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Understanding fatty liver disease

by Allison Lachowitz, RD, CSP, LDN, CNSC

A growing number of young patients I see suffer from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). This disease doesn't immediately have outward symptoms, so some people don't understand at first how serious it can be. NAFLD can be dangerous, and needs to be dealt with promptly. 

The liver is the second-largest organ in your child's body. It works to turn food into energy and nutrients your child's body needs, and it helps to clean your child's blood. Patients with NAFLD have a buildup of extra fat in their livers. 

You might be familiar with cases where Fatty Liver Disease in adults is linked to alcohol consumption. But other factors besides alcohol can also lead to fat buildup in the liver; those include diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol or just overall poor diet. Children with those problems are more likely to have NAFLD. 

As I mentioned, at first your child might not have any symptoms. But as the disease progresses, it could lead to fatigue, weakness, nausea, loss of appetite, stomach pains, swelling of the legs and abdomen, and even mental confusion. 

Now are you ready for some good news? Eating healthy foods, maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly are easy ways to stop NAFLD from getting works, and perhaps even reverse the effects of it. 

I can help you put together a healthy eating plan to help your child avoid the risks of NAFLD, or to reverse the course of the disease if your child is showing signs of it.