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What Is Fatty Liver Disease? These Are the Signs You May Have It

These red flags could mean there's excess fat in your liver.

Fatty liver disease is exactly what the name suggests—it develops by having excess fat stocked up in your liver. Also known as hepatic steatosis, it's pretty common and affects over 25% of individuals in the United States. There are several causes of the disease. We spoke with Dr. Mike Bohl, MD, MPH, CPH, MWC, ELS, a member of the Eat This, Not That! Medical Expert Board who shares several typical contributors, which include drinking alcohol, obesity, and diabetes. Read on to learn more, and next, be sure to check out The 6 Best Exercises for Strong and Toned Arms in 2022, Trainer Says.

These are the symptoms of fatty liver disease

mature woman experiencing stomach pain from fatty liver disease

Fatty liver disease is one of those medical issues that you may not even know you have. If you do happen to experience symptoms, you may feel tired or have discomfort in the upper right part of your belly, according to Dr. Bohl. Additional symptoms may include an inflamed liver, increased tiredness and/or weakness, leg or belly swelling, pronounced blood vessels, and possibly yellowing in the white part of your eyes or skin.

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Losing weight and consuming a healthy diet are some of the best ways to manage this disease

man running in central park to improve his gut health

Dr. Bohl tells Eat This, Not That!, "The best ways to manage fatty liver disease are to lose weight and refrain from drinking alcohol. Following a healthy diet—including eating many plant-based foods and avoiding excess sugars and processed food—and exercising at least 30 minutes a day at least 5 days a week are good ways to start losing weight." He adds, "If you have any chronic conditions, such as diabetes, take all of your medications as prescribed and regularly check in with your provider." If you should develop any of the symptoms, it's critical to seek the help of a medical professional.

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A majority of the time, fatty liver disease won't lead to severe issues—but some cases can worsen as time passes

doctor patient closeup fatty liver disease

The majority of the time, fatty liver disease will not create severe issues, nor will it compromise your liver function. However, 7% to 30% of cases can worsen as time passes, according to Cleveland Clinic. When it comes to those cases, your liver can swell and its tissue can sustain damage. This will result in scar tissue. When the scar tissue takes over the healthy tissue, that's when it becomes "cirrhosis of the liver," which can impede the functioning of your liver. It could even induce liver cancer or liver failure.

Don't wait for warning signs when it comes to any health condition. Showing your body TLC should be a priority. Hop on a fitness routine, and start eating healthy now.

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Alexa Mellardo
Alexa is the Mind + Body Deputy Editor of Eat This, Not That!, overseeing the M+B channel and delivering compelling fitness, wellness, and self-care topics to readers. Read more about Alexa