Did you know:
One of the earliest warning signs that your health is off track is the fat content of your liver.
That’s right, a fatty liver is like the sounding of warning bells – especially when it comes to blood sugar imbalances. Before your blood sugar becomes imbalanced, your liver becomes imbalanced. And an imbalanced liver probably looks like a fatty liver.
What’s a fatty liver got to do with fatigue?
Quite a bit actually. As you’ll soon learn, the process of energy production in your body – turning food into energy – all goes through your liver. If your liver health is compromised, your energy production is compromised. In this post I’ll show you exactly which foods to avoid if you have a fatty liver!
A fatty liver could very well be your initial sign that something is amiss in your body’s energy production cycle!
The similarity between you and a goose
Have you ever had foie gras?
For those of you unfamiliar with this delicacy, foie gras is a food product made from duck or goose liver. The secret to a good foie gras is that the duck or goose’s liver is fatty. Very fatty.
To turn a duck or goose’s liver fatty, you have to force feed them carbohydrates multiple times per day. This is usually done via corn. FYI, a duck’s natural diet will consist primarily of small fish, snails, worms, slugs, aquatic plants, and insects. A wild goose will eat roots, shoots, stems, seeds, and leaves of grass and grain, bulbs, and berries.
Ducks and geese do not seek out corn. And if by some lucky chance they happened to come across a pile of the stuff, they would not consume anywhere near the quantity needed to make foie gras.
Corn has an incredibly high carbohydrate (and low fiber) content. All those extra calories have to get stored somewhere.
Can you guess where all those extra calories are stored?
That’s right, the liver.
In order to store the excess calories, the duck or goose will turn the calories into fat. This excess fat collects in the animal’s liver. The end result is a fatty liver – and (apparently) a culinary delicacy – who knew?!
You’re not so different from a duck. Or a goose. If some maniac force-fed you corn multiple times each day, you’d develop a fatty liver too.
Humans are different from ducks in that they don’t require third-party intervention to develop a fatty liver. Humans are capable of developing fatty livers all by themselves! No force-feeding is ever required. We do it willingly.
What makes a liver fatty?
When you eat, your blood sugar rises. The amount your blood sugar rises is dependent on the carbohydrate content of your food. Foods higher in carbohydrates will raise your blood sugar far more than foods high in fat or protein.
I suspect a similar cascade of events happens in geese and ducks. Since corn has no fat content and very little protein, the calories from corn are almost exclusively in the form of carbohydrates.
Remember, carbohydrates raise your blood sugar!
With the elevation in blood sugar, you now have more fuel (in the form of glucose) than your body requires. When faced with this glucose excess, your body does what any squirrel would do – pack away the excess for a later date.
Instead of hiding nuts in trees, your body converts glucose to glycogen. Glycogen is the storage form of glucose. The metaphorical tree you hide your excess glucose in is your liver.
What happens when your liver is filled to the brim with glycogen?
The long-term storage form of energy in your body is fat. De novo lipogenesis is the process that converts glucose into fat. (2) The first place that fat is stored is in your liver.
If you continually take in too many calories in the form of carbohydrates – like those poor ducks and geese – your body has no choice but to store the excess calories as fat. Over the long term, these fat deposits accumulate in your liver. Until, wham, just like the ducks and geese, you too have a fatty liver!
The key takeaway here is that you need to avoid refined carbohydrates if you want to fix your fatty liver. Before you go thinking that a fatty liver’s not all that bad, allow me a moment to share the complications associated with a fatty liver. You’re not going to want any of them!
Can a fatty liver harm you?
Your fatty liver itself won’t cause you any harm. But the complications associated with it are quite serious. To be clear, I’m referencing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. This type of fatty liver often comes about through the overconsumption of carbohydrates, not alcohol.
Studies have shown that a fatty liver precedes the diagnosis of diabetes by almost 10 years! (3) Trust me, you don’t want diabetes. Not only is diabetes an insidious cause of fatigue, but diabetes is also estimated to shave ten years off your life! (4)
And that doesn’t even begin to cover the awful symptoms associated with the illness. Symptoms like: (5)
- Heart disease
- Nerve damage
- Kidney damage
- Eye damage
- Alzheimer’s disease
All of these symptoms can be avoided by caring for your liver. Specifically, doing everything you can to prevent a fatty liver from developing.
