Fatty liver disease: Condition can cause excessive fluid to be secreted to the brain

NHS Choices: Liver Disease

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The liver typically contains some fat. However, if it builds up, it can cause fatty liver disease meaning that the liver is not able to function normally with a number of dire symptoms ensuing.

A liver damaged by cirrhosis isn’t able to clear toxins from the blood as well as a healthy liver can.

These toxins can then build up in the brain and cause mental confusion and difficulty concentrating.

With time, hepatic encephalopathy could progress to unresponsiveness or coma.

When the liver is damaged, excessive fluid may be secreted which could travel to the brain.

Too much fluid causes pressure to build up in your brain, which can lead to disorientation, severe mental confusion and seizures.

READ MORE: High blood pressure: The exercise to avoid or risk hypertension – expert issues warning

According to Cleveland Clinic, if a person does have symptoms, they may include:

  • Abdominal pain or a feeling of fullness in the upper right side of the abdomen (belly)
  • Nausea, loss of appetite or weight loss
  • Yellowish skin and whites of the eyes
  • Swollen abdomen and legs
  • Extreme tiredness or mental confusion
  • Weakness.

In a study published in the National Library of Health, fatigue and its measurement in chronic liver disease was investigated.

The liver is central in the pathogenesis of fatigue because it uniquely regulates much of the storage, release and production of substrate for energy generation, noted the study.

It added: “Metabolic contributors to fatigue, beginning with the uptake of substrate from the gut, the passage through the portal system to hepatic storage and release of energy to target organs (muscle and brain) are central to understanding fatigue in patients with chronic liver disease.

“Inflammation either causing or resulting from chronic liver disease contributes to fatigue.”

The study concluded that “fatigue is a critical component of chronic liver disease. It is common, complex, confusing and challenging to treat”.

Am I at risk?

Experts don’t know exactly why some people accumulate fat in the liver while others do not.

“Similarly, there is limited understanding of why some fatty livers develop inflammation that progresses to liver scarring,” explains the Mayo Clinic.

According to the health body, NAFLD has been linked to the following:

Overweight or obesity

Insulin resistance, in which your cells don’t take up sugar in response to the hormone insulin

High blood sugar (hyperglycaemia), indicating prediabetes or type 2 diabetes

High levels of fats, particularly triglycerides, in the blood.


Treatment largely consists of a combination of a healthy diet and exercise to stop NAFLD getting worse.

“If you have NAFLD, you should aim to eat a healthy, balanced diet,” advises Bupa.

Try eating more of the following:

  • Whole grain carbohydrates (such as breads, rice and pasta) which are high in fibre
  • Avoid food and drinks that are high in sugar
  • Vegetables and fruit
  • Eat less saturated fat. Replace saturated fats with monounsaturated fats or polyunsaturated fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids. This may help reduce your risk of heart disease which can be linked to NAFLD
  • Monitor your portion sizes, especially if you’re trying to lose weight.

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