It’s Not Just For Eating

There’s not that much to report on the book, since you already know that sales have been steady.  I’m so close to paying off the costs of printing the book that I can taste it.  Then I’d like to recoup what I paid for having it digitalized and for all the donations I’ve made. This is Book Coveralmost like a game to me because I know I’m just going to take any profits and transform them into books for donation anyway, but it keeps me sharp!

Updates on medical issues here.  I still have macular degeneration – as if it were just going to disappear – and started taking the only two supplements I can with Chronic Kidney Disease.  I’m talking (okay, writing) about the supplements in the comprehensive pill my ophthalmologist offers in an attempt to slow the eye disease down. I’d wanted to take full advantage of the entire 25% chance of slowing the disease that this pill offers, but my kidneys come first.

It turns out Bear CAN wait for the surgery since it’s kind of a last ditch effort to save mobility and he’s not there yet… thank goodness.  Now to find some good pain management for him.  Thank you to Alex Gilmore for showing up to stand for us at the neurosurgeon’s office.  He asked our questions in a form this doctor could understand.  It’s interesting that once Alex was there and we explained why, the doctor started couching his responses to the questions in language that WE could understand.

I’m eager to get into today’s topic: liver, or rather fatty liver disease.  I vaguely remember this showing up on an MRI some time ago and my primary care physician – the ever vigilant Dr. H. Zhao – telling me about it.  That’s when I was obsessed with weight since my nephrologist had just explained I would do better at slowing down the progress of the CKD if I lost weight.  My first response to Dr. Zhao? “That’s fat, too?”

liverOnce she stopped laughing, she explained that many people have fatty livers but you have to be careful about it before you end up with (in my case) NAFLD or Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease.  Why am I writing about it now?  Beats me, but I dreamed about it so I figured that was enough reason to explore it.

So, we know fat gets deposited in the liver and too much is no good.  The question is how much is too much?  According to WebMD at http://www.webmd.com/hepatitis/fatty-liver-disease,

“Some fat in the liver is normal.  But if fat makes up more than 5%-10% of the weight of your liver, you may have alcoholic or nonalcoholic liver disease.  In some cases, these diseases can lead to serious complications.”

Let’s backtrack a little to find out why the liver is important in the first place.  According to the Mayo Clinic at http://www.mayoclinic.org/liver-disease/?mc_id=comlinkpilot&placement=bottom, these are the functions of the liver:

“Breaking down harmful substances

Removing waste products from the blood

Storing nutrients and vitamins

Moderating chemical levels in the body”

Take a looks at the second function again.  Does it sound familiar?  Yep, that’s one of the functions of your kidneys, your not functioning at capacity kidneys.  You’re already having trouble because one of your organs can’t do its job adequately, you certainly don’t need an additional organ responsible for the same job to be compromised.  Ah, that must be why I’m writing about fatty liver disease on a Chronic Kidney Disease blog.Location of Kidneys

By the way, a liver specialist is called a hepatologist.   That comes from the same word root as hepatitis. Remember I’d urged you to make certain you took the series of hepatitis B inoculations since your kidneys are already comprised? And suggested you might want to be checked for any hepatitis C in your blood work?  Hepatitis is from the same Greek word root, hepa which means liver.  Just in case you’re interested, the University of Hawaii at Manoa has a fairly inclusive list of medical word roots at http://manoa.hawaii.edu/learning/PDFhandouts/StudySkills/Word%20Roots.pdf .  This is right up my alley!

Okay, maybe we need to know a little more about the liver.  It’s a large organ, in fact, the second largest in your body. You’ll find yours under your rib cage on the right side of your body.  My perverse sense of humor found it funny that the kidneys are shaped like – well – kidney beans while your liver is shaped sort of like a football that’s flat on one side. (Can you see the mental image I conjured up of the kidneys tossing the football back and forth?  Can’t really happen but it’s funny… if you’re me, that is.) Oh, yes, weight: three pounds.

Like CKD, NAFLD is mostly a silent disease; it has no symptoms.  When symptoms do occur, it seems to me that they would be hard to pin down as NAFLD since it’s not an array of these symptoms, but any of them. Then again, I’m not a doctor.

“fatigue, weakness, weight loss, loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal pain, spider-like blood vessels (Hey, I have those!), jaundice, itching, edema, ascites {swelling of the abdomen} and mental confusion.”

Thank you to the American Liver Foundation at http://www.liverfoundation.org/abouttheliver/info/nafld/. This is a nifty little fact sheet that is simple to understand.

Then I got to wondering about why this disease could be dangerous.  It’s the possible progression that makes it dangerous.  You’re told you have a fatty liver (AFLD is fatty liver disease caused by alcoholism), you don’t lose weight {if you’re overweight or obese}, lower your cholesterol and triglycerides, control your diabetes {if you have it} or avoid alcohol, and the disease worsens. NAFLD

Your liver swells.  This is called steatohepatitis.  That may cause cirrhosis (Quick!  Go to the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s medical word root site! Or just read on.) or scarring over a long period.  The cirrhosis could eventually cause liver cancer or failure.  The saddest part of all this is that some people develop NAFLD or AFLD for no reason at all.

The good part (There’s a good part?) is that a healthy diet and regular exercise – just like CKD, isn’t it? – may prevent scarring or even reverse it if the disease is caught early enough.  Since there usually aren’t any symptoms, fatty liver disease is most often uncovered by your blood tests.  A high level of liver enzymes could be the tip off.

I almost forgot to mention that Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease has another name: NASH.  This stands for Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis.  My parting gift to you today: steat is a word root meaning fat.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

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