It Happened To Me | My Fatty Liver Journey
“We always think that we are invincible until we learn that what we put into our bodies matters.”
– Melanie Braga
A routine physical became more than I nervously anticipated as the doctor informed me that I had “non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).”
As I saw the words come out from my doctor’s mouth, my mind starts racing with so many questions. How could this be? How did I let myself get to this point? Am I going to be okay?
I was all too familiar with liver health as my husband had been diagnosed with NAFLD five years ago. Not to mention that prior he was diagnosed with Wilson’s Disease; a hereditary liver disease. Therefore, I knew what was good and what was not good for our livers.
But I never thought it could have happened to me!
Fatty Liver Disease
According to the Canadian Liver Foundation, fatty liver is the result of the excess fat stored in liver cells. Fatty tissue slowly builds up in the liver when a person’s diet exceeds the amount of fat and sugars his or her body can handle.
NAFLD is a progressive liver disease which starts with fat accumulation in the liver without excessive alcohol consumption.
There are no distinct symptoms of NAFLD. However, some people may feel discomfort in the abdomen at the level of the liver, fatigue, a general feeling of being unwell and vague discomfort.
There are a few causes that can lead to NAFLD such as obesity, genetic factors, insulin resistance, and above all, what we eat can cause fatty liver.
Before being diagnosed, like many parents, I juggled it all. Two part-time jobs, a successful blog, motherhood and daily life. It was taking a toll on me, and when I am overwhelmed, I seek comfort food. Of course, all the comfort food was not healthy, and in order to feel energized, I turned to pop. Little did I know that this was a temporary solution with internal consequences.
Even though I felt energized, the crash later made me feel worse and I felt more tired than ever before. I thought this was just a result of being stretched too thin and didn’t think twice about what I was doing to myself. But again, I just had to keep going for my family. Excuse after excuse that I gave to myself as to why I had to have that one French fry or that cold glass of pop. It was the only way to reason with myself that I was doing this to keep up with the high demands of life.
The first round was blood work. Once that came back with high levels of ALT, the doctor requested to re-test the following month. When those results came back a bit higher than the previous month, the doctor knew that it was NAFLD and requested for further testing in three months.
This was the wake-up call that I needed to realize that what I was doing wasn’t helping my family, but instead, was destroying me. How could I be there for my family when I wasn’t taking care of myself?
It was time for a change! A complete lifestyle change. I eliminated a few items that were becoming too frequent on my menu such as red meats, dairy products, fried food and pop. I also started walking and biking more to get myself more active than the running around after my daughter (that doesn’t count apparently!).
Three months past and it was time to see the impact of little changes had made. I did all the blood work related to the liver and an ultrasound. Within a couple of weeks, I went to visit my doctor who automatically noticed a change in me. He saw that I had lost weight and said I looked more energized. He reviewed the results with me, and fatty liver was present in the ultrasound but very mild (85% in the clear) and the blood work results went down a bit. My doctor was impressed with the results and said that I was on the right path but had to keep going. Re-testing will be done again in six months to make sure that it goes down and not up.
It’s been two months since my official diagnosis. My energy levels are higher, and that is without the fix of the pop that I use to think that I needed in order to get by. I have to admit that it is still a struggle to eat well all the time especially when dining out with family and friends. I can honestly say that I haven’t touched pop in five months and red meats in three months. This may seem insignificant, but to me, it is the world. It hasn’t been an easy transition, and I take it a day at a time. Some days are easier than others, but I will get there.
I have learned that in order for me to be there for others, I need to put myself first. I need to make better eating choices for my body and liver. Currently, there is no treatment for NAFLD, but it is suggested to change our lifestyles to a healthy balance of eating well and exercising to reduce the amount of fat in the liver. It is up to us to make better choices for ourselves and try to prevent this disease.
Our livers are so important to our well-being and we need to treat it with delicacy.
Journey From Here
The journey isn’t over and it has just begun. I have an amazing support system who helps me stay on the right path and I am truly grateful for it. It can be a hard struggle at times to re-teach our bodies something that it isn’t accustomed to. However, with time and discipline, it can be done.
I keep reminding myself that “live” is in liver and that is my motivation to keep going.
Melanie Braga is a successful Canadian blogger and an avid supporter of the CLF. She hopes that through her blog documenting her journey in life and in parenthood, she can inspire and help others. Visit Mommabraga.com to read Melanie’s parenting tips, DIY crafts, recipe ideas and book reviews!