Fatty liver diseases are a major concern for many people in this day and age. This is because our lifestyles just lead to them. We drink too much alcohol. We eat foods that upset our livers. We live in an environment full of toxins, continually breathing car exhaust fumes. We often smoke. We eat charred BBQ foods and candies. And we are often continually stressed, working too hard, too fast, and for too long. But it is actually possible to protect ourselves against fatty liver diseases, and in some cases to reverse it, with a simple change in diet.
To understand this, we first need to understand how fatty liver diseases form. As the name suggests, fatty liver diseases are an array of conditions where a major characteristic is excess fats in the liver. This buildup of fats stretches and breaks the tissues of the liver. These tears scar, which slowly causes compartmentalization: a condition where body parts are deprived of blood flow. When compartmentalization begins, the parts of our liver that are cut off begin to die and break down, or even rot, inside us. This causes illness.
It is perfectly healthy and natural to have some fat in our livers. This is because our livers are designed to store glycogen, a form of carbohydrate that gives our bodies energy. When we have too much glycogen, our bodies store it in our muscles and livers for later use. The idea is that some time down the line we will burn it up. But as we never go without food and keep eating high carb diets, our bodies never use that glycogen. Instead, we just keep adding to it. This packs more and more fat into our livers, until eventually they go from a deep red color to a pale, patchy beige, brown, or pink color. And that is where the problems start.
The good news is, if you catch this early you can prevent it, or even reverse it. The first step is to cut back on carbohydrates severely. You can do this by adopting a ketogenic diet, or by fasting, that is, going without food for a day or more. When we eat lots of carbs, our bodies get used to burning them. So when we suddenly stop eating them, the very first thing our bodies will do is burn up our glycogen. This empties out our liver and muscles, keeping them fitter and healthier.
The next step is to massively reduce or completely eliminate our intakes of fructose and alcohol. Both these energy sources are processed by the liver directly, which results in more liver fat and more scarring. No more than two pieces of fruit and one 150ml serving of wine a day, otherwise you could be damaging your liver more than it can handle. And definitely avoid alcohol binges and high fructose corn syrups, as big dumps of fructose and alcohol hurt almost as much as slow, continual, small excesses.
In theory you can stop at this point. Especially if you did not have fatty liver disease, just some warning signs. You could easily follow that plan for two weeks every month to reset your body, help clear the glucose out of your liver, and give it a rest before eating junk and drinking a lot again. But there are much greater benefits to be experienced from following a very low carb, or ketogenic, diet in the long term.
When we do not rely on carbs for our main source of nutrition, eventually we run out of glucose. Some people may think that this is a bad thing, as we have been told for a long time that glucose is the only thing our brains can run on. But this is false. Otherwise people who never saw an apple or a potato, like the ancient Inuit, would never have existed. When our bodies do not have access to glucose, they process fats and proteins and make them into a product called ketones. Ketones power our bodies without using glucose. But, more crucially, they are eliminated in the urine when we have too much, not stored in the liver. Therefore, a long term ketogenic diet could reverse and prevent fatty liver diseases permanently.