How to Reverse Liver Damage Quickly, Say Experts — Eat This Not That
Liver damage can be serious—but along with medical supervision, there are ways to help your liver heal. “Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease [NASH] is the most common cause of liver disease in the United States, and is estimated to affect up to a quarter of adults in the world,” says Irun Bhan, MD. “It is defined by excess fat accumulating in the liver and usually occurs in people with obesity, high blood sugars (diabetes), abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels, or high blood pressure. These disorders often run together and as a group are called metabolic syndrome.” Here is how to reverse liver damage quickly—according to experts. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
Studies show that losing even a small amount of weight can significantly impact liver health. “For people who are overweight or have obesity, the best treatment for NASH is weight loss,” says Dr. Bhan. “A landmark study showed that losing 10% of one’s body weight can reduce liver fat, resolve inflammation, and potentially improve scarring.”
Regular exercise is a great way to help improve liver health. “As a transplant hepatologist and exercise researcher, I am often asked by my patients with chronic liver disease whether or not they should exercise. My answer is always a resounding ‘YES!’ and sometimes accompanied with a little fist bump they may or may not notice,” says Jonathan Stine, MD MSc, FACP. “Exercise or really any physical activity has many well-known benefits for the liver.”
“We recommend patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease drink three cups of coffee per day, eat four tablespoons of olive oil a day and follow a Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes eating primarily plant-based foods and healthy fats,” says Annie Guinane, RD, LDN, CNSC. “Adapting to a Mediterranean diet is hard for patients because we are surrounded by convenience foods and junk on a daily basis. This diet is focused. It is important for patients to be able to sit down and learn about the benefits of the recommended diet and ask questions. Then they can set realistic and attainable goals with a nutrition expert, rather than something that sets them up to fail.”
Research shows intermittent fasting could have a positive effect on liver health. “We know that fasting can be an effective intervention to treat disease and improve liver health. But we haven’t known how fasting reprograms liver proteins, which perform a diverse array of essential metabolic functions,” says Mark Larance, PhD, a Cancer Institute of NSW Future Research Fellow in the Charles Perkins Centre and School of Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of Sydney. “For the first time we showed that HNF4-(alpha) is inhibited during intermittent fasting. This has downstream consequences, such as lowering the abundance of blood proteins in inflammation or affecting bile synthesis. This helps explain some of the previously known facts about intermittent fasting.”
Cutting down on sugar intake can make a difference in how fast the liver heals. “Many people eating a common American diet are developing extensive hepatic fibrosis, or scarring of their liver, which can reduce its capacity to function, and sometimes lead to cancer,” says Donald Jump, a professor in the OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences. “There’s a lot of interest in finding ways to help the liver recover from this damage, but this research suggests that diets lower in fat and cholesterol, even if they help you lose weight, are not enough,” Jump said. “For more significant liver recovery, the intake of sugar has to come down, probably along with other improvements in diet and exercise.”