Gut Microbes and Fatty Liver Disease

A study in the journal Nature confirms that bad gut microbes are involved in the causes and progress of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD), a dangerous complication of obesity. The same diet that causes obesity causes disruptions in the normal healthy ecology of microbes in the human gut, causing pathogenic bacteria to proliferate. These harmful bacteria have been linked to NAFLD, but now the mechanisms of the disease are becoming clear.

gut microbes

The harmful bacteria produce molecules called endotoxins. These are actually structural parts of the bacterial wall, made of carbohydrate and fat. These toxins enter the bloodstream and are sent to the liver, where they cause inflammation.

Chronic inflammation is the cause of many different problems in the body, such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s Disease, arthritis, atherosclerosis, heart disease, and stroke. Obesity itself also causes chronic inflammation, because fatty tissue is one of the places where inflammatory immune cells live, and having dangerous amounts of fatty tissue throws the immune system towards being always on, as if we were fighting an infection.

In the case of gut dysbiosis (the accumulation of harmful gut microbes), we actually are fighting an infection. By changing the diet towards one of lower carbohydrate and fat, and much higher fiber along with protein, we can feed the good bacteria in the gut at the expense of the bad bacteria, and restore a healthy balance. Not only will this reduce the likelihood of fatty liver disease, but it will also reduce fatty tissue, and the inflammation it causes.

As a further benefit, healthy gut bacteria can actually help you keep the weight off. Dysbiosis is both a contributing cause and an effect of obesity, in a kind of vicious cycle. Getting rid of one helps to get rid of the other. When you reach for a snack, try an apple or a carrot instead of the cookies or cupcake. Your gut will thank you for it.