‘You can re­verse this quickly’

The Irish Times - Tuesday - Health - - Health Liver -

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.”

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