Did you know that even people with a lean physique can get a fatty liver? And did you know liver regulates levels of ammonia and plasma glucose that affects your brain function directly? Roughly 80-100 million Americans have fatty liver disease, and most of them do not even know it. The disease can impair absorption of fat in the liver and lead to the accumulation. As long as the fat in liver is less than 10%, the condition can be managed. But anything over and above that can begin to impair normal liver functions and progressively lead to liver cirrhosis. Generally, fatty liver is not a very worrisome condition and it can be managed by following a healthy lifestyle and a nutritious diet with less carbs. As yet, western medicine has not found an effective line of treatment to manage the condition. Ayurveda, one of the oldest sciences of healing and wellness, is one of the best ways among the existing alternative lines of treatment to manage fatty liver without having to pop too many prescription medicines that may come with a string of side effects, and could further damage the liver.
What Does The Liver Exactly Do?
- Stores carbs as glycogen to balance sugar levels in the body
- Transforms fats into lipoproteins
- Regulates ammonia and plasma glucose in the body
- Filters blood coming from the digestive tract
- Metabolizes drugs and processes chemicals
- Two Types Of Fatty Liver Disease
When the fat deposits in the liver cells exceed 10%, it leads to what is called non-alcoholic fatty liver or Liver Steatosis. When the liver fat is due to alcohol consumption, it is called Steatohepatitis or alcoholic fatty liver.
Fatty Liver: Risk Factors
The risk factors that can increase your chances of getting the condition include
Metabolic syndrome like excess body weight, high resistance to insulin, hypertension and high cholesterol)
Having prescription meds like amiodarone, diltiazem or tamoxifen can also increase chances of getting non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Fatty Liver: Symptoms
These are some of the more common symptoms of fatty liver that people have reported:
- Poor appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Weakness and fatigue
- Liver inflammation
- Discoloration of skin
- Fever, sometimes
Fatty Liver: The Ayurvedic Take
Before we get tino an Ayurvedic understanding of what causes the fatty liver, let us understand two important terms in Ayurevda-dhatus or basic elements and agni (transformational heat principle). In Ayurveda, there are seven dhatus or basic elements that make up the structure of our body-rasa (plasma), rakta (blood), mamsa (muscle), meda(fat), asthi (bones), Majja (bonemarrow), and sukra (reproductive tissues). Agni is the heat principle that fuels digestion, absorption and assimilation in the body. The most common and important one is Jatharagni (digestive fire) or the agni principle located in the stomach region. There are seven agnis located in each of the dhatus called Dhatvagnis.
Fatty liver is caused by slowdown in mamsa dhatwagni-the heat principle in the muscles, medodhatwagni-the heat principle in the fat cells, and asthidhatwagni, or the heat principle in bone cells. When the meda dhatu or fat in liver is accumulated and the fat doesn’t burn up due to sluggish metabolism dhatwagni, the fat deposits in liver cells could lead to fatty liver disease and block the subtle channels that transfer fats. Liver is the main fat processing unit in the body and so deposition of fat in the liver obstructs metabolism of the entire body.
Ayurveda recommends a unique line of treatment for dealing with fatty liver which includes purges, proper nourishing diet, herbal medications, yogasanas that work on the liver region and small lifestyle changes that aid speeding up of liver metabolism in the body.
Virechna or purgation: This is an effective detoxification treatment that cleanses the digestive tracts off the ama or toxin accumulation totally, while giving the digestive system some much needed rest and rejuvenation. It also balances Pitta and Kapha doshas that affect liver metabolism. Herbs like false daisies, wild indigo, long pepper, gale of the wind or phyllanthus niruri and hellebore have been prescribed in Ayurveda for specifically healing liver diseases.Daily self-massage or abhyanga with the right essential oils like Shankara’s Calming Body Oil, a richly nourishing, moisturizing and grounding body oil that comes with the goodness of over 25 exotic herbal essences including vetiver, dashmoola, borage, hempseed, sesame, almond oil, avocado oil, sandalwood, cardamom, ginger and bala extract among others, that help in detoxification of skin and deep tissues, calms the central nervous system, revitalizes metabolism, improves blood circulation, and speeds up the lymphatic system that carries fat and fatty acids from the digestive tracts. This signature Ayurvedic treatment uses the healing and nurturing qualities of herbal oils that seep into body tissues drawing out the toxins from each cell and putting it into the digestive tract from where it is eliminated.
Asanas like the cow pose, bow pose, and cobra pose are helpful in toning liver fat and digestion.
Getting the right amount of sleep is very important in treating any liver related condition. Our liver and other digestive organs are usually under repair between 10 PM to 3 AM when Pitta is active. When you are awake during this crucial hours, the life energy or prana gets utilized in other activities rather than being focused on cleansing and repair.
Have a Pitta pacifying diet for your liver
Here are quick tips on a Pitta friendly diet that your liver is likely to enjoy during the detox.
- Have cooling and dry foods with more sweet, bitter or astringent tastes. Bitter foods are cooling on the liver.
- Avoid salty or sour foods.
- Have more raw and green vegetables.
- Avoid refined items like refined sugar and refined salt and oils that put pressure on the liver’s metabolic functions when the liver is in the resting phase. You do not want to burden it with more toxicity. Let your liver breathe!
- Avoid recreational drugs or alcohol for the time of detoxification. These again burden the liver functions.
- You can have healthy fats like clarified butter or ghee in small amounts.
- You can have Pitta calming herbs and flavors like coriander, fennel, cumin turmeric and mint.
Use Pitta pacifying bathing oils.
So it is important to apply essential oils on your body that have Pitta pacifying qualities like Shankara’s Soothing Body Oil, made from oil extracts of sunflower, almond, grapeseed, coconut, borage, geranium leaf, primrose, chamomile, calendula, helio carrot, shavegrass, lemon balm and licorice. This hydrating body oil features a soothing blend of essential oils that are known for their relaxing and de-stressing capabilities. The oil can be used in massage, as a bath oil, or as a moisturizer to help address over critical thinking, irritability, and anger-all emotions seated in the liver.