Doctor Doni

What Is Fatty Liver and How Is It Treated?

What causes fatty liver and how is it different from other liver problems? Dr. Doni explains the connection to leaky gut, and what to do for a fatty liver.
Fatty liver disease is caused by a some common culprits: Stress, toxins, poor sleep, and food sensitivities. It is not solely caused by a poor diet, which is one of the many misconceptions about fatty liver.

Fatty liver disease is surrounded by a lot of misconceptions, in my experience. Many people assume what causes fatty liver is when someone eats a diet high in saturated fat or trans fat. Over time, their liver becomes the deposit center for their poor diets and fatty liver is caused.

While fatty liver DOES have fatty deposits on the liver, it is not solely in response to a poor diet – and certainly not caused because people eat too many meals high in fat content.

What Causes Fatty Liver?

Fatty liver (also known as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) or nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)) is actually associated with a diet high in carbohydrates or sugar, along with a genetic tendency and stress exposure. It is also known to occur when there is an imbalance in gut bacteria and/or prevalence of leaky gut.

We already know that leaky gut can cause (or be an underlying cause of):

• Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Autoimmune Conditions
• Joint Pain
Depression and Anxiety
Skin Rashes, etc.

It’s not a coincidence that the causes of fatty liver disease and leaky gut are similar, and likely sound familiar: Stress exposure, toxins, medications, poor sleep patterns, food sensitivities, etc. Fatty liver is just one more thing to add to the list (above) that can occur when someone has leaky gut.

Additionally, we know that stress causes higher cortisol levels which increases the sugar levels in our blood. When this happens, the body craves more sugar to defend against stress, prompting our brains to ask for more sugar and carbohydrates (triggering cravings), leaving the liver to decide what to do with the excess glucose in the blood (blood sugar)—and as it turns out, there are only three options:

  1. Turn the glucose into triglycerides and/or cholesterol
  2. Store as fat anywhere in the body
  3. Store as fat in the liver (though remember, it’s not fat being consumed that causes fat to be stored. It’s the carbohydrates and sugars being stored as fat)

In my many years as a naturopathic doctor, helping to heal leaky gut and rebalance bacteria, I have seen the irrefutable connection between stress and leaky gut.

Add in imbalanced gut bacteria and toxins leaking through the digestive wall, and higher cortisol levels and you have a perfect storm for fatty liver.

Fatty Liver Symptoms

Surprisingly, there aren’t many. In fact, many people live for an extended period of time (decades even) before ever becoming aware of their condition. Those that do have signs or symptoms have experienced:

Fatty Liver Diagnosis

The Mayo Clinic explains it perfectly, “because nonalcoholic fatty liver disease causes no symptoms in most cases, it frequently comes to medical attention when tests done for other reasons point to a liver problem. This can happen if your liver looks unusual on ultrasound or if you have an abnormal liver enzyme test.”

Once an abnormal blood test, additional – and more liver-isolated – testing, such as an ultrasound or CT, identifies fatty liver.

Fatty Liver Treatment

From there, we can work together to begin your recovery from stress and fatty liver by:

Interestingly, “low fat” diets are NOT the answer despite what people expect to be a logical solution. In fact, low fat or no-fat diets typically incorporate higher amounts of carbohydrates, which as I previously explained, is what gets turned into the fat that gets stored in our livers – not digested fats.

In Closing…

I’ll be frank, the changes necessary to reverse fatty liver do not come without effort. It will require you to rethink your entire lifestyle – but it’s worth it. By the time you have reversed your fatty liver, you will also have reduced the risks and chances of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and dementia.

To get started you can…

–Dr. Doni
13th August 2019

*Please keep in mind that any and all supplements—nutrients, herbs, enzymes, or other—should be used with caution. My recommendation is that you seek the care of a naturopathic doctor (with a doctorate degree from a federally-accredited program) and that you have a primary care physician or practitioner whom you can contact to help you with individual dosing and protocols. If you ever experience negative symptoms after taking a product, stop taking it immediately and contact your doctor right away.


Mouzaki M, Loomba R. Insights into the evolving role of the gut microbiome in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: rationale and prospects for therapeutic intervention. Therap Adv Gastroenterol. 2019;12:1756284819858470. Published 2019 Jun 23. doi:10.1177/1756284819858470

Wahlström A. Outside the liver box: The gut microbiota as pivotal modulator of liver diseases. Biochim Biophys Acta Mol Basis Dis. 2019 May 1;1865(5):912-919. doi: 10.1016/j.bbadis.2018.07.004. Epub 2018 Jul 6.

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