‘You can reverse this quickly’
It i s possible to go from serious to within normal range. The liver has great powers of regeneration
Ciarán Lawless acknowledges he is a bit of a poster boy for managing NAFLD. He is fully engaged with his health – luckily for him. The marine consultant, living in Dublin, had type 2 diabetes, which he managed well for 15 years, with medication and attending clinics. For about 10 years his bloods showed anomalies (outside the normal range) in liver function, Whenever he enquired, he was assured it was common among diabetic patients.
Despite this, he was uneasy. After reading about liver research by Prof Suzanne Norris, he wrote, asking her to take a look. He had tests, and ultimately a biopsy in 2013. It took months to get the biopsy results, by which time he was working in Glasgow (where he did tests before joining BUPA, which showed up nothing untoward). So in early summer 2014, a call from his GP with a NASH diagnosis was “a complete shock”.
Lawless went into action, researching widely. He gave up his full-time job and came home to concentrate on getting better. He realised he could reverse his dangerous condition, and worked closely with Prof Norris and dietician Orla Walsh.
“At the end of day there is no treatment for it, but you can reverse it: it is possible to go from serious to within normal range. The liver has great powers of regeneration.” He concentrated on diet and exercise and “I eliminated anything I could, including medications, that might be liver toxic or difficult for the liver to manage”. That included “everything pharmaceutical, even paracetamol”. And he ditched his diabetes meds.
His regime was strict. He ate lots of liver-friendly veg – beetroot, spinach, broccoli – as well as nuts, poached chicken and oily fish, fruit, vegetable and fruit juices. Much of what he ate was raw or involved little cooking. “No fast food, and nothing from a packet.”
He cut out fats like butter and cheese, breads, pasta and spuds, most red meat, eggs for much of the time. “No alcohol. But caffeine is a plus, coffee is good for the liver. Thank God for that.”
Lawless paired this with a strict exercise regime – weights at the gym, and running 10km daily. He was unfit when he started.”
He did this for six months. His diabetes symptoms disappeared immediately. Within a year he saw positive effects in liver tests. He reckons they went from their highest level to normal in 18 months. These days, the fat content on his liver zig-zags a bit, but his scans are good and he is confident he has repaired his liver health.
These days he eats fairly normally – pasta, red meat, some cheese – and walks a lot. Four years on, he is still off the diabetes meds, although “my liver is a healthier organ now, and could tolerate them”.
Lawless’s experience showed him “you can reverse this thing quickly”.
“I was ruthless about it.”