoholic beverages.

Further reading

Chris Masterjohn just published an article on his blog, The Daily Lipid, looking into the research on what actually causes fatty liver disease. It’s a bit technical, but the information is simply fantastic. His work is some of the best there is on nutrition and health, and I recommend a read.

Sources for this article:

  1. http://www.sciencedaily.com
  2. http://www.phase-iv.net
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/
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About Article Author

Karen Lennox-Williams
Karen Lennox-Williams

I am an advocate for alternate health and a healer. I practice art and tarot reading. Studied psychology in the early nineties. I believe that everyone should have the freedom of choice to decide how they heal themselves. Researcher of alternative cancer therapies. Belief in natural herbs and everything we need to live a healthy life can be found in nature. I feel that reconnecting with nature is the answer to most health problems. Nature's way of healing has and always will be superior to anything man creates.

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