Intermittent fasting has become more and more popular over the years. While more research is needed, many experts believe that fasting is good for fatty liver as it helps reduce the amount of fat in the liver, and helps improve liver function.
Today I want to get a bit more in depth on the matter and share my personal opinion – as well as everything I could find on the matter of fasting the the general health of the liver (including help for reversing fatty liver).
Lifestyle choices and changes are essential for getting better. But healthcare professionals emphasize that not all diets fit every individual – and with fasting being somewhat in a grey area, it’s a good idea to assess your situation for your particular case.
What is fasting?
Fasting or intermittent fasting, commonly known as “IF”, is not really a diet but an eating pattern where you voluntarily renounce food for a defined period of time.
The time you spend without eating varies from 12 – 24 hours (most sticking to 16 hours of not eating).
Some experts say that after hours without food, our body undergoes metabolic switching. This is when the body exhausts its sugar stores and starts burning fat.
When the liver is high in insulin levels, it tends to store calories as fat resulting in fatty liver. Fasting is one of the ways to lower our body’s levels of insulin.
By lowering insulin levels and decreasing insulin resistance, fasting can help reverse fatty liver.
The body also undergoes changes at a cellular level when fasting. This kind of change is linked to gene longevity and disease protection.
Can Fasting Help Reverse Fatty Liver?
There is no single intervention that is proven fully effective for treating NAFLD. However, as many experts believe, certain lifestyle changes can help improve hepatic steatosis and prevent the progression of the disease.
One of the lifestyle changes you can follow to reverse fatty liver is fasting.
One study from the Egyptian Liver Journal showed that reversion to a regular diet with alternate-day fasting can cure grade 1 NAFLD. Fasting has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, which is thought to be one of the mechanisms by which it helps reverse fatty liver.
Magnus Homler, MD, and his colleagues from the Department of Medicine at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden found that a 5:2 diet along with a low-carb high-fat diet is very effective in reducing body weight and hepatic steatosis.
Fasting helped increased the activity of certain enzymes that help break down fats and therefore the general consensus among experts is that fasting is indeed beneficial.
I couldn’t really find any studies or experts claiming that fasting wouldn’t help somebody suffering from NAFLD.
At the same time, it’s not mandatory to fast in order to get yourself back in top shape. I personally didn’t practice intermittent fasting and still managed to reverse my fatty liver.
This doesn’t mean I am against it or that I consider it not helpful. I simply want to point out that if you find it very difficult to fast (which is something I do), you can still get healthy by sticking to a solid diet, exercising and making the required lifestyle changes.
At the same time, my personal opinion is in tone with that of the experts and I strongly believe that fasting can help you achieve your fatty liver reversal faster and is generally healthy for most individuals.
Make sure to always discuss with your doctor before starting any new program – Intermittent Fasting included. Spending so much time without eating could be counter-indicated for specific individuals, like those diagnosed with diabetes.
Why Is Fasting Good for Fatty Liver
The beneficial effects of intermittent fasting on fatty liver have been clearly shown in rodent studies and data from observational human trials looks promising.
A study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry concluded that intermittent fasting (IF) and High-Interval Intensity Training (HIIT) are procedures that might help reverse the effects of NAFLD.
In this study, the male mice in the experimental group were fed a high-fat diet for 16 weeks which then later showed liver fat accumulation and inflammation.
In the last four weeks, IF together with HIIT was implemented in the group which then successfully reduced the mice’s liver inflammation.
When you are obese and have fatty liver, doctors would often recommend you shed some pounds off. Fasting can create a calorie deficit.
This is how it is one of the most effective weight loss diets since your body has fewer calories than it needs to maintain its current weight when you fast.
Another study that shows why fasting is good for fatty liver is research involving 417 patients with NAFLD.
There was a significant difference in body weight (BW), body mass index (BMI), alanine transaminase (ALT), and aspartate aminotransferase (AST) between the control and fasting groups.
ALT and AST are two of the liver enzymes doctors look at when trying to figure out if you have a liver problem. They can help identify toxins in the liver, fatty liver disease, or liver damage. The fasting group all show lower levels of BW, BMI, ALT, and AST.
This means that fasting is good for fatty liver because it can help in weight management and improve liver enzyme levels for patients with fatty liver.
Fasting can also help reduce inflammation. Research shows that during the fasting period, pro-inflammatory markers are lower than usual, as with blood pressure, body weight, and fat.
How Often Should You Fast if You Have a Fatty Liver?
There are three most commonly used methods of fasting:
- Daily-time restricted feeding – this is also called the “16:8 approach”. You fast for 16 hours and eat within the 8-hour window every day.
- Periodic fasting – is also called the “5:2 diet”. You normally eat 5 days a week and restrict your calorie intake on the remaining 2 days.
- Alternate-day fasting – is as simple as its name. You do fasting every other day.
It depends on you what method of fasting you are going to take but you should ask your doctor first if fasting is right for you.
What Can I Eat while Fasting?
During your fasting period, water and zero-calorie beverages (e.g. tea and black coffee) can be consumed – but nothing else.
During your eating periods, you can eat as normally as you can. But with normal, I mean eating healthy and nutritious foods.
You can stick to a Mediterranean diet as you can hardly go wrong with complex, unrefined carbohydrates such as whole grains, leafy greens, lean meat, and healthy fats.
Even though you can eat normally with fasting, you still want to avoid eating high-calorie junk food, fried foods, and sweet treats for these type of food is bad for a fatty liver.
In other words, if you start fasting, this doesn’t mean you don’t have to be careful with what you eat and how much you eat.
While there are still many questions that need to be answered about intermittent fasting and fatty liver, the current evidence is encouraging.
If you have fatty liver, you may want to consider trying intermittent fasting as a way to improve your condition.
And just like every other lifestyle modification mentioned in this blog, you should check with your doctor first if fasting is right for you before you start any diet plan or exercise program.
I was diagnosed with a fatty liver back in 2014 and managed to reverse it by mid 2015. Since then, I’ve been studying NAFLD and I have decided to share everything I have learned over the years to help you reverse your condition.
I am also the admin of the Fatty Liver Support Group on Facebook and the Fatty Liver Subreddit.