Fatty Liver | mindbodysoul holistic health
The most common liver disease is also one that ages the brain

TIME MAY 10, 2022

Fatty liver has become very common, arguably the most common liver disease nowadays. Although fatty liver does not have visible symptoms, it can cause the brain to age and shrink prematurely. Fortunately, there are natural ways to reverse fatty liver through herbs and acupuncture.

Fatty liver can be categorized into two types. The first is alcoholic fatty liver caused by excessive alcohol consumption, and the second is non-alcoholic fatty liver, which is also the most common type of fatty liver.

According to Dr. Xu Zhongyan, vice president of the Hanbu Shijia Chinese Medicine Clinic, there are two causes of non-alcoholic fatty liver. One is excessive caloric intake; and the other is too little consumption, which is related to one’s lifestyle.

The fat accumulated in the liver is mainly triglycerides, and a diet high in oil and sugar is the main cause. For example, many people like to eat fried chicken with beer, which has become a dangerous combination for fatty liver.

Dr. Xu stressed that consuming a large amount of starchy food in addition to the main meals over a long period of time burdens the body. Usually, eating one bowl of rice during a meal is considered normal. However, if one eats cookies, bread, fries, an excess will contribute to poor health.


Nowadays, people are more sedentary.

Lack of exercise leads to insignificant calorie consumption and will also cause fatty liver. In addition, stress, staying up late, erratic schedules, and other factors will cause metabolism to slow down, so the fat that cannot be consumed will accumulate in the body. Since the organ responsible for detoxification and energy storage is the liver, the excess fat will be stored here.

Generally speaking, obese people and people with normal body weight can both have a fatty liver. Some people have normal body shapes and limbs, but their stomachs are large. In this case, the possibility of having a fatty liver is also relatively high.

People with an obese abdomen have a lot of visceral fat. Although abdominal fat cannot be equated with cholesterol or triglycerides, according to Dr. Xu’s clinical observation, patients with a fatty liver usually have a larger stomach.

Since there are almost no signs of a fatty liver in the early and intermediate stages, people usually find out about it only during physical checkups. During a physical examination, people can use an ultrasound to check for fatty livers. Dr. Xu added that blood tests might not always be able to detect fatty livers; and in the case where a fatty liver does exist, the triglycerides in the blood may not be high, as they have mostly been stored in the liver.

Accelerates Aging, Damages the Brain

A fatty liver not only entails the risk of cirrhosis and cancer, but also causes premature aging and shrinkage of the brain.

A study published in the medical journal JAMA Neurology in January 2018 showed that non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is significantly associated with lower brain volume.

In this study of 766 subjects, in terms of the overall brain volume differences, it was found that the brains of people with a fatty liver are 4.2 years older than the brains of the people without one. And among the subjects under 60 years of age, the brains of people with a fatty liver are 7.3 years older.

Dr. Xu pointed out that this finding is also consistent with traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) theories. He explained that having a fatty liver signifies changes in the “liver yin.”

According to the traditional Chinese medicine, the visible tissues and organs are yin, while the tissues and organs show a functional state of yang (i.e. the manifestation of energy). In the case of a fatty liver, on a visual level, through ultrasound you will see that there is a large number of fat droplets within the liver cells. In traditional Chinese medicine, this could be said that the liver’s “yin body” has been injured. TCM views the liver and kidneys as one system; the liver stores the blood and the kidneys store the body’s essence, and one can become the other. “Yin” substances include blood, fluid, essence, and each can become the other. The kidney yin is also related to the spinal fluid and brain components.

Therefore, if the liver yin is damaged, the yin essence in the kidneys will also become damaged. Since the kidney governs bones and produces the bone marrow, the yin essence of the kidneys can nourish the human brain, including the cerebrospinal fluid. When the yin essence of the kidneys is damaged, there will be changes in brain functions and corresponding tissues.

Dr. Xu speculated that when the liver has a lot of triglycerides, the proportion of triglycerides dispersed in the body should also be relatively large. This means that the blood vessels will also have a lot of triglycerides in them, and there will be problems regarding the supply of the brain’s nutrition.

TCM to Reverse Fatty Liver

If a fatty liver is left untreated, it can pose a major health risk over the years. Fortunately, there is still time to reverse a fatty liver, before it develops into liver fibrosis.

Western medicine currently encourages patients to control their diet, lose weight, and exercise in order to improve their fatty liver. And traditional Chinese medicine treats a fatty liver with herbs that reduce fat and promote blood circulation. According to Dr. Xu, patients can improve their fatty liver in around three months after taking medication. He had one patient who went back for an ultrasound scan after three months of medication and found that his fatty liver had changed from moderate to mild.

The herbs that promote the liver’s blood circulation and metabolism are the root of Salvia miltiorrhiza and Panax notoginseng. They can therefore reduce oil and fat in the liver. However, these herbs are not suitable for people to use on their own, especially for people with hypertension and cardiovascular diseases who are taking anticoagulants. To promote metabolism, it is safest to rely on exercise.

However, the herbs for fat reduction are suitable for people to use according to their own constitution.

Herbal Teas for Fatty Liver

Hawthorns: warm in nature, suitable for people with cold constitution and who are prone to diarrhea.

Roselle: cool in nature, suitable for people who are hot-tempered and prone to constipation.

Take five to seven grams of hawthorns or roselle and add 500 to it 700ml of water and bring it to a boil. Drink this daily.

Dr. Xu pointed out that hawthorns and roselle can lower blood lipids and reduce the formation of lipids in the body. Nevertheless, both herbs are acidic, so people with stomach problems cannot drink this type of tea too often, and they cannot drink it on an empty stomach, either. They can use lotus leaves and cassia seeds instead.

Lotus leaves: People who are prone to diarrhea can use lotus leaves in dishes, to steam fish, or to brew lotus leaf tea.

Cassia seeds: This can lower blood lipids, but its most prominent effect is to induce bowel movements; suitable for people who are prone to constipation.

Use 10 to 15 grams of either herb, add 500 to 700 ml of water and bring it to a boil. Drink this daily.

Although lotus leaves and cassia seeds have less effects on the stomach, they are not as effective as hawthorns or roselle.

Acupuncture for Fatty Liver

In addition to herbal cuisine, people can also press three acupuncture points in their daily lives:

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Fenglong point on the front side of the lower leg, eight inches above the tip of the outer ankle, and two fingers away from the front edge of the tibia.

Dr. Xu said that the fat in a fatty liver is also the manifestation of phlegm and what traditional Chinese medicine calls dampness, and the Fenglong acupuncture point, which belongs to the stomach meridian, is a very well-known point to remove phlegm and dampness.

Taichong point on the dorsum of the foot in the distal hollow at the junction of the first and second toes.

Stressed, sedentary, and less active people with abdominal obesity can press their Taichong point, which belongs to the liver meridian, to unclog the liver energy and increase the flow of liver energy and blood.

Sanyinjiao point in the depression at the back edge of the shin bone, four fingers above the inner ankle behind the posterior edge of tibia.

The Sanyinjiao point is a major acupuncture point. Massaging this point can promote blood circulation of the liver.

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