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Yoga For Fatty Liver Disease

Abnormal level of fat accumulated in the liver is a cause of concern and is known as fatty liver disease. The liver is the organ designated to deal with fat metabolism in the body. It utilizes dietary fat for manufacturing cholesterol which in turn serves many essential functions in the body. Liver itself doesn't store too much fat or cholesterol. If it does, this condition is a marker of disease and should be managed with lifestyle modification and yoga intervention. This article contains such management methods that are not only effective in restoring liver health but are also preventive of all liver disorders.

Introduction

The liver is an organ assisting the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) and is placed at the right of the body near the stomach. It is quite big in size and its functions include filtering all contents entering and exiting the GIT, producing bile and maintaining cholesterol level. The liver under normal circumstances doesn't store much fat. Accumulation of fat in the liver is a sign of liver diseases building up. These diseases are collectively called fatty liver disease and are of the following kinds:

  1. Alcoholic or non-alcoholic
  2. Inflammatory or non-inflammatory
  3. Pregnancy-related
Yoga Tips For Fatty Liver Disease

Symptoms

A diseased liver may produce few or many of the following symptoms:

  • Enlarged liver: the liver may be enlarged due to fat accumulation so much that it could even be felt by touching the abdomen.
  • Pain in the abdomen: the liver itself or the tissues surrounding it may be painful.
  • Yellow tint in skin, eyes, nails, etc.: the liver produces an important enzyme called bile which is tinted yellow due to the presence of bilirubin in it. In individuals with liver diseases, bile is overproduced and the excess bilirubin makes the eyes, the nails and the overall appearance of the skin yellowish.
  • High blood cholesterol: the liver deals with cholesterol metabolism which is essential for each cell of the body. An unhealthy level of total cholesterol is a sign that the liver is diseased or about to get diseased.
  • Visible blood vessels: accumulation of excess load of cholesterol in blood cells causes them to reflect blue shades through the skin. The blood vessels hence appear darker through the skin.
  • Swollen veins and lymph nodes: improper circulation of lipoproteins and inefficient removal of waste causes overloaded and swollen blood vessels and lymph nodes.
  • Weakness and fatigue: since the liver takes an active part in all kinds of metabolism in the body, improper functioning of the liver causes weakness and fatigue in the individual.
  • Lack of appetite: poor metabolism causes food aversion and lack of secretion of primary digestive enzymes in the mouth; hence the person may not feel like eating.
  • Unintended weight loss: lack of appetite results in decreased body mass which wasn't carried out on purpose.
  • Reduced energy level and enthusiasm: overall weakness, fatigue, reduced appetite and unintended weight loss all cause the person to be less productive and enthusiastic.

Causes

Although fatty liver disease is simply thought to be caused by accumulation of fat in the liver, various other factors contribute to this accumulation reaching abnormal and dangerous levels. They are:

  • Obesity, the accumulation of unhealthy body fat contributing to total body mass.
  • Diabetes, the body's inability to process dietary sugar.
  • Unhealthy levels of total cholesterol, especially triglycerides.
  • Other metabolic disorders, such as thyroid disorders.

Risk Factors

Some causes also serve as risk factors i.e. any condition is likely to affect some individuals more severely than others. Such factors are:

  • Family history, where the parents, uncle, aunt or a grandparent had liver diseases.
  • Pregnancy, which involves dramatic changes in normal bodily processes.
  • Infectious diseases of the liver, such as various forms of hepatitis.
  • Alcoholism, causing impaired digestion and absorption due to excessively long gastric emptying time.
  • Steroidal medications like those prescribed for autoimmune or rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Metabolic disorders including diabetes, obesity, thyroid malfunction and high cholesterol.

Diagnosis

The diagnosis of a fatty liver includes:

  • Physical examination: the doctor may first touch and feel the approximate location of the liver to check for any pain or enlargement.
  • Blood tests measuring liver enzymes and cholesterol levels.
  • Scanning by the use of x-rays, magnetic resonance imaging, or computed tomography.
  • Biopsy, the examination of a tissue extracted from the liver with a thin needle to check for scarring and fibrosis.

Complications

If unrecognized or left untreated, fatty liver diseases of all kinds can lead to liver failure which is a life threatening condition.

Yoga for the management of Fatty Liver Disease

The following practices are recommended in a sequence as laid out below for restoring liver health. Also, all exercises require to be done on an empty stomach, or at a gap of at least 3 hours after a medium-sized meal.

1. Veerasana

Also known as the hero's pose, this asana prepares the liver for the next exercises in the sequence. It is itself an efficient exercise for people with severe liver damage. It can be practiced on a mat/ blanket/ carpet/ bed etc.

