How To Reverse Fatty Liver

Chad Birt

Written by Chad Birt on Thu Nov 02 2023.

Group exercising.

Fatty liver is a common condition that affects 10-20% of adults. It causes excess fat to collect in the liver, affecting its function.

Learning that you have fatty liver can be surprising, but it’s possible to prevent the problem from worsening. In this article, we explain how to reverse fatty liver. Though the condition can’t be cured, there are various things you can do to support your liver and its function.

What is Fatty Liver?

Fatty liver, or hepatic steatosis, causes fat to build up in your liver. Your liver acts as a filter, eliminating toxins and other waste from your blood. Too much fat affects your liver’s function, increasing the risk of more serious health problems.

Anyone can develop fatty liver, but it’s particularly common in people who eat a poor diet, drink excessive amounts of alcohol, and have underlying medical issues.

Are There Different Types of Fatty Liver?

There are two types of fatty liver disease:

Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (AFLD)

This type of fatty liver disease occurs due to excessive alcohol consumption. It causes chronic liver inflammation that can lead to permanent scarring (cirrhosis).

Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)

This type of fatty liver disease occurs due to lifestyle factors, like living a sedentary lifestyle, eating an unhealthy diet, or being overweight. Underlying health problems can also increase your risk, like diabetes and high cholesterol.

Can Fatty Liver Be Reversed?

Yes. Fatty liver disease can be reversed, but only if it’s caught in the early stages. Luckily, there are several things you can do to prevent the damage from worsening and improve your liver’s function. 

How to Reverse Fatty Liver - A Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Visit Your Doctor for Liver Function Tests

Fatty liver disease doesn’t always present symptoms, so you might be at risk and not know it. Visiting your doctor at least once a year is essential. Routine physical exams and lab testing can alert you to fatty liver disease and other health problems, like high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol, and diabetes.

Fatty liver is diagnosed with a liver enzyme test. This test checks a sample of your blood for elevated liver enzymes. Higher-than-average liver enzyme levels indicate liver damage. To confirm the diagnosis, your doctor might order additional screens, like a liver biopsy or a liver ultrasound.

Your doctor develops a personalized treatment plan if you have either type of fatty liver disease.

Step 2: Eat a Balanced and Nutritious Diet

One of the most common treatments for fatty liver disease is improved nutrition. 

“Switching to a balanced diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats can help your liver,” explains Mary-Ellen Sabat, a registered dietitian and ACE-certified trainer. “Avoid sugary foods and drinks, as well as fried and processed foods.” 

Trista Best, MP, RD, LD, a registered dietitian at Balance One Supplements agrees, noting that “the Mediterranean diet, is particularly effective in combating fatty liver disease. It provides essential nutrients, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory compounds that support liver health.”

“The diet also encourages weight loss due to its emphasis on whole, unprocessed foods and portion control. By adopting this dietary pattern, you can not only reduce liver fat content, but also your overall cardiovascular health and insulin sensitivity.” 

Step 3: Eat Mindfully

In addition to eating healthily, think strategically about your snacks and meals. Studies have found that skipping breakfast and eating late at night seem to increase the risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

“This is where mindful eating comes into play,” says Dr. Dimitar. “Pay attention to portion sizes and avoid eating late at night. Mindful eating helps prevent overeating and promotes better digestion.” 

Step 4: Exercise Regularly

Lack of exercise increases your risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, so it’s important to keep moving. 

“Physical activity helps with weight management and improves insulin sensitivity,” explains  Dimitar Marinov, MD, PhD, a physician specializing in nutrition and dietetics. “Even simple changes like taking daily walks or using the stairs instead of the elevator can be effective.”

“Being active helps burn extra fat and can improve your liver’s health,” Sabat adds. “Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week.” That’s about 30 minutes a day, five days a week. 

Exercising can be challenging if you have mobility issues, but it isn’t impossible. Read A Beginner’s Guide to Exercising with Limited Mobility. 

Step 5: Lose Weight Gradually

Obesity and being overweight are some of the main causes of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Research shows that a body weight reduction of 7-10% can improve liver fat content, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), and fibrosis

“Losing weight slowly and steadily can help reduce fat in your liver if you’re overweight,” Sabat says. Instead of relying on yo-yo diets and other fads, “aim for gradual, sustainable weight loss,” adds Dr. Dimitar. “This is best achieved through a combination of good nutrition and exercise.”

