I have 200 members in a group on facebook who are dealing with non alcoholic fatty liver disease. They range in stages of the disease from very minor with few to no symptoms, to the extreme of swelling (ascites), and constantly being in the hospital.
There are a lot of recommendations for coping with the disease and helping the liver by avoiding certain things: High Fructose Corn Syrup, other sugars, MSG, Trans fats, excess sodium, and deep fried foods. These are the fun foods, they are the social foods, they are comfort foods and everyone has a fond memory associated with one of these no-no’s.
People in the group talk a lot about wanting to get a liver transplant and I understand that desire. This sounds like the perfect answer and relief to serious pain and late stage liver disease. They go through lots of tests and analysis to determine if they are a good candidate for the liver transplant and when they make the list it is a celebration! We are all happy for them and know they are getting a fresh chance at life!
I think the fresh chance at life is really the key message here for liver transplant patients. You can’t go back to the same habits that destroyed your liver in the first place. You can’t go out and celebrate with a beer, chicken wings and nachos and expect that this new liver will be any happier with your choices than your old liver. Those foods and beverages are still toxic. This new liver is vulnerable as it tries to fit in with all of your other organs that have been there the whole time. Those other organs have had to take the extra workload from the compromised liver for all these years and are also going through a bit of a shock!
So here is the point. Those banned foods do not change after a transplant. They are still hurting your liver and your other organs. A transplant is not an invitation to party. Think about driving home your first child. Do you remember how careful that drive home was? I remember bringing home my son Alex and my ex husband driving so incredibly slow, we were both so afraid we would hurt this new baby. Giving the baby the first bath, the first nail clipping. We are super careful and we would never take a newborn baby in an Indy 500 race! Think of your new liver like a new baby. Treat it with the respect and care you would give your child.
For people who are dealing with Early or Mid stage liver disease my message to you is different. I don’t want you planning your road to your transplant. I want you focussed on helping the liver you were born with. Your goal is not a new liver.
Eating healthy , exercise, use supplements that work for you, that have been approved by your doctor or health care professional. Do everything you can to eat low carb(20 G per day), low sugar (15 g per day), low sodium(1000 mg per day) with lots of veggies preferably raw!, good healthy proteins, and healthy fats.
Reading labels is something you need to do forever, everyone needs to do this. Everyone needs to wake up to the sad truth that the fun we were having with food is not without a price to pay in our bodies. Short term flushes and detox will not do the trick, quick weightloss will not do the trick, Those things will shock the liver and cause more damage even if they appear to be helping.
I want everyone in their yearly physical to ask to have your liver function tested in your blood test. If your AST or ALT numbers are higher than recommended levels you need to demand a stomach ultrasound to confirm that your liver is compromised. You may not be dealing with symptoms but this is a huge wake up call that your liver is waving a white flag and begging you to stop what you are doing. Drive away from the drive thru, Back away from the nachos and wings, and just say no to alcohol. Give your liver the break it needs it desperately. Be gentle to your liver, treat is with the respect it deserves.
A liver transplant is meant for people who despite eating properly and following all the guidelines are still not able to get the original liver to function. You have to be healthy and fit, the rest of your organs have to be strong enough to deal with the surgery and the aftercare of preventing rejection of the new liver. Very few of us will make that list and be that strong and healthy. Your goal is to get that way without requiring a transplant.
Taking care of your liver is a life long journey not a short term fix!