I have had symptoms that can be considered fatty liver symptoms for a long time even before being diagnosed with the condition. Of course, back then I had no idea what these symptoms meant and they didn’t even seem too scary to force me visit the doctor.
The main symptoms associated with NAFLD are pain under the right rib, feeling tired and bloating or nausea. There are other less common symptoms reported, like itching or developing red spots but in most cases, a fatty liver doesn’t come with any symptoms.
However, as with any disease, the condition is easiest to reverse when you catch it early on, so if you have any of these symptoms (or any other symptoms), you should visit a doctor ASAP. That’s what one should always do when the body is sending any sort of signals.
The truth is – my doctor told me this and I agree – that no symptoms should be ignored because if everything’s all right with our body and health, we shouldn’t have any symptoms at all.
But even though most alarm signs that our body gives us (like minor headaches that we all get every now and then) might not mean anything, when a bunch of them pile up, we should visit a doctor as soon as possible.
But until you get there, you might be wondering what are some common fatty liver symptoms.
I will share these with you, based on my experience (what my symptoms where) and based on talks I had with many other people diagnosed with a fatty liver and symptoms they had.
I have to repeat that it’s worth noting that many doctors say that a fatty liver won’t always come with symptoms. So, even if you don’t feel anything, you could still have it (which is the scary part).
At the same time, having more of these symptoms – or some of them being more intense – doesn’t necessarily mean that your fatty liver is in a very advanced state or anything of the sort. But you do need to visit a doctor to tell you exactly where you’re at!
In other words, symptoms depend and vary from person to person, so you should not worry too much if you have many of them.
The only way to know if it’s NAFLD and how advanced it is, is by visiting your doctor and running all the recommended tests.
Symptoms of a fatty liver
Back to today’s topic, here are the symptoms I had before being diagnosed with a fatty liver:
1. Pain in the upper right side of the abdomen, right under the rib cage
We’re talking about a dull pain that’s easy to live with, not too sharp, not something to write home about.
I couldn’t connect it to things I ate or things I did. It was just a strange pain that came and went, sometimes lasting for hours, sometimes not being there for hours.
This is one of the most common symptoms of people dealing with a fatty liver. Some even complain that the pain is really bad and doesn’t let them sleep or wakes them up. So it can really vary in severity.
This stays well after starting your diet and changing your life style, but gets better over time, as your liver heals. I wrote a lot more about this fatty liver related pain in this article in case you want to read more.
But all in all, it’s worth mentioning that of all the symptoms that follow a fatty liver, this is by far the most common, even though doctors say that the liver doesn’t hurt.
I would say that almost all people that I know with a fatty liver have or had this pain under the rib cage.
I was always feeling extremely tired. Exhausted, actually, and I always thought that it was me working way too hard – but apparently it was not (just) that.
Usually, if you feel extremely tired – especially without any obvious reason – you might have some liver-related problems. Might, as there are other potential causes for this as well (or just your body needing a rest).
Before being diagnosed with NAFLD, I started to get bloated at all times, even though in the past that rarely happened to me.
Even so, I attributed my bloating to the fact that I was eating a very unhealthy diet, but apparently that wasn’t the case as many people who have a fatty liver complain about getting bloated.
Again, this is something that kicked off relatively late and as soon as it did, I decided to visit the doc because there were too many things piling up.
I was always feeling nausea after eating and I noticed that things were a lot worse after eating greasy foods or larger meals. Things like fast food, or steaks with fries or anything like that – they all made the nausea worse.
I didn’t know back then that we shouldn’t drink alcohol with fatty liver, so I was also drinking beer after the meal or taking a shot before to “help digestion”. Oh my, the damage I was doing without knowing!
Conditions seemed to improve if I took pills to help digestion (I thought that was the problem), but fortunately I decided to go check things out and I am glad I did.
While I didn’t experience this, it is a common cause of liver-related problem, including a fatty liver.
You have inexplicable itching on some areas of your body, usually your arms and legs. This is definitely a sign that you have to visit a doctor! It’s not necessarily a sign of liver problems, but many people I know with a NAFLD have this too.
6. Red spots on the skin
Another symptom that I didn’t personally experience, but many people that were diagnosed with a fatty liver complained that they had it.
Although these red spots are usually associated with other problems (from allergic reactions to a plethora of other things), several people that I had talked to and had a fatty liver also had those, so they could be connected.
7. Your body asking for healthy food
This is something that sounds a bit strange, but some of you might experience it and I certainly did, so I decided to include it on the list, even though it’s not really a medical thing and some could roll their eyes hearing me talk about your body demanding this or that.
But in my case, the week before going to the doctor and getting diagnosed, my body simply wanted me to eat specific foods: I craved things that might not be generally considered very safe for a fatty liver, but back then my diet was so poor and I never ate real, healthy food, that my body didn’t even know what that was.
My cravings back then were for plain toast with yogurt, milk, potatoes, soups and salads. I rarely ate fruits back then and I was really surprised to find me craving apples or strawberries back then too.
Of course, I didn’t really listen to my body back then and kept forcing myself to eat pizzas and burgers and all the bad things that people around me were eating…
But since then, I decided to pay more attention to what my body asks. (But not offer it the sugar it wants, for example, as that’s not really the same thing and we always have healthier alternatives).
All in all, I understand that this is not really a symptom or something you can really trust, but do keep an eye on what your body wants and asks for – it might tell a thing or two about your general state of health.
Wrapping up the symptoms
As you can see, the common fatty liver symptoms include the pain under the right rib and some other pretty generic things like nausea, bloating and tiredness which can be associated with a bunch of other things (or just you going through a bad time).
Except for the pain the upper right side of the abdomen (which I associated with my irritable bowel initially, for example) everything else can be easily ignored as you wait for the problems to pass and they generally do.
But you shouldn’t ignore them! I know now after fortunately deciding to visit the doctor.
As I said, if you have these symptoms, you don’t automatically have a fatty liver or any sort of liver problems. At the same time, many find out that they have a fatty liver during routine checks… so it’s not easy to point a finger on this or that.
But all those listed above are generally considered NAFLD-related symptoms and you should definitely visit a doctor to see what’s causing them.
The more you wait, the more difficult it might be to fix the problems you’re having.
You should also visit the doctor regularly and run some tests if you are obese or overweight (I was way over a healthy weight, for example – see how I looked before reversing my condition) or if you have liver-related problems in your family.
A fatty liver could be completely silent for years and have no symptoms, so simply checking out every now and then, especially if you don’t eat healthy and have an active life, is definitely a good idea.
I know that many people are scared about going to the doctor because they are worried they might find out something… scary (I am one of those people) but delaying it won’t do you any good, on the contrary.
The sooner you know what you have, the sooner you can start taking the right steps to getting healthy again!
It took me 1.5 years to reverse it and maybe I would’ve been able to do it sooner if I went to the doctor faster, when the first symptoms appeared.
Then stick to your diet and you’ll get healthy again! It’s easier than it might seem at first.
I was diagnosed with a fatty liver back in 2014 and managed to reverse it by mid-2015. Since then, I’ve been studying it, continuously updating my knowledge with the latest scientific findings and practical approaches to give others the help they need to reverse their condition.
My approach to managing fatty liver is holistic, balancing scientifically-backed information with real-life, practical advice based on personal, direct experience.
I am also the admin of the Fatty Liver Support Group on Facebook and the Fatty Liver Subreddit.