Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the build-up of fat inside your liver. This condition can lead to a more serious condition called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). NASH causes inflammation and damage to the liver and can cause scarring, which in turn can lead to cirrhosis—a serious condition in which the liver stops working properly.
NASH and other liver diseases are quite detrimental to your health and well-being. The only way to treat NASH is through lifestyle changes. The good news is that making these changes may also reverse or prevent further weight gain.
What are the Symptoms of NASH?
If you have NASH, it’s important to be aware of the symptoms. Some of the most common signs of NASH include:
- Fatigue and weakness
- Itching or jaundice (yellowing of the skin)
- Pain in your upper right abdomen (under your ribs) that gets worse when you breathe deeply or cough or when your abdomen is pressed on.
If you experience these symptoms and think that they might be caused by fatty liver disease, talk with your doctor immediately about getting tested for NASH.
How is Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH) Diagnosed?
The diagnosis of NASH is based on a liver biopsy, which is done by a doctor. This procedure involves taking tiny samples of your liver tissue and examining them under a microscope. If you have NASH, there will be features in your liver cells that indicate damage or inflammation.
You may also want to ask your doctor about blood tests that measure levels of certain fats in the blood (triglycerides). These can help diagnose nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Still, they aren’t as accurate as a liver biopsy because some people with NASH don’t have high triglyceride levels on their own–and vice versa.
Now that we know what NASH is and how it is diagnosed, let us look at how it can be treated.
How Does Diet Fit into Treating NASH?
If you’ve been diagnosed with NASH, regular exercise and a proper diet that helps reverse the disease are key. The main way to treat NASH is to follow an eating plan that will promote weight loss. The NASH diet is a high-protein and low-carbohydrate plan that focuses on lean meats and vegetables as well as some fruit allowed in moderation.
How to Start a NASH Diet
- Cut calories and eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
The NASH diet is based on the principles of a healthy eating plan. This means you should:
- Eat more fruits and vegetables, such as apples, spinach, or carrots. These provide fiber to help you feel fuller longer and provide nutrients that can help prevent disease. You should aim for at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
- Eat whole grains such as brown rice or whole wheat bread instead of refined carbohydrates like white bread or pasta (which have been processed). Whole grain foods are higher in fiber than their refined counterparts, so they’re better for your digestive system too!
- Avoid trans fats (hydrogenated oils), saturated fats (animal fat), and refined carbohydrates such as sugary drinks/foods. These types of food can increase your risk of developing fatty liver disease or diabetes. Both of these conditions can lead to NASH if left unchecked over time.
- Replace Saturated Fats with Healthy Oils and Avoid Trans Fats
Replace saturated fats with healthy oils (such as olive oil or coconut oil). Saturated fats are found in food such as meat, cheese, and dairy products. Trans fats are also found in some margarine and other spreads. These saturated fat aids in the increase of fat in your liver
The best thing to do is to avoid trans fats as much as possible by looking for “0g trans fat” on the label of your food products.
- Consuming a Variety of Food in Your Diet Plan
Although it is vital to limit the amount of fat, sugar, and carbohydrates you eat, you need to ensure that your body is getting sufficient nutrients. In your meal plan, it is best to include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes.
In relation to dairy products, choose low-fat dairy products (such as low-fat milk and yogurt) instead of high-fat ones (such as butter) or full-fat cheeses that may be high in saturated fats.
Choose lean meats and fish instead of processed meats like bacon; choose skinless poultry over red meat. Also, eat fish at least twice per week if you don’t already do so regularly for its health benefits (omega-3 fatty acids).
Reversing NASH with a Healthy Diet
Hopefully, this article has helped you understand what NASH is and how it can be treated. The best way to avoid NAFLD or reverse the effects of NASH is through diet and lifestyle changes. If you’re looking for more information on how to treat your condition, reach out to a medical professional.
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