If you do have a fatty liver, rest easy, the condition is completely reversible. I’ll show you how below!
How to cure fatty liver disease
What would happen if you consumed an extra 1000 calories each day of delectable foods?
Specifically, high sugar foods. Foods like soda pop, candy, or even so-called healthy foods like juice or smoothies.
Well, a research trial discovered exactly what would happen. In three weeks time, the participant’s body weight increased by 2%.
That’s not terrible, right?
What was terrible is that in addition to the slight increase in body weight, the fat content of the participant’s livers increased by 27%! (6) That’s almost a 10% increase in liver fat each week! These participants were well on their way to creating a liver that closely resembles that of the ducks and geese we discussed earlier!
Chips, pop, and candy is how to create a fatty liver in humans. It’s really not all that different than creating foie gras. All that’s required is an excessive intake of refined carbohydrates.
If you’re eating a diet like most people in North America, then you’re consuming an excessive amount of refined carbohydrates. I’d bet a large sum of money that the results of that diet are reflected in the health of your liver.
With nearly 1 in 2 people dealing with either prediabetes or full-blown type 2 diabetes, your carbohydrate intake is likely way too high. Remember, fatty liver disease develops 10 years before diabetes. A fatty liver is the early warning sign that you’re hurtling towards diabetes!
Fortunately, reversing or curing a fatty liver is just as straightforward as making a fatty liver. To cure fatty liver disease, you need to do the opposite of the study participants. Namely, decrease your carbohydrate intake!
Perhaps even more important than a keto diet is removing one food type from your menu. This one type of food that has been shown to contribute to a fatty liver more than anything else!
Foods to avoid if you’ve got a fatty liver
Any guesses as to what the most important food to avoid might be?
If you guessed sugar, you’re so close. The real problem is not just sugar but a substance known as fructose.
Let’s be crystal clear, all carbohydrates are digested into simple sugars. Glucose and fructose are examples of simple sugars. That white table sugar you put in your coffee is known as sucrose. It has one molecule of fructose and one molecule of glucose. (7)
It’s glucose that has an effect on your blood sugar. And your body loves glucose. Glucose is the fuel source that all of your body can run on.
But what would happen if you downed a liter of pure fructose?
Well, it would probably be disgustingly sweet. But perhaps more interesting is that your blood sugar wouldn’t shoot for the moon like it would if you downed a liter of pure glucose. Fructose doesn’t affect your blood sugar as glucose does. Which means that fructose also doesn’t trigger a release of insulin.
That means fructose is healthy and won’t cause diabetes, right?
That was the prevailing consensus for quite some time – since fructose has no effect on blood sugar, it doesn’t contribute to diabetes. Or, any negative health outcome, really. So, feel free to eat all the fructose you want was the recommendation.
It wasn’t until recently that the harmful effects of fructose were found. You won’t be surprised to learn that fructose wreaks havoc on your liver. Specifically, the amount of fat found in your liver.
Just like corn causes a fatty duck or goose liver, fructose causes a fatty human liver.
You’re probably consuming way more fructose than you think
Before refined sugars, candy, and all the other sweet treats available to humans today existed, the only places fructose could be found was through fruits. It was estimated that the average human consumed 15-20 grams of fructose at this time. (8)
Fast forward to the early ’90s – a time where convenience foods, sauces, candies, and cookies lined the aisles of grocery stores. By this time, the average person consumed 55 grams of fructose each day! (9) By the early ’00s, it was estimated that up to 25% of a person’s total daily calories were consumed from fructose.
Where is all this fructose coming from?
For most of you, it’s likely coming from a product known as high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). HFCS is an inexpensive way to sweeten just about anything. You’ll find it in condiments, candies, baking, pop, or just about any packaged food.
Just how bad is fructose?
Unlike glucose – which your body loves! – fructose is far from beneficial. In fact, outside of your liver, there’s nowhere your body can utilize the stuff. That means every single gram of fructose you ingest has to be processed by your liver.
What does your liver do with fructose?
De novo lipogenesis of course. All those calories from fructose have to go somewhere. Since your body can’t use them, your liver has no choice but to store them as fat. If you’re getting too many of your daily calories from fructose, you’re increasing the fat content of your liver by up to five times! (10)
Alcohol and fructose are the two substances most likely to cause a fatty liver. If you’re consuming fructose like the majority of North Americans, you’re likely well on your way to developing a fatty liver.
