Fatty Liver and Fatigue: Is there a Connection?

If you’re feeling tired throughout the day and get sleepy faster than usually, this might be one of the symptoms or effects of your fatty liver. There are lots of other things that could cause the fatigue and fatty liver and liver related problems is one of them.

In my case, extreme tiredness – up to the point of exhaustion – was one of the main symptoms of my fatty liver. I’ve been feeling extremely tired even before getting diagnosed and I had no idea what was causing it.

But I was starting to feel exhausted. My days were turning into a nightmare.

I could wake up feeling relatively well rested, but after around three hours I was getting very tired and sleepy. By noon, I was exhausted. Eating lunch helped a bit with my energy level, but I usually had to nap on an almost daily basis.

And despite all this, I was still usually tired the entire day.

After being diagnosed, my doctor told me that my extreme tiredness could be a result of my fatty liver. She also assured me that things should improve as I work on reversing my condition.

But before it got better, in my case, things got worse. This happened a few months after starting my diet and it was the breaking point for me. I was so exhausted that I couldn’t even work.

exhaustion from fatty liver

I thought that I am actually suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome and it was probably a result of my fatty liver (which was still improving), my radical change of diet (especially reducing sugars by a ton) and my actual work which involved me spending 8 hours plus in front of a computer’s screen. My stress levels were also insanely high.

Due to my line of work, I was lucky enough to be able to take a month-long break from everything and do nothing but rest, sleep and relax. This month absolutely changed my life and made me get back on track.

Even though I am generally against them, I did take Magnesium supplements, as well as vitamin supplements during this time and I did manage to get back on track. But it was one of my all time lows during the time.

The good thing is that if I managed to get through what I could call debilitating tiredness, anybody else can. But you do have to rest – even if you can’t really go on a month-long hiatus like I did.

Can NAFLD make you feel tired?

In conclusion, yes, fatty liver can make you feel tired. There are various studies that confirm the fact that tiredness is indeed one of the symptoms of NAFLD. It is not very clear why this is happening, but it does.

To some people, this fatigue has opposite effects than what you’d anticipate. Some have problems sleeping through the night or falling asleep.

In this case, it’s essential to plan your days in such a way that you still end up getting enough sleep (through naps) otherwise things can’t improve too much.

Fortunately, a study on 156 people suffering from a fatty liver published in 2008 found no connection between the severity of the condition and how tired you feel.

So extreme tiredness is not a sign that your fatty liver is getting worse. At the same time, feeling just a bit tired doesn’t necessarily mean that your fatty liver is minimal.

Based on my own experience with these and based on the fact that I was so incredibly tired – yet my doctor told me that I am “somewhere between grade 1 and 2” (so not that bad), I can confirm that you can get extremely tired even in the early stages of a fatty liver.

Can liver problems cause fatigue?

Yes, liver problems – including fatty liver – can cause fatigue in various degrees of intensity. From debilitating to just feeling a bit tired, you will most likely experience at least some sort of fatigue if you have liver problems.

Another study published in 2019 confirms it. It concludes:

“Liver is central to the pathogenesis of peripheral and central fatigue, which in our view is dependent upon energy regulation and crosstalk between the gut, liver, muscle and brain.”

How to get rid of the excessive fatigue associated with a fatty liver?

Getting enough sleep is essential, but you also need to watch your diet and stick to eating liver-friendly foods. Also, even though it might seem very difficult to achieve, aerobic and resistance exercise are essential in getting rid of your fatigue.

working out to get rid of NAFLD exhaustion

When I was at my worst – back then when I took a month off – I could barely walk. And it is indeed recommended not to exercise if you are that tired.

But try to get at least some sort of exercise – even if it’s just a bit of walking at a faster pace. Things will get better with time.

When you feel so tired, just thinking about running for example makes your stomach churn. I know, because I have been there.

But I also know that after a workout, I always felt much better. More energized and in a much better mood. Getting started proved to be the actual challenge, not the workout itself.

I personally did cardio training exclusively. I started very, very slow and gradually increased levels.

Initially, I just walked for 30 minutes as fast as I could. Then I started running a bit – but I rarely managed to get past 5 minutes of a slow-ish jog. But eventually I got better and could run 40 minutes without stopping.

A combination of a liver-friendly diet, regular exercise and losing weight, as well as trying to relax more and get as much sleep as I needed (most nights I slept 10 hours and I still need over 8 hours of sleep each night to feel good) – all these will help you beat the fatigue and also your fatty liver.

If I did it, so can you!

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