What Can You Do for a Fatty Liver?

Fatty liver disease can be a warning sign of bigger troubles ahead.  Fortunately, it’s something that can be turned around with diet and lifestyle changes.

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
4-minute read
Episode #439

It’s normal to have a certain amount of fat in your liver, because processing dietary and blood fats is a big part of what the liver does. But in certain situations, fat can start to build up in the liver. If that goes on unchecked, it can cause inflammation, liver damage, and even liver cancer.  

In its early stages, a fatty liver doesn’t really cause any symptoms. It’s most likely to be detected through a physical exam, during which your doctor might be able to feel that your liver is enlarged. Blood tests, imaging, and/or biopsies can confirm the diagnosis.

What Causes Fatty Liver Disease?

Many people associate liver disease with alcohol abuse. But most people suffering from fatty liver disease are not alcoholics. It’s also important to note that eating a high-fat diet does not necessarily lead to fatty liver disease.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is more likely to be caused by chronically high blood sugar and insulin resistance, which we tend to see in people who are overweight, as well as in those with Type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes.  At last count, one third of the adult population has some degree of fatty liver—and that’s about the same percentage as suffers from Type 2 diabetes.  NAFLD is actually the most common chronic liver condition in the world.

Fatty liver disease often goes hand in hand with other risk factors for heart disease as well, such as high triglycerides. In fact, those with NAFLD are much more likely to die of heart disease than liver disease.

OK enough with the bad news. Here’s the good news: Fatty liver disease can often be reversed and the liver can be restored to full health through diet and lifestyle changes.

How to Reverse Fatty Liver

Lose weight.  The number one thing you can do to reverse fatty liver is to lose weight. Losing even 5% of your body weight can be enough to start to roll back the damage, even if you are still significantly overweight.


About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show.