Below I’ll explain two very big reasons why you don’t want a fatty liver. The next time you’re craving something sweet, make sure it doesn’t have high-fructose corn syrup. Opt for glucose. Not fructose!
Two more reasons why you really don’t want a fatty liver
By now, I hope I’ve convinced you to start lowering your fructose intake. Fructose alone is the major cause of fatty liver disease in developed countries. The simple act of decreasing your fructose intake will improve your liver function.
Below, I get into two more reasons why you should cut the fructose and ensure your liver has very little fat content.
1. A fatty liver could cause diabetes
Researchers knew how bad fructose was way back in the 1980s. One study showed just how bad fructose is on your insulin levels. The simple act of consuming 1000 extra calories per day in the form of fructose decreased participants sensitivity to insulin by 25% in only 7 days! (11)
Remember, diabetes is a condition characterized by a decreased sensitivity to insulin. The simple act of consuming excess fructose will have you well on your way to developing type II diabetes.
A more recent study showed just how powerful fructose is on your insulin levels. In this study, participants were given 25% of their daily calories from a Kool-Aid beverage sweetened with either fructose or glucose. In only eight weeks, the group consuming Kool-Aid sweetened with fructose had so much insulin resistance that they could have been classified as pre-diabetic. (12)
2. A fatty liver will make you fat
If you’re overweight or obese (and even if you’re of normal body weight but still would like to lose 5lbs) I’m sure you’ve been told to decrease your calories. Just eat less and you’ll lose weight.
If it was that simple, the modern world would not be experiencing the obesity epidemic that’s currently only getting worse. Weight loss is not as simple as calories in versus calories out. Hormones contribute to weight gain (or loss). Specifically, the insulin hormone.
After reading through this post, you likely know that if you have a fatty liver, you also probably have insulin resistance. The more resistant you are to insulin, the more insulin your body excretes. This, of course, makes the insulin resistance even worse.
The insulin hormone instructs your body to store excess calories for later. The way your body elects to store these excess calories is through body fat. More insulin, more instructions to store calories as fat. The resulting effect is weight gain.
If you want to lose weight, you need to lower your insulin levels. If you want to lower your insulin levels, you need to get the fat out of your liver! If you want less fat in your liver, you need to eat less fructose, lower your carbohydrate intake, and opt for some periods of the day/week where you fast.
Three easy ways to improve a fatty liver
Follow these three simple steps and you’ll be on your way to a healthy – not fatty – liver.
1. Substantially decrease your fructose intake
This is – by far – the most important step. Look on the ingredients list of all the foods you’re consuming. If you see high fructose corn syrup, stay away!
Pop or soda is another common source for high levels of fructose. Switch your pop/sodas for fizzy water drinks.
Frustose is the most important food to avoid if you have a fatty liver. If you only take one thing away from this post, let it be that in order to reverse fatty liver disease, you need to drastically cut down on your fructose intake!
2. Lower your carbohydrate intake
Most of you are getting way too many of your daily calories from carbohydrates. Instead of more potatoes/rice/bread/corn etc. opt for more healthy fats. More coconut oil, more butter/ghee, more olives, more avocados.
By replacing some of your daily calories with high-fat foods, you’ll be lowering the levels of insulin needed by your body. Carbohydrates require lots of insulin. Fats require rather small amounts of insulin.
If replacing carbs with fats seems like too big of a step, try replacing refined carbohydrates like bread, pasta, etc. with starchy carbohydrates like sweet potatoes, yucca, taro, or plantain.
3. Practice fasting
Nothing lowers insulin like fasting. There needs to be periods of your day where you are not eating. These periods of fasting allow insulin levels to decrease. This will keep your body sensitive to insulin. Which in turn will prevent diabetes and help reverse your fatty liver.
Fasting is like a muscle, it gets stronger the more you work it out. Don’t start your fasting journey with a 2-3 day fast. Start with intermittent fasting. Not eating for 12- 16 hours is the perfect place to start.
Once you’ve mastered intermittent fasting, then you can work towards multi-day fasts. But start small. Frequency is more important than duration.
Ok, now you know everything you need to know – and more! – about fatty livers!
Now, I want to hear from you.
What foods do you avoid to improve your fatty liver?
Leave your replies in the comments section below!