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Non-Alcoholic Fatty liver Disease and Acupuncture

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a liver disease that can develop in people with metabolic conditions such as diabetes, high lipids, or a diet with more sugar and fat than their body can effectively process. As the name implies, the main characteristic of NAFLD is too much fat stored in liver cells, which is not caused by the consumption of alcohol. NAFLD is the most common liver disease in Canada affecting about 20% of Canadians.

NAFLD tends to develop in people who have an accumulation of fat around the waist and abdomen (abdominal obesity). It may occur in people with a higher body mass index (BMI) or in a person whose body weight is in the recommended range, but who typically eats a lot of sugary and fatty foods and who has extra fat around the waist.

The exact cause of NAFLD is not known, however, certain genetic and environmental factors may increase the risk of developing NAFLD:

  1. Genetic risk factors (for example a family history)

  2. Certain drugs and chemicals

  3. Associated metabolic conditions such as obesity, diabetes mellitus, hyperlipidemia, high blood pressure, insulin resistance

  4. Excess abdominal fat: A waist circumference of >102 cm (40 inches) for men and >88 cm (35 inches) for women increases the risk of developing NAFLD and metabolic diseases.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

In general, people with fatty liver disease have no symptoms. However, some people report discomfort in the abdomen at the level of the liver, fatigue, a general feeling of being unwell, and vague discomfort.

Fatty liver disease is usually suspected in people who have metabolic risk factors such as large waist circumference, high cholesterol and lipids in the blood, insulin resistance and/or abnormal liver tests. An ultrasound of the liver can show the presence of a fatty liver. Because NAFLD 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 the liver looks unusual on ultrasound or if there is an elevation of liver enzymes in blood tests.


There are currently no drugs that have been proven effective at treating NAFLD. The first line of treatment is usually weight loss through a combination of a healthy diet and exercise. Losing weight addresses the conditions that contribute to NAFLD. Ideally, a loss of 10% of body weight is desirable, but improvement in risk factors can become apparent if patients lose even 3-5% of their starting weight. Weight-loss surgery is also an option for those who need to lose a great deal of weight.

Acupuncture & Natural treatment

Acupuncture has been used to treat NAFLD by regulating lipid metabolism and related signalling pathways, improving insulin resistance, and increasing the antioxidant levels in liver tissue. Acupuncture combined with a healthy diet and exercise has been found effective in the treatment of obesity and metabolic syndrome by promoting weight loss, lipid and glucose regulation, and reduction of various markers of inflammation.

At Gathered Roots, we provide a customized treatment plan just for you to improve your liver function and any related issues. The treatment is usually once a week and 12-15 sessions are considered one course of treatment.

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