  • Sit with both the legs extended forwards.
  • Fold the right leg and place its heel under the buttocks.
  • Bend the left leg at the knee and place it heel on the mat besides the right knee.
  • Bend the left elbow and place it on the left knee.
  • Place the left hand below the chin. Let the face rest on it.
  • Place the right palm on the right knee.
  • This is the final position. Breathing should be normal.
  • Practice for upto 30 minutes after having meals. Change the sides in between if required.

2. Bhujangasana

Also known as the cobra pose, this asana also puts gentle pressure on the liver and aids its functioning. It should be done on a mat/ carpet/ folded blanket or a thin mattress.

  • Lie on your stomach.
  • Let the arms rest on both sides of the body.
  • Bring the hands parallel to your chest, palms facing down.
  • Lift the head up, and bend the spine backwards with the stomach resting on the mat.
  • Support the body with the palms sharing weight. Keep the elbows slightly bent.
  • Inhale while doing so.
  • This is the final position.
  • Stay in the final position for 5-10 seconds.

3. Dhanurasana

Also known as the bow pose, this asana stimulates metabolism in the liver itself hence relieving fatty liver diseases of all kinds. It can also be practiced on a mat/ blanket/ carpet/ bed etc.

  • Lie on the stomach with the arms resting on both sides of the body.
  • The legs should be relaxed and so should be the head.
  • Hold the ankles of both the legs with respective hands by bending the knees.
  • This is the initial position.
  • Lift the ankles, bending the legs backwards but straightening the knees at the same time.
  • Simultaneously, raise the head and lift the torso upwards. Do so with a full and deep inhalation.
  • Feel the kidneys being massaged and pressed against by the ground.
  • This is the final position. No part of the body should be strained.
  • Stay in this position for a few seconds. Resume normal breathing.
  • Bring the torso to the initial position first and then lower the legs.
  • Perform thrice.

4. Saral Dhanurasana

Also known as easy bow pose, this asana is recommended for those who cannot perform the complete Dhanurasana since this is an easier version providing almost the same benefits. This can also be done as a preparatory practice for full Dhanurasana. It can also be practiced on a mat/ blanket/ carpet/ bed etc.

  • Lie on the stomach with the arms resting on both sides of the body.
  • The legs should be relaxed and so should be the head.
  • Hold the ankles of both the legs with respective hands by bending the knees.
  • This is the initial position.
  • With an inhalation raise the head and bend the upper body backwards.
  • The knees and the thighs may rest on the ground.
  • This is the final position.
  • Resume normal breathing, and stay in this position for a few seconds.
  • Practice five times.

5. Ardha Matsyendrasana

Named after sage Matsyendra, this asana provides a twist to the GIT and improves blood circulation and cellular metabolism in the digestive organs. It can be done on a mat/ carpet/ bed or grass.

  • Sit on the mat with both the legs extended in front of the body.
  • Keep the back straight.
  • Keeping its heel on the mat, bend the left leg at the knee.
  • Keep the right leg straight.
  • Place your right hand on the left ankle.
  • Place the left hand behind you on the back.
  • Move the chin close to the left shoulder.
  • Exhale while doing so.
  • This is the final position.
  • Stay in this position for 10 seconds.
  • Resume normal breathing.
  • Rotate the neck back to the default position.
  • Lift the hands from their positions and straighten the leg.
  • Now, bend the right leg.
  • Place the left hand on the right ankle.
  • Place the right hand behind you.
  • Move the chin close to the right shoulder.
  • Exhale while doing so.
  • Resume normal breathing and stay in the final position for 10 seconds.
  • Rotate the neck back to the default position.
  • Lift the hands from their positions and twist back as in the initial position.

Lifestyle/ Dietary Tips

  1. Include more physical activity in your routine.
  2. Eat less packed & processed foods.
  3. Eat more raw and fresh fruits and vegetables.
  4. Eat only healthy fats such as olives, avocados, nuts & seeds.
  5. Avoid alcohol.
  6. Practice hygiene.
  7. Limit restaurant and street food.
  8. Consume the required quantity of macronutrients every day.
  9. Avoid fried food.
  10. Avoid added sugar.

Conclusion

The liver is essential for life, and it shouldn't be taken for granted. Alcohol, smoking and drug abuse adversely affect liver health. A nutrition deficient diet is also responsible for degraded liver health. Therefore dietary modifications and yoga practices specifically healing the liver can effectively manage liver diseases especially unless it is critically severe. Since yoga works on a region of a body at a time and not just one organ, many systems are simultaneously targeted and worked upon by a yoga practice. Therefore, these practices are extremely beneficial for metabolic disorders in the upper half of the GIT since yoga routine cures the imbalances in all organs that lie in close proximity to each other.
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Best Ayurvedic Doctor in Mohali - Dr. Vikram Chauhan

Dr. Vikram Chauhan

MD (AYURVEDA)

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