By Nutritionist Jaden
Our liver is a unique organ as it possesses powerful repair and regeneration capabilities. We are able to donate a part of our liver to the patient in need and it will eventually regrow. On the other hand, it is very hard to pinpoint the pain from our liver as it does not contain pain receptor. Most people experience little to no symptoms when having liver damage leaving us unaware of liver condition until it becomes critical. Therefore, regular body check-up is recommended to monitor the health of our liver. Below are the stages of liver damage that will affect the functions of liver and serious damage may lead to death.
Stage 1: Fatty Liver
A healthy liver does contain certain amount of fat which do not more than 5% of liver weight. If the fat weight is more than 5%, it is considered as fatty liver. There are two types of fatty liver, which are Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (ALD) and Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD).
Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (ALD)
Alcohol is one of the main factors that cause fatty liver as liver is the main organ for alcohol metabolism. Alcohol is converted into acetaldehyde in liver which is a poison that is highly toxic and carcinogenic.1 It will interrupt the liver from breaking down fats, thus causing fat to be accumulated in the liver as the result.
Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)
Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease is more common in overweight and obese person.2 Eating excess calories causes fat to build up and accumulate in the liver. According to NHMS 2019, 1 in 2 adults in Malaysia were overweight or obese which indicates that half of Malaysians having high risk of development of NAFLD.3
Stage 2: Liver Fibrosis
Development of fatty liver cause increased inflammation in the liver. If left untreated, the liver starts to swell and scar leading to fibrosis. The scar tissues in the liver lose its function and overburden the liver. Adherence of healthy lifestyle, medication and supplementation may prevent further progression of liver fibrosis and increase the possibility for the liver to heal.
Stage 3: Liver Cirrhosis
The deterioration of fibrosis leads to permanent scarring called cirrhosis. The blood flow to the liver is restricted and the liver lose its ability to heal. The patient may experience extreme fatigue, bruising, swelling of lower limbs, itchy skin and yellowish of skin and eyes (jaundice). The treatment will focus on the delaying of the worsening of liver cirrhosis. If left untreated, the liver will eventually fail and the only way is to carry out a liver transplant.
- Edenberg H. J. 2007. The genetics of alcohol metabolism: role of alcohol dehydrogenase and aldehyde dehydrogenase variants. Alcohol Research & Health, 30(1):5-13
- Fabbrini E., Sullivan S., Klein S. 2010. Obesity and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: biochemical, metabolic, and clinical implications. Hepatology, 51(2):679-689
- National Health and Morbidity Survey 2019. https://iptk.moh.gov.my/images/technical_report/2020/4_Infographic_Booklet_NHMS_2019_-_English.pdf