Lying in bed this spectacularly beautiful fall Sunday morning—with my gently-snoring cat, Thelma, I feel so relaxed gazing out the window, watching ruby red leaves fluttering in the wind. But before I have another cup of tea, I feel the need to give back and acknowledge another hero of mine, a man who is living with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).
You can read his empowering story here. NASH, is a “cousin” to a condition I was diagnosed with back in 2006, (when I used to be obese) known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, or NAFLD. The scary thing is that both of these conditions can lie dormant—or rather undetected by people and their doctors because they are largely asymptomatic.
In both cases, inflammation is occurring in the liver, which causes fatty deposits that scar and prevent the liver from functioning properly. Scarring occurs, which can lead to cirrhosis and liver failure. NASH is far worse than NAFLD, but both of these conditions can progress, which could mean an organ transplant. This is especially true for NAFLD, as there is no FDA-approved treatment.
And my guess is that if you are reading this, you or a loved one has been diagnosed with one of these illnesses, and you’re probably feeling frustrated, anxious maybe? and scared. But please don’t give up hope. While the major key is to catch both conditions EARLY, before serious cirrhosis sets in, we are living in an exciting time. There is exciting news on the treatment development horizon!
Here’s Why There’s Hope for You:
- Most people diagnosed with NASH and NAFLD are obese. Think you aren’t? Umm… weigh yourself naked before you eat breakfast, and then, knowing your height, go to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and use their Body Mass Index calculator here.
You may be surprised to find you are in the obese category. Remember: It’s not just the morbidly obese people who usually die young because of multiple health problems. But… OK… let’s dial it down a bit… before you get your panties in a wad, take a deep breath and relax!
My point here is that IF you are obese, you can do something about it. I did. I lost 55 pounds—and have kept it off for almost 10 years. Just by making sensible changes to your diet and lifestyle, you can get healthier. It’s basically a matter of eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean, low fat sources of proteins—plant-based sources can be your friend, too! Think complex carbohydrates vs. processed foods and eat whole grains. No alcohol. A low sodium diet should also be followed. Being a former “salt whore” (yes, I used to salt my food before tasting—even as a child!) this was the most difficult thing for me, but after two weeks, the body adapts and you’ll be amazed how salty restaurant foods are. Yuck. Talk to your doctor about the EASIEST way for you to lose weight—and KEEP IT OFF.
My advice: Whatever you do, lose it slowly, it’s easier to maintain. Celebrate each pound as you say goodbye to it for the rest of your life. The great news is that for most people, once you’ve lost weight and adopted a healthy lifestyle, inflammation in your liver will lessen. While a healthy diet won’t reverse the damage already done, it will improve your liver health if intervention is done early enough. Again. Talk to your doctor because there is hope when you change your diet and lose a significant amount of weight—and keep it off.
2. The pharmaceutical and biotech industry has got your back! This is an exciting time for people with these conditions because they are on the cutting edge of using advances in modern medicine and technology. Right now. There are several companies who are developing targeted treatments for NASH:
- Allergan Pharmaceuticals
- Intercept Pharmaceuticals
Check them out. Get informed. Talk to your doctor, and make losing weight—and keeping it off–the new priority in your life.
Remember: Before every flight on an airplane, the flight attendant will always say that should there be a loss of cabin pressure and the oxygen masks drop down, PUT YOURS ON FIRST BEFORE ASSISTING OTHERS. We’ve got to take care of ourselves, first, if we want to be a good parent to our children, a good spouse to our partner, and a good friend to our furry four-legged friends, too.
Take care and stick to your guns to adapt a healthier lifestyle—it’s not a cure, but it can make a significant difference.