In plain words, fatty liver disease is an accumulation of fat in the cells of the liver. The liver is the biggest organ in the human body. It is essentially responsible for digesting food, storing energy, regulating blood sugar and cholesterol levels, filtering toxins from your body, and fighting disease and infection (1).
It’s natural to have fat in the liver, but when there is over 5 to 10 percent fat, it can be recon as fatty liver disease.
Fat accumulates in the liver as a result of habitually consuming fat-rich food that exceed the amount of fat the body can process. A build-up of fat in the liver makes it vulnerable to more damage, which can cause inflammation and scarring.
There are two types of fatty liver disease: alcohol-induced and non-alcoholic. The major factor behind alcohol-induced fatty liver is excessive alcohol consumption. A few of your liver cells die every time your liver filters alcohol.
The liver is a tough organ that is capable of regenerating itself. But protracted alcohol abuse reduces this regenerative power of the liver, causing severe and permanent damage to the liver (2).
In non-alcoholic fatty liver, fat builds up in the liver for causes not related to alcohol. Some of these factors are over weight; some medications ; diabetes, middle aged or older; high blood pressure, metabolic disorders; rapid weight loss; high fat levels in blood; excess toxins; certain infections like hepatitis C; or genetic disorders.
Generally, people with fatty liver disease have no symptoms, especially in the early stages. However, some people may experience abdominal discomfort, fatigue, loss of appetite, a general feeling of being unwell and vague discomfort.
Some other symptoms reported are yellowing of eyes and skin, swelling in ankles and stomach, feeling drowsy or confused, vomiting blood or bloody stools. This is why proper diagnosis is important before starting any treatment.
Currently, there is no effective treatment for fatty liver disease. However, it is a reversible condition and can usually be treated with simple lifestyle changes, dietary changes and easy-to-follow home remedies.
For persons with alcoholic fatty liver disease, abstinence from alcohol for even two weeks helps the liver make a profound improvement in restoring its condition.
Below is an A-List of home remedies for fatty liver disease.
Lemons are essential not only in the kitchen but also for many medicinal purposes.
Lemons contain high amounts of vitamin C, an antioxidant that helps the liver produce enzymes including one called glutathione. Glutathione amongst other tasks neutralizes toxins and thus lemons help detoxification in the liver.
Both limes and lemons are rich in flavonoids. Some of the major flavonoids in lemons are eriocitrin, narirutin, hesperitin, naringenin, etc. (3).
As evidenced through research, many of these citrus flavonoids are responsible for the beneficial health effects of lemons. The flavonoids within lemon oil stimulate the secretion of digestive juices like bile and thus aid digestion.
Eriocitrin, the major flavonoid of lemon, was demonstrated to have a lipid lowering effect on total cholesterol, triglycerides, and phospholipids in rats fed with a high-fat, high-cholesterol diet (4).
Another study published in 2014 concluded that eriocitrin, a powerful antioxidant, repairs fatty liver disease caused by a high-fat diet in rats by stimulating the cells to produce new mitochondria (5).
Also, a 2014 study published in the journal Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology found that naringenin helps ease liver inflammation (6).
Lemon is also alkalizing for the body as it helps flush harmful acids.
- Squeeze the juice of ½ lemon in a glass of water. Drink it 2 or 3 times a day for several weeks, especially first thing in the morning.
- Alternatively, add 2 to 3 chopped lemons to a jar of water. Cover and let it sit for a few hours. Drink this water at regular intervals throughout the day.
2. Green Tea
Green tea is a popular beverage with many therapeutic properties associated with it. It has a high content of flavonoids which are responsible for its antioxidant properties.
Among the flavonoids present in green tea, catechin is a major component that has been in the research limelight because of its anti-tumor and antisclerotic effects. The other main tea catechins are epicatechin, epicatechin gallate, epigallocatechin (EGC), and EGC gallate (EGCG) that have been found to reduce oxidative stress and exhibit anti-viral, anti-allergenic, anti-diabetic effects (7).