“Gradual weight loss is a key strategy for reversing fatty liver because it allows your body to adapt to changes without putting additional stress on your liver,” says Best. “When you lose weight at a slow and steady pace (1-2 pounds per week), your liver can metabolize and release stored fat more efficiently. This gradual approach also reduces the risk of triggering excessive fat breakdown, which can exacerbate fatty liver.”

Step 6: Limit Alcohol

Limiting your alcohol intake is particularly important if you have alcoholic fatty liver disease. Even if you don’t, try to cut back, or even better, quit. The National Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention recommends that people 65 and older have no more than one alcoholic drink per day and no more than seven alcoholic drinks per week

Carewell Tip

If you struggle to cut back, try replacing your evening beer or glass of wine with a non-alcoholic substitute. Many companies now offer non-alcoholic drink options. 

Step 7: Drink More Water

How many glasses of water do you drink each day? You don’t necessarily need eight, eight-ounce glasses, but you should make an effort to stay hydrated. 

Drinking water throughout the day thins your blood, making it easier for your liver to filter waste and other toxins. It also promotes healthy digestion and helps you maintain a healthy weight, preventing fat from building up in your liver. 

“Carry a reusable water bottle to encourage hydration throughout the day,” says Dr. Dimitar. “If you want something with a little more flavor, opt for herbal teas instead of sugary sodas.”

Step 8: Control Blood Sugar

Diabetes increases your risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. In fact, 50%-70% of people with diabetes develop NAFLD compared to 25% of people without

“If you have diabetes or prediabetes, managing blood sugar levels is crucial,” explains Dr. Dimitar.  “It's a gradual process and close monitoring by a healthcare provider is important. Generally speaking, you should test your blood sugar before and after meals and exercise.” 

Shop Blood Glucose Monitors On Carewell

Hear it from a caregiver

I bought this meter for myself [and] my husband liked it better than the old kind he was using, so I ordered a second one for him to use. Now we are both happy!!!

- Patricia K.

Prodigy Blood Glucose Meter
Prodigy Blood Glucose Meter

Price: $10.99 - $166.67

Caring for Someone with Fatty Liver Disease? Get In Touch!

If you or your loved one have fatty liver disease, it’s normal to have questions. Our friendly Care Specialists regularly assist family caregivers and their loved ones with product recommendations, nutritional advice, and more. Call (800) 696-CARE or send an email to support@carewell.com to get in touch. We’re available 24/7 and committed to making your responsibilities easier.

How to Reverse Fatty Liver - Commonly Asked Questions

1) Can healthy lifestyle changes prevent fatty liver from worsening?

Yes. Healthy lifestyle changes are key to improved liver function and well-being. 

“Remember that small changes can make a big difference,” Sabat says. “It’s not about perfection, but gradual improvements in your lifestyle. Consulting a doctor or a dietitian can provide personalized advice. If you have fatty liver, staying committed to healthier habits can improve your liver's health and overall well-being.” 

2) Does fatty liver increase the risk of more serious health problems?

Yes. If fatty liver is left untreated or unmanaged, you’re more likely to develop more serious health problems. 

“Fatty liver often progresses to conditions like non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), cirrhosis, cardiovascular issues, type 2 diabetes, and liver cancer,” says Dr. Dimitar. “Early intervention through lifestyle changes and medical care is crucial to mitigate these risks and promote liver and overall health.”

3) Can fatty liver disease return after being resolved?

Yes. Reversing fatty liver disease requires a lifelong commitment to improved nutrition and healthy living. Once you get your liver enzyme levels back within a healthy range, you need to take steps to keep them there. Gaining weight, drinking alcohol excessively, and failing to exercise may cause liver fat to return.

Did you find this article helpful?Share it, print it or have it mailed to you!

Other Articles You May Like

Best Food for Liver Disease

Liver disease is a common condition, affecting up to one in 10 Americans. There are several types, but they all affect the liver’s ability to filter blood and break down toxic substances. Treatment can be challenging if you or your loved one has liver disease. But healthy lifestyle changes, like eating nutritious foods can help.

Read More >

How to Avoid Type 2 Diabetes

Learning that you have high blood sugar can be worrisome. But it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re destined to develop type 2 diabetes.

Read More >
Chad Birt
Chad Birt

Chad Birt is a freelance medical writer who resides in Astoria, Oregon. When he isn't behind a keyboard, you can find him hiking, camping, or birdwatching with his wife Ella and their two dogs, Diane and Thoreau.