Guest Author - Jim Lowrance
As I mention in other articles, people with one metabolic disorder, including thyroid disease, are at higher risk for developing other metabolic disorders and diseases. For example, a patient with hypothyroidism is at increased risk for developing Metabolic Syndrome (a pre-diabetes syndrome), Adult Onset Diabetes and Adrenal Syndromes/Diseases. This is especially true if the thyroid disease they have is the autoimmune type.
Another metabolic related condition that can occur in thyroid patients, as well as in a large percent of the population is one called “Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease” (NAFLD). This disease is metabolic related due to the fact that the body is storing an excessive amount of fat in this major organ called the liver, rather than converting more of it into energy needed by the body. One reason this happens is due to over-consumption of fats and sugars, combined with being overweight and the inability of the liver to keep up with the demand for conversion of these into energy. When the liver becomes overwhelmed in this performance of duty, it instead begins to store more fat. Over time, this causes mild inflammation in the liver and liver cell damage (hepatic response or “steatosis hepatitis”) and over time can actually cause lesions in the liver or “liver sclerosis”. While most cases of fatty liver do not lead to actual hepatitis or sclerosis, it is a risk people with fatty liver should be aware of, so that they can undertake diet and lifestyle changes, in order to keep the condition under control and to possibly resolve or reverse it over time.
Most cases of fatty liver disease are caused by alcohol consumption and since this type I’m addressing in this article is not, the “non-alcoholic” prefix is used. It is true however that despite the fact it is not alcohol related, people with the non-alcoholic type are highly advised to avoid alcohol consumption.
What are some other ways to help control and possibly resolve NAFLD that some statistics state may affect up to one-third of the population? Well, as is recommended for most metabolic disorders and diseases, patients need to incorporate a healthy regimen of exercise and weight loss/control into their schedules. Even if this means simply walking for 20 minutes at least three times per week. Patients should also avoid fatty foods and refined sugars which both can be stored as fat in the liver. Eating more fruits and vegetables and foods containing lots of fiber can also help with this disease. It is also important to lose weight when you are carrying extra pounds, especially that that accumulates in the mid-section of the body.
Most people have no physical symptoms of this disease although the most common symptoms reported are fatigue and dull pain on the right side, just under the rib cage. NAFLD is usually found incidentally when a patient is blood tested and the tests include a metabolic panel that includes liver function tests. Their liver enzymes will be mildly to moderately elevated (ALT and SGPT or AST levels). Once these abnormal liver counts are found, an ultrasound imaging of the liver is performed to confirm fatty infiltration of the liver.
If you are a thyroid disease patient, or one that has Metabolic Syndrome or Diabetes, a “Metabolic Panel” including liver function tests should be performed via blood testing, once a year, to detect possible development of fatty liver disease. If this disorder is detected a Doctor may prescribe a treatment plan similar to the one I describe above but medications may also be prescribed in more severe cases.