In addition, catechins were reported to affect lipid metabolism by diminishing the triglyceride and total cholesterol levels in experimental animal models and increase the use of energy. Studies on green tea extracts and catechins reveal that they have a protective effect against non-alcoholic fatty liver disease by decreasing the oxidative stress, inflammatory response, and maintaining the energy balance (8), (9).
According to a 2013 study published in the International Journal of Molecular Medicine, green tea with high-density catechins improves liver function and fat infiltration in patients suffering from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) (10).
Another randomized clinical trial study done in 2016 reported that green tea extracts improved the serum levels of liver enzymes in NAFLD patients (11).
Green tea helps block the amount of fat stored in the liver and improves liver function. Plus, regular intake of green tea reduces body weight and fat percentage.
- Drink 3 to 4 cups of organic green tea, hot or cold, every day to assist with fatty liver disease and protect the liver.
- Blend green tea (you can also use matcha green tea powder) into smoothies & juices.
- Green tea is also available in the form of extract in liquid and in capsules. Consult your doctor before taking supplements.
Always chose organic herbs and teas to help avoid pesticides and other toxins.
3. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is one of the best remedies for fatty liver disease. It helps get rid of fat accumulated in and around the liver and promotes weight loss.
A study in 2014 investigated the potential ability of apple cider vinegar to lower fats like cholesterol, triglycerides in mice that were fed a high cholesterol diet.
Moreover, it encourages healthy liver functioning and reduces liver inflammation.
- Add 1 tablespoon of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar to a glass of warm water.
- Optionally, add a little raw honey.
- Drink it 2 times daily, before your meals.
- Follow this remedy for a few months.
Caution: Apple cider vinegar is acidic, so dilute it before use as instructed above. Initially start with a small volume (1 teaspoon) of apple cider vinegar, and then increase it to 2 tablespoons gradually if your body is comfortable with it. Do not take it in excess.
A study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in 2005 revealed that apple cider vinegar can cause burning of the esophagus in some people who drink it undiluted (13).
It may interact with other prescription medications. Vinegar can also damage tooth enamel; hence it is good to rinse your mouth after drinking.
4. Milk Thistle
Milk thistle has a long history for treating liver and gallbladder problems, even toxic poisoning.
Physicians from long ago have tested the use of milk thistle for benefits like stimulation of breast-milk production, bile secretion, treatment of depression, and protection against mushroom poisoning and other environmental toxins.
The main active constituent of milk thistle is fat-soluble complex called silymarin. Silymarin is distributed throughout the entire plant but is concentrated in the fruits and seeds. It is an antioxidant that prevents the oxidation of fats.
Silymarin is also antifibrotic, inhibiting the scarring of liver tissue. It also has the capability to block toxins in the liver. Furthermore, silymarin can reduce liver injury due to several factors like medication, radiation, iron overload, viral infections like hepatitis, mushroom poisoning, etc. Silymarin has been used to treat alcoholic liver disease, acute and chronic viral hepatitis, and liver disease due to toxins.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), milk thistle has anti-inflammatory properties and is known to protect liver cells from toxins and also promotes regeneration of damaged liver cells (14). Milk thistle is helpful for fatty liver, especially when caused by excess alcohol consumption or diabetes.
- Milk thistle capsules (150 milligrams), can be taken one to three times daily. At this dose milk thistle can act as a natural liver “detox.”
- For ongoing use and liver support, take 50 to 150 milligrams of this capsule daily.
It will be even more effective when blended with other liver and body detoxification herbs and healthy food choices. Needless to say, regular moderate exercise is a must.
According to Ayurveda, both the papaya fruit and its seeds are effective treatments for fatty liver disease. Papaya is a storehouse of nutrients.
It is rich in vitamin B (pantothenic acid, folate, nicotinic acid) and antioxidant vitamins like A, C, and E. It is also rich in minerals like potassium, magnesium, and also has fiber. Papaya has a protective effect against heart disease, heart attacks and strokes.
