What Causes Fatty Liver? The Connection Between Fatty Liver, a Choline Deficiency and SNP's In The PEMT Gene
Fatty liver is becoming an epidemic problem affecting approximately 25% of the US population, but there is a genetic component related to fatty liver along with a choline deficiency all contributing to fatty liver. If you have fatty liver symptoms such as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, bloating, weight gain, insulin resistance, fatigue, pain or discomfort in the upper right abdomen and nausea know that there are things that you can start doing today to reverse fatty liver.
First off what is fatty liver?
Fatty liver is simply the build of up of fat in the liver with the 2 primary forms of fatty liver including non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). While often people with NAFLD do not experience severe symptoms some individuals with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease will develop the more aggressive form of fatty liver disease known as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis which is marked by liver inflammation and can progress to advanced scarring of the liver and liver failure.
Symptoms related to NASH include abdominal swelling, enlarged blood vessels just beneath the skin surface, enlarged spleen, red palms and yellowing of the skin and eyes.
Fatty liver disease is the most common reason for abnormal liver dysfunction and with the liver having over 500 functions in the body it stands to reason that liver dysfunction has far-reaching implications throughout the entire body.
What causes fatty liver?
While fatty liver can have several underlying causes a primary underlying cause of fatty liver that not too many people know about is the hereditary component of fatty liver. While I don’t like to blame our genes on our health problems, Snp’s in the PEMT gene increases the likelihood of developing fatty liver. But don’t worry there is a lot that can be done to prevent and possibly reverse fatty liver.
The PEMT gene is responsible for making phosphatidylcholine and phosphatidylcholine is involved in transporting fats out of the liver. When phosphatidylcholine synthesis is inhibited due to a choline deficiency or SNPs in the PEMT gene then fats cannot get out of the liver and instead the fats will build up in the liver contributing to fatty liver!
Humans ingesting diets deficient in the nutrient choline can develop fatty liver because phosphatidylcholine is required for liver secretion of triacylglycerol in very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL) out of the liver. As you can see there is both a genetic component and nutritional deficiency component to fatty liver.
A key component to reverse fatty liver with diet is by eating a diet high in choline which is required by the PEMT gene to make Phosphatidylcholine. Foods highest in choline include eggs yolks, whole eggs, liver, soybean lecithin, and sunflower lecithin, whitefish, salmon, cod, shitake mushrooms, and soy flour, soybeans. Lower choline foods include lima beans, lentils, mung beans, peas, chickpeas, and flaxseeds. But the foods highest in choline are eggs, and organ meats such and liver from animals…. Which makes choline a difficult nutrient for vegans to obtain through their diet in sufficient quantities.
Supplementing with Optimal PC from seeking health which contains phosphatidylcholine from non-GMO sunflower lecithin is an amazing supplement to help prevent and reverse fatty liver. You can also do an at-home saliva test through Ancestry DNA then download your raw data and upload your data through strategene to find out if you have SNPs in the PEMT gene that could be predisposing you to fatty liver problems especially if your diet is deficient in choline.
How does fatty liver cause bloating?
Another warning symptom to pay attention to with fatty liver is bloating especially in the upper abdominal area…. But how does fatty liver cause bloating? Well, it all starts with the ability of the body to produce phosphatidylcholine which is also needed to keep bile flowing from the gallbladder. The liver is responsible for producing bile which is antimicrobial and prevents excess bacteria from growing in the small intestine and causing bloating as in the case of SIBO.
Bloating, SIBO, gallbladder dysfunction and fatty liver are all connected. But again it all starts with ensuring optimal phosphatidylcholine levels so that fats can get out of the liver and so that the gallbladder releases ANTIMICOBIAL bile to prevent bacterial fermentation in the small intestine which causes bloating.
Foods to avoid with fatty liver
The sugar fructose is one of the worst foods for causing fatty liver which is found in fruit, but it is the processed fructose-sweetened beverages and processed pre-packaged foods containing fructose that contribute to fatty liver the most. While glucose can be metabolized and used by all cells of the body and stored in adipose tissue (fat cells) throughout the body, fructose is primarily metabolized by the liver and turned into fat that is stored in the liver.
The metabolism of fructose in the liver stimulates de novo lipogenesis (the making of new fat) that is stored in the liver which leads to the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Foods highest in fructose include agave, honey, dates, raisins, apple juice, pineapple juice, grape juice, commercial soda pop, commercial salad dressing and sauces such as thousand island, bbq sauce, ketchup, dried figs, dried apricots, dried peaches, raw grapes, commercial cookies.
To reverse fatty liver these foods should be eliminated from the diet or dramatically reduced especially the processed foods high in fructose such as the fruit juices, soda, and commercial sauces. Go to nutritiondata.self.com and use the nutrient search tool to find all the foods highest in fructose that should be reduced.
While there can be many underlying dietary, lifestyle and genetic factors contributing to a fatty liver a diet deficient in choline and SNP’s in the PEMT gene can also cause fatty liver which is why ensuring adequate choline from the diet is crucial for preventing fatty liver along with supplementing with phosphatidylcholine if needed. Eliminating highly processed fructose-containing foods and beverages are also key to preventing fatty liver.
Hey! I'm Amber, a nutritional therapy consultant helping people to improve digestion, beat the bloat and lose weight. Sharing weight loss tips, gut health tips and whole food recipes that are gluten free. Grab your freebie below:)
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