Health and Longevity Q&A
By Anthony Ricciuto
Probiotics and NAFLD
Q: I have a question about fatty liver. As it goes I am a retired competitive powerlifter and competed as a super heavyweight. I admit I didn’t watch my diet except watch the food go from my plate to my mouth. I thought you might like that joke. Now during my last doctor check-up, he said that I have a fatty liver. I really don’t drink much alcohol so he said that is not the cause but most likely my bad eating habits. I have heard that probiotics can have a benefit for this condition. Did you hear anything about this connection? Let me know as I always look forward to your view of things. Thanks for coming back, we all missed you when Powerlifting USA ceased. Thanks in advance.
A: Hey Joey how ya doing? So nice to hear from you. Well, it looks like you enjoy your pasta and garlic bread a little too often eh? Ok jokes aside, yes your liver issue is related to your eating habits. I discussed this decades ago when I explained that not only does binging on junk foods cause digestive distress but also strains your liver as well. I know most of you think that alcohol and oral steroids are the main culprits when it comes to liver damage, but your food choices also play a major role. The issue of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) as it is known, is a major problem these days. It’s mainly due to consuming way too much sugar and processed foods. The prevalence of NAFLD in the last decade has been higher than it ever has.
Eating Junk Does No Favours for your Liver!
Now enough with my verbal lashing so let’s get to your question. The topic of NAFLD is a complex one and needs more space than what is allocated here. I am planning to do a full article on this issue in the near future. Now you mentioned the role of probiotics and NFLD and you were right on the money. Not sure if you have been scouring medical journals lately, but yes there is a direct correlation between the two.
Your Gut Microbiome and Liver are Connected!
Now, this may sound weird but your gut microbiome plays a huge role when it comes to the health of your liver. In fact, scientists have coined it the Gut-Liver Axis, and for good reason. This is due to the fact that blood that circulates away from the intestines passes through the liver through the Portal Vein. This leads to many of the bloodborne substances passing from the digestive tract to also pass through the liver before being circulated throughout the body and to other critical organs. The liver’s job is filtering out impurities, processing vital nutrients, and eliminating toxins that can damage your health. Now the bad news is the fact that the liver must work extra hard trying to neutralize toxic compounds and even microorganisms originating in the gut. The liver does do an amazing job of eliminating these health-damaging substances, but it does cause undue strain in the process.
The Gut Microbiome is a Complex System!
Since the majority of people who eat too much sugar and processed foods have a bad ratio of bad gut bacteria in relation to good gut bacteria, damage can occur to the intestinal lining. This then leads to more of these toxic elements being uploaded to the liver through the portal vein. This daily influx coming into the liver causing repetitive strain than can lead to NAFLD. This is just one way that it can occur but is a very important one to understand.
Now one recent study shines some very important light on this topic. Scientists created a blend of seven different Probiotics along with Prebiotics. This was to provide an optimal blend of good bacteria and a food source for the good bacteria to thrive on. The study had test subjects take this potent blend for 28 weeks while others took a placebo. They monitored two of the main liver enzymes ALT (Alanine Aminotransferase) and AST (Aspartate Aminotransferase). In fact, the test subjects that had the probiotic blend had their elevated liver enzyme count for both categories return to normal blood levels. Even better is the fact that the scientist also monitored their Fibrosis score as well. This is in relation to the amount of scarring that has occurred to the liver caused by these elevated enzyme counts. In fact, these scores also returned to normal as well which is crazy. Lastly, they tested their C-Reactive Protein levels. I get this tested with all my athletes as it tells me the rate of inflammation in the body. The probiotic group had close to a 60% decrease in C-Reactive Protein levels.
Blood Work is Critical for Optimal Health!
So as you can see there is a major correlation between gut health and liver longevity. I talked about this connection decades ago and now studies are proving what I said to be right. Maintaining a healthy gut microbiome is critical for many different processes in the body and is the future of health. Since close to 30% of Americans suffer from NAFLD you can see why this information is so relevant to our time and current situation. I hope this sheds some light on why I have been a proponent of fermented foods and probiotic formulas for such a long time for the strength athlete. Making sure you provide your body with different forms of good bacteria is critical for optimal health. It’s not just for digestive health, but for numerous different functions that occur in the body.
Kefir is an Excellent Source of Probiotics!
I talked about supplementing with probiotics way back in 2002 when it was not the cool thing to do. Probiotics have gone mainstream over the last few years and every yogurt company pushes it with its advertising as its mentioned in every TV commercial. I think an article series on probiotics and the gut microbiome is in order very soon to explain the many facets of this topic. If it was as simple as eating a vanilla yogurt on your work break it would be nice, but that’s far from doing you any real good. Keep your eyes peeled for this upcoming article.