In a study published in 2010, water-soluble and alcohol-soluble extracts of papaya were investigated for its hepatoprotective effect. The study demonstrated that both types of papaya extracts were able to exert a hepatoprotective effect against the liver damage caused by carbon tetrachloride (15).
Moreover, papaya aids in rapidly burning dietary fats, one of the main causes of fatty liver disease.
- Grind 5 to 6 dried papaya seeds and mix the powder with 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice. Take this 2 times a day for 1 month.
- Eat a few slices of ripe papaya (optionally add honey) once daily.
- Include raw papaya soup and salad in your diet.
Turmeric is a spice that has innumerable health benefits. It has more significance than just as a curry powder constituent. Packed with valuable antioxidants, turmeric is another effective home remedy for fatty liver disease.
Curcumin is the major phytochemical present within turmeric that gives it medicinal value. A large body of experimental evidence indicates that curcumin possesses the power to alter the immune system along with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
These properties enable it to alleviate conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal inflammatory diseases, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, etc. (16).
In a randomized trial conducted in 2016, a short-term supplementation with curcumin reduced the symptoms associated with fatty liver in NAFLD patients and was found to decrease liver fat (17). However, more research is still needed.
Turmeric improves the body’s ability to digest fats so that they do not accumulate in the liver. It also aids the liver detoxification process.
- Mix ¼ teaspoon of turmeric powder in 1 to 2 glasses of water and boil it. Drink it twice daily for a couple of weeks.
- Turmeric can be hard to absorb in the body. It dissolves better in a fat-containing medium like milk. You can mix ½ teaspoon of turmeric powder in a glass of warm milk and drink it once daily or more.
- Turmeric supplements are available as capsules and tinctures. Look for a supplement that is standardized and offers factors like black pepper to help with its absorption. Talk to your doctor to determine the proper dosage for your condition. Discontinue if there are issues like loose stools, stomach pain or excessive gas.
7. Dietary Changes
Follow a healthy plant-based diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole complex grains, and healthy fats to improve your liver function, and treat fatty liver disease.
Dietary modifications go a long way in preventing and managing metabolic disorders like NAFLD. Among several dietary proposals for NAFLD patients, Mediterranean diet is one recommendation which has several benefits. Whole grain foods, nuts, fresh fruit, and vegetables form the crux of the Mediterranean diet (18).
- Avoid all types of high fructose corn syrup.
- Steer clear of white flour or processed foods and include whole-grain products.
- Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts and tofu.
- Eat detoxifying and liver-repairing superfoods such as broccoli, kale, cauliflower, lemons, beets, Swiss chard, artichoke, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts. Chose organic whenever possible. While cooking, lightly steam your vegetables to retain their nutritional value.
- Eat more fiber including fibre-rich fruits like apple, guava, raspberries, and so on. However, do not eat fruits in excess as most fruits are high in sugar. Insoluble fiber such as oats and quinoa can also rid toxins and improve liver function.
- Avoid spicy and fried foods and fatty meats.
- Water – ensure adequate intake of water about 1 ½ to 3 liters per day based on your current body weight or ½ of your body weight (lbs) in ounces. Herbal teas count, but drinks with caffeine do not.
- Make good sleep a priority to give enough rest to restore the liver and all of the body.
- Minimize sugar and excessive fruit consumption and reduce your intake of fried food.
- Stop drinking alcohol completely.
- If diabetic, try to do your best to keep your blood sugar levels under control.
- Take all necessary steps to keep your cholesterol and triglycerides at healthy levels.
- If you are overweight, take necessary steps for a gradual and sustained weight loss. Rapid weight loss (losing 4 or more pounds a week) can be damaging to the liver.
- Eat a well-balanced diet that is low in saturated fats and high in fiber.
- Correct nutrient deficiencies with balanced multivitamin supplements if you do not eat well and/or are traveling.
- Support digestive functions better as the liver and gut work together. Consider taking a good probiotic like yogurt or a probiotic supplement to help everything.