Posted December 22, 2017 09:23 am

What Do Liver Health, Heart Health, And GI Health Have To Do With Each Other

When you hear about liver disease, you may think about alcohol consumption as the root cause. However, there is a liver disease that has nothing to do with consumption of alcohol. In fact, it’s even in the name, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

What Is Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease?

The name is fairly descriptive. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease refers to a condition where your liver cells have too much fat stored in them. As is with many diseases, there is a range of severity as well as a range in outcome, from easily managed to severe cirrhosis and liver failure. The disease is increasingly more common, with it now being the most common form of chronic liver disease. It is most common in those in their 40s and 50s.

Unfortunately, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease doesn’t always show obvious symptoms, but when there are symptoms, they may include pain in the upper right abdomen, fatigue, and an enlarged liver. In more severe cases, symptoms might also include enlarged blood vessels below the skin surface, enlarged breasts in men, an enlarged spleen, red palms, and yellowing of the skin and eyes. Dr. Islam can diagnose the disease through a series of blood tests or non-invasive imaging processes like ultrasounds, CT scans, or MRIs. Although the cause of the disease isn’t known, obesity, high blood sugar, high fat levels in the blood or liver, insulin resistance, and high cholesterol have been shown to be contributing factors to the illness.

Does Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease Affect Other Areas Of The Body?

A recent study of patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease showed that women who are suffering from the disease have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease than those who are not affected by it. The study was a long-term, and followed nonalcoholic fatty liver disease patients for 20 years. The study compared these liver disease patients' cardiovascular health to women who do not have the disease. In addition to comparing the patients to their female counterparts, researchers also compared the findings to men of the same age and found that the risk of cardiovascular issues were also higher in the different sexes. The study showed an increase in incidents of angina, heart attacks, and heart failure, but not in atrial fibrillation or stroke.

What Does This Have To Do With My GI Health?

Simply put, everything. Your body is like a machine, where all parts need to be functioning properly in order for your body to operate in an overall healthy manner. Since nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is often connected to patients who are overweight or in otherwise unhealthy condition, diet and exercise can play a crucial role in cutting down incidents of the disease or helping with severity and recovery for patients who are already affected with it. Treatment of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease begins with a combination of diet changes and exercise. If you’re not already physically active, our team can help you with gradually working up to a healthy exercise routine. Finding the right diet and exercise to fit your lifestyle will help in most aspects of your life, and we would like to help you get on that path.

Sameer Islam, MD is a board-certified Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist practicing at Southwest Gastroenterology in Lubbock, Texas. For an appointment feel free to contact his office at (806)-761-0747. You can get more information from his webpage (www.sameerislam.com) where you can also subscribe to his monthly newsletter. He also has a weekly Facebook Live show on Wednesdays, 8:30 PM CST.