Early Signs of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)
Updated: Jul 27
We are seeing a rising tide of Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) around the world. In simple terms, NAFLD is an accumulation of excess fat in liver cells, taking up 5-10 percent of the entire organ. NAFLD is now the leading cause of Chronic Liver Disease in some parts of the world. In the UK, as high as 1 in 3 of us are estimated to be living with Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease.
So why are the numbers going up rapidly? Scientists and public health officials blame the lack of symptoms and poor awareness as the primary reasons for the increase. We've put together a list of early signs that could help identify warning signals for NAFLD in time before it becomes dangerous.
1. Weight in your belly
Those who are overweight are at an increased risk of NAFLD. A BMI of over 30 significantly correlates with the prevalence of NAFLD. If you have visible abdomen fat giving a bigger gut, then it time to change your lifestyle to reduce the excess fat.
2. Raised cholesterol
Cholesterol and liver health has long been linked with the irregular functioning of liver affecting cholesterol levels and vice versa. So, if you've recently been diagnosed with high cholesterol, perhaps it's worth looking at how your liver is functioning.
3. High blood pressure
Studies have shown an increased risk of hypertension for those suffering from NAFLD. One particular study done by German researchers analysed data from over 3,000 individuals, found that those with NAFLD were three times more likely to have hypertension than those who didn’t have the disease. Regular monitoring of blood pressure could help you identify any potential heart health issues as well as liver health issues.
4. Pain in the upper right abdomen
Potentially the clearest sign of a strained liver, though unlikely to appear in the early days of liver damage. If you are experiencing any pain in the upper right abdomen on a regular basis, we would recommend you to visit your doctor before leaving it for too long.
5. Constant Tiredness / Fatigue
Fatigue & weakness are symptoms of many different conditions. However, if you are experiencing fatigue and weakness along with some of the signs mentioned above, it could be as a result of poor liver health.
6. Binge eating
If you are feeling hungry all the time or having a craving for sugar on a regular basis, it could be an early sign of liver damage. Researchers based at the German Diabetes Center discovered that individuals who ate a meal rich in saturated fat even once experienced an immediate increase in their body's fat accumulation as well as alterations in their liver's metabolic function. These alterations have a significant impact on how we feel hunger. While it's important to stop binge eating, it might also be important to get your liver health checked out to if that is a contributory factor.