How Long does it Take to Reverse a Fatty Liver? (5 Facts).
Our content is not intended nor recommended as a substitute for medical advice by your doctor. Use for informational purposes only.
1. Not all fatty liver stages are reversible.
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) passes into different stages. The initial event of fatty liver disease is fat accumulation inside the liver cells.
Fat accumulation may progress into actual inflammation (steatohepatitis). Eventually, the inflammation ends in destroying liver cells and their replacement with fibrous tissue.
There are several staging systems for NAFLD. However, the most commonly used and most accurate predictor of the severity is the NASH Clinical Research Network Scoring System Fibrosis Score.
The fibrosis score is based on the degree of damage in the liver biopsy (a pathological, not clinical score).
The below table is a simplified version of the scoring system to help you understand the different stages:
|Stage 0||No fibrosis at all (normal)|
|Stage 1||Mild to moderate fibrosis around liver cells.|
|Stage 2||Fibrosis is both liver cells and portal tracks inside the liver|
|Stage 3||Bridging fibrosis: A more severe form of fibrosis that disrupts the normal liver architecture.|
|Stage 4||Liver cirrhosis.|
Untreated Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease can progress into fibrosis and end-stage liver cirrhosis.
In the early stages (most people have the mild form of NAFLD), there is often a simple fat accumulation inside your liver cells without real damage.
In these early stages (often in fibrosis stages F1 and F2), reversing the condition is possible.
Unfortunately, as the inflammation and fibrosis continue, the late stages of liver fibrosis and cirrhosis are often irreversible.
MORE: 8 Warning Signs of a Dying Liver.
2. Stopping the progression of fatty liver is a more realistic goal.
There is no specific treatment for fatty liver that completely reverses the condition. Only lifestyle modifications such as weight loss and diet control are the most effective.
Removing the root causes of damage, such as obesity and bad eating habits, will give the liver a chance to repair and reverse the fatty liver accumulation.
The earlier the stage, the more likely you will reverse the damage. However, a minority of people can completely reverse the damage. The reversal is difficult due to:
- The difficulty of obtaining and maintaining weight loss.
- The lack of specific treatments for the liver fatty liver.
- The complexity of the disease itself (Some people have genetically predisposed more than others to NAFLD).
- Advanced stages of the fatty liver lead to irreversible fibrosis that is unlikely to be reversed.
As a result, the damage is irreversible in a significant portion of patients. But the good news is you can prevent further damage rather than seeking reversal.
Prevention of further damage of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is a more realistic and achievable goal due to the lack of effective medical treatment for this case.
This is what research evidence says, and you don’t have to get upset about such facts. Fatty liver disease is not a severe
3. How long does it take to reverse a fatty liver?
As we explained before, not all types of nonalcoholic fatty liver are reversible.
Fortunately, most people have mild to moderate forms of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
Mild fatty liver disease can be reversible within a few months if you follow the standard dietary advice and lose weight. However, the time it takes to reverse fatty liver is highly variable, depending on various factors.
Factors that delay or prevent the reversal of fatty liver disease:
- Being obese: BMI more than 28. (calculate your BMI).
- Alochol drinking.
- Diabetes mellitus.
- Older ages (>50 years).
- Late-stage fatty liver in biopsy (Stage 3 or 4) with inflammation.
- Elevated liver enzymes (more than double the upper limit of normal).
You can’t modify some of the above factors you can’t modify, such as older age and diabetes. But you can control the remaining other factors such as weight and diet to accelerate the reversal of fatty liver.
4. The Single best strategy to reverse fatty liver is weight loss.
NAFLD is simply fat accumulation inside the liver cells. In other words, it refers to an obese liver.
The most effective strategy to reverse fatty liver in less time is to lose weight.
Weight loss will make the liver lose its fat content as a part of the weight loss process.
Current practice guidelines recommend losing weight through diet programs, exercise, and lifestyle modifications.
However, losing weight is difficult to achieve and maintain. So, a weight loss surgery is also a very effective way to accelerate the reversal of fatty liver.
Some healthcare centers consider bariatric surgery if weight loss plans fail six months (reference).
In conclusion, weight loss is the most effective way to reverse fatty liver. However, Don’t lose weight too fast as it may temporarily increase the stress on your liver due to rapid weight loss.
5. Other treatments that accelerate fatty liver healing.
Other effective treatments that may decrease the time needed to reverse fatty liver:
- Regular physical exercise.
- Avoiding alochol.
- Blood glucose level control for diabetic individuals.
- Vitamin E supplementation.
- Drugs that increase your body’s sensitivity to insulin, such as metformin.
- Any medications that help you lose weight.
The time needed to reverse fatty liver depends on the severity of the fatty liver disease, your age, and the degree of weight loss and lifestyle adjustments you are willing to apply.
No one answer fits all patients. But common mild to moderate fatty liver disease will take anywhere from 3 months to one or two years to be fully reversed, provided that you are compliant with treatment and your condition is reversible.
The reversal is not achievable for all people. But stopping the progression of the disease is a more realistic and more achievable goal.
So, sticking to the standard lifestyle, dietary, and weight loss advice is vital even if your condition is not fully reversible.