Liver disease: NHS Doctor talks about link with alcohol
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A pilot study has found that probiotics may help protect against how easily substances pass through the intestinal wall, in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
There are two main types of fatty liver disease: alcoholic fatty liver disease and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
Unlike the former, NAFLD is not caused by drinking alcohol.
Fatty liver disease is an umbrella term for a range of conditions characterised by abnormal levels of fat in the liver.
It is estimated that up to one in every three people in the UK has early stages of NAFLD, where there are small amounts of fat in their liver.
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts promoted as having various health benefits.
They are sometimes added to yoghurts or taken as food supplements, and are often described as “good” bacteria.
A recent study, by researchers at University Kebangsaan Malaysia, found that probiotics were able to protect NAFLD patients against increased intestinal permeability.
The researchers analysed a randomised, double-blind, placebo controlled trial involving 39 ultrasound diagnosed NAFLD patients.
They were supplemented with either a probiotics sachet or a placebo for a total of six months.
Although the use of probiotics for a six month duration did not show any significant clinical improvement in NAFLD patients, “in the microenvironment of the small intestine, probiotics seemed to be able to stabilize the mucosal immune function”.
Therefore, the researchers suggest that probiotics might have “a complementary role” in treating NAFLD.
Further studies with larger sample sizes, a longer duration, and different probiotic strains are needed to evaluate the real benefit of probiotics in NAFLD, they added.
There’s some evidence that probiotics may be helpful in other cases, such as helping prevent diarrhoea when taking antibiotics, and helping to ease some symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), according to the NHS.
Probiotics are generally classed as food rather than medicine, which means they don’t go through the rigorous testing medicines do.
If your NAFLD is linked to diet your doctor is likely to treat it by giving you advice on living more healthily.
At the moment, treatment options for the NAFLD are limited and mainly revolve around lifestyle interventions such as weight loss via dietary therapy and exercise.
Early-stage NAFLD does not usually cause any harm, but it can lead to serious liver damage, including cirrhosis, if it gets worse.
Although the condition is often marked by an absence of symptoms, there are certain signs to look out for.
For example, dull or aching pain in the top right of your tummy.
“You probably will not know you have it unless it’s diagnosed during tests carried out for another reason,” the NHS stat
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