Symptom-free, dangerous liver problems

August 15, 2016
Leigh Erin Connealy, M.D.

Recent news has me worried—particularly about my “Baby Boomer” friends, those born between 1945 and 1965.

It’s nothing that can’t be fixed—but I’m certain many Boomers don’t even know anything’s wrong.

The news is about two kinds of liver disease: hepatitis C and fatty liver disease.

Hepatitis C killed more Americans in 2014—nearly 20,000—than any other infectious disease, including heavy hitters HIV and tuberculosis.

Some experts estimate the true number to be closer to 30,000.

Why Boomers are more at risk

If you were born between 1945 and 1965, you’re five times more likely to be infected with hepatitis C than other adults in your cohort.


The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) tells us that up until 1992, even the best screening for common procedures like injections and blood transfusions were unable to spot hepatitis warning signs.

Even today, hepatitis C is notorious for its lack of symptoms, hence the designation “silent killer.” So millions of Boomers could be infected without knowing it.

What is hepatitis C?

This viral infection that can cause inflammation of the liver, crippling its ability to do its essential job of cleansing toxins from our bodies.

It can lead to liver cancer, to cirrhosis—a chronic infection that can cause serious scarring of the liver—and even liver failure.

How do you know if you have hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C symptoms, when they appear, include:

  • Acute infection
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite or nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dark urine
  • Jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes)

In most people with healthy immune systems, symptoms last 6–8 weeks and recede.  But diabetics, heavy drinkers, and obese people are at higher risk for the disease progressing, rather than receding.

And remember, this is a silent killer. You can have the virus with no visible symptoms for years…giving the disease a very bad running start.

Also remember that even without symptoms, you can still infect someone with the virus.

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How is hepatitis C transmitted?

Hepatitis C is spread mainly through infected blood and other body fluids, e.g., during unsafe sex or sharing personal items—toothbrushes, razors, nail clippers—that might have traces of infected blood.

Knowing that, you know how to prevent transmission: safe sex and no sharing of personal items.

The other liver killers

Fatty liver disease is sometimes an early development of hepatitis C but can live its own independently destructive life, even if you’re not infected with hepatitis C.

Like hepatitis C, it can be asymptomatic for decades. But it’s stealthily and steadily doing its damage.

How fatty liver disease begins

A normal liver is up to 10 percent fat. As with all your other organs, fat is an essential fuel source.

When the fuel tank is topped off, but more fat than your body can burn or eliminate remains in your system, the excess fat finds places to build up. Fat is smart.

Hello, liver, I’m coming in.

The excess fat both slows your liver’s normal functions and irritates it, causing inflammation. Your liver protects itself by forming scar tissue around the inflammation. Too much of that and you’re on your way to cirrhosis, liver cancer, liver failure.

Fatty liver disease symptoms

When symptoms do come, they include:

  • Enlarged liver
  • Dark patches on neck or under arms
  • Pain in the center or right upper part of your belly
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of weight or appetite
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Confusion, poor judgment, trouble concentrating

We don’t know (yet) what causes fatty liver disease, though it seems some people have a genetic predisposition. Heavy alcohol consumption is often a factor, but non-drinkers can also have the disease. And we see it more often in the obese or overweight population—who often have high cholesterol or diabetes, which always opens the door to other health problems.

Can you avoid, prevent, or cure fatty liver disease and hepatitis C?

Yes, yes, and yes. But only if you’re acutely aware of the symptoms I’ve described, and you act on them.

If you’re a Boomer, or think you have hepatitis C or fatty liver symptoms, get checked right away. Neither of the above? Get checked during your next regular doctor visit.

If you test positive, do the following to stop the damage:

  • Avoid sugar. Any sugar not used for short-term energy becomes dangerous triglycerides stored in your liver.
  • Exercise. It improves your body’s efficiency, and helps clean out toxins.
  • Drink more water. Your whole body needs it, and almost certainly doesn’t get enough.
  • Eliminate processed foods. They’re among the gravest threats to your liver.
  • Avoid alcohol. It’s a prime driver of liver problems. Research shows that six alcohol-free weeks gets rid of excess fat.
  • Give your liver time off with a cleansing fast once or twice a week. Just 24 hours of only water or juice will help it repair and rejuvenate.

Several supplements can also ensure you’re preventing, stopping, or undoing liver damage:

  • Milk thistle 200 mg three times daily
  • Curcumin 500 mg daily
  • Vitamin E 400 IU daily of natural vitamin E (labeled d-alpha-tocopherol)
  • Phosphatidylcholine (PC) 900 mg twice daily
  • Probiotics One dose containing at least 10 billion live organisms daily, with food
  • Fish oil 2–3 doses of 1,000 mg daily

Take good care. It works.


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  • Emmanuel Masha

    Thanks very much indeed for such an informative article on the liver, much appreciated. I will live by the advice you provided to keep my liver in a good state. Dr Connealy, I have lost my father a while back and I am told that the doctors said that he has passed on due to liver problem, and some of the symptoms of liver problems you have mentioned in this article is what have seen from my father, please help me with a response to this question, “can liver problem passed from one generation to another”?

    Thanks and kind regards


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