Your liver is your body’s workhorse and when was the last time that you even considered how it’s doing? If you’re not aware, your liver is your body’s primary filtration system and converts toxins into waste products and then takes out that trash. It cleanses and filters your blood, metabolizes and breaks down nutrients and all medications from anti-seizure, blood pressure, cholesterol and chemo meds to what you took for your last headache and it produces proteins. And how do you know it’s keeping up? That can feel like a minefield to figure out. Sure, a healthy liver naturally cleanses itself, works hard 24/7 but especially overnight. Of course there’s a chance that it might not necessarily be functioning optimally if it’s constantly faced with being fed a poor diet, working to keep up with your medications and has to deal with daily environmental toxins like pesticides on food, chemicals from say cleaning products and of course pollution.
The liver is susceptible to inflammation and disease. If you’ve ever heard of potential damage to your liver, it could be from excess alcohol, you might have heard of fatty liver disease and even cirrhosis. A specific type of liver disease called Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, that’s a buildup of excessive fat in the liver that can lead to liver damage resembling the damage caused by alcohol abuse, but that occurs in people who do not drink heavily. NAFLD as it’s shortened to, because it’s a mouthful to say, is the most common liver disease in Canada, affecting over 7 million people, and over 90 million Americans (there’s a lot more of them than us) and gents … listen up, because it affects 60% of you. With the typical fat around the middle as you age, this might be more for you guys than us ladies. According to the Canadian Liver Foundation, about 20% of Canadians are suffering with NAFLD. There could be many more who don’t even know that they have it.
This is a topic that one of my loyal listeners asked for us to cover, so today on EAT THIS with Lianne, Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease and I’ve asked for my esteemed colleague, and regular expert on this podcast, Dr Davis Brockenshire to help us do a deep dive into this disease so you know what you need to be aware of.
If you’re trying to picture what a fatty liver looks like, or how it comes to be, think about the controversial practice of overfeeding geese and ducks carbs from corn and grains for a French delicacy called Fois Gras. It’s not like they are being fed a lot of steak, bacon and the skin on chicken that are all high in fat, no they are being fed carbs to create a fatty liver. Sugar, refined and processed carbs and high fructose corn syrup all seem to be the contributing factor, say many studies about the cause of NAFLD. I’m working with a client at the moment who has NAFLD, and she drank pop for years, is diabetic and and then came the diagnosis. I’ve read that the high fructose corn syrup found in our processed foods is the single biggest cause of fatty liver. Soda, which, frighteningly, is the number one source of calories in the western diet, is, then, the biggest cause of fatty liver.
How do you know you have it? We will get to that, but just knowing that it’s a major cause of chronic disease and inflammation in the body, there are likely more questions to ask at your next doctor’s visit.
To start answering the burning questions that you didn’t even know you had, as we once again speak with Functional Medicine Expert, Dr Davis Brockenshire from Innovative Health Solutions in Michigan. Dr B has a way of explaining the complicated and making it understandable. If there’s a topic where we need the big picture and a deep enough dive to know what to look out for, this is it.
Welcome back Dr B. This is a nice light topic to discuss today! Pairs nicely with our episode about what booze is doing to your body would you say?
If fat builds up to more than 5% of the liver, then it’s considered to be a fatty liver.
NAFLD tends to develop in people who are overweight or obese, particularly if they have lot of fat around the middle of their body (waist). It can also develop in a person whose body weight is in the healthy weight range if they typically eat a lot of sugary and fatty foods and have extra fat around the waist. This fatty liver disease has shown to be strongly associated with metabolic syndrome, which includes risk factors like a large waist circumference (what direction are those notches in your belt going, or the waist size of your latest purchase), high blood pressure fits into metabolic syndrome, as does high blood sugar levels, high cholesterol and abnormal amounts of lipids in the blood. These all greatly increase the risk of many chronic illnesses.
Want to lessen the potential or reality of NAFLD? Losing just 3 to 6% of your body weight could reduce liver fat levels by 35 to 40%, according to a Harvard Study which would take a huge burden off your body’s main detoxifying organ.
What does the dietary protocol look like?
Ditch the processed foods and drink more water. Skip most processed foods, caffeine and alcohol. Focus on whole, preferably organic, foods. Include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, sustainably raised meats, fish, eggs and minimally processed oils, such as olive or coconut oil.
This means you’ll be taking a break from most of the foods, additives and pesticide residues that tax your system. You’ll also be adding in nutrient-dense foods that will nourish the body. Following the Mediterranean diet that I talked about in episode 70 is totally the way to go.
Hydration is key, so drink at least 2L of filtered water a day – check out episode 61 for the best water filters
Some of the best foods for your liver, that support glutathione production include;
- Broccoli and broccoli sprouts
- Citrus fruits; think lemon water
- Dandelion root and greens
- Fermented foods; Sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, lacto-fermented pickles, kefir, yogurt, miso
- Bone broth
- Onions and garlic
- Leafy greens; Kale, collards, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, arugula, daikon radish
- Green tea
- Salmon for omega 3’s (and sardines, mackerel, walnuts and flax seeds)
Other names for High Fructose Corn Syrup are:
- isoglucose and glucose-fructose syrup
- glucose syrup
- fruit fructose
- crystalline fructose
- natural corn syrup
- isolated fructose
- maize (a native word for corn) syrup
- tapioca syrup (not from corn, but also fructose)
Look out for that on your label and make sure you avoid it at all costs.
Food with surprisingly high levels of HFCS:
Some foods that you think should be safe from HFCS, may be the ones that surprise you the most.
- Juice “Cocktails”: if they are not 100% juice, they are most likely filled with HFCS.
- Soda: you probably guessed this one but beware of those sodas that claim to be “healthy”.
- Cereal: check the ingredient every time- you’d be surprised.
- Yogurt: go for plain and then if you want to add some Liquid Monkfruit Sweetener, fruit, etc. you know what’s being added. Flavoured yogurts are often crawling with sugar and HFCS!
- Salad Dressings: Yep. Those sneaks are trying to get into your healthy salads! Try making your own, check the ingredients, or use quality oils and vinegar: simple but so tasty!
- Granola/Energy/Nutrition Bars: See what I mean… these companies call them “nutrition bars” and too often we just trust them! Again, check the labels and don’t get too frustrated when you find yourself making your own.
There was so much information there, and such a worthwhile topic. Thank you to our loyal listener for writing in about NAFLD. If you have a topic that you’d like me to do a deep dive into, reach out through sproutright.com or liannephillipson.com and we will add it to our topic list.
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