Part 2: Fatty Liver Disease

I began this series of posts talking about middle-age and anchoring this story near my 25th wedding anniversary which placed me in my late 40's. For this post, I'll need to jump back in time just a few years.

Fatty-Liver Disease (FLD) entered the picture more than a decade ago. The diagnosis actually came when I was about 30 years old and I was purchasing my dental practice. When you take out a 10yr SBA business loan, the lender needs to know that you can pay it all back and that includes an inspection of your physical health. My lender required me to get a life insurance policy and with that came a complete physical exam.

I was shocked to discover my premium quote came back much higher than expected. As I researched, I found out that my liver enzymes were the culprit. My first stop was an appointment with my family doctor. For those of you who like to see blood test results, this is what I found:



I'll never forget what he told me: "Fletch, with enzyme levels this high, you are either 1)A closet alcoholic, 2)Exercising to the level of an Olympian, or 3)You have fatty-liver disease." Now, I don't know where my doctor went to medical school, but I could have diagnosed this one from across the room.

I've always been a "thick guy" when it comes to my neck and shoulders, but in my 20's I did my best to turn myself physically into a square. One look at me sitting on his exam table and any first year med student would say: "Uh, I'd go with #3."

My doctor told me there were two ways to confirm FLD. The BEST way to diagnose if your liver was marbleized with fat was with a biopsy. I felt the need to remind my doctor of two simple facts: First, my liver was on the inside of my body; and second, a biopsy did not sound fun at all. In order to confirm my suspicions, he proceeded to describe the biopsy procedure: "It's all done as out-patient surgery, they will locally numb the area and then insert a biopsy needle to pull a plug of your liver...blah blah blah"

My doctor did not even need to describe the risks to me, because he had already convinced me that this was something I was not going to do. I typically choose the "best option" and truthfully if I had any need for my abdomen to be opened up in the near future, I would have gladly agreed to the biopsy and would have allowed them to take as much of my liver as they needed. But, since I didn't foresee any need for random exploratory surgery in my abdominal cavity in the near future, I decided to have him describe the "second best" option.

He explained that the second way to determine if you have FLD was to go on a strict low-carb and high protein diet. The theory behind this plan is simple: Decrease the stress on your liver and it will stop throwing out high enzymes. Truthfully, I wondered why he even mentioned the first option. When faced with choosing between a plug of my liver being removed or eating a high protein diet, I chose the "eat more bacon" option. Duh.

With the help of Kendra as my chef, I jumped into the world of Atkins and Protein-Power meal planning. It was really very basic. Eggs for breakfast. Salads for lunch. Protein and veggies for dinner. No carbs. No starches. No sodas. As a disciplined guy, it was fairly easy to follow. It just required faithful eating.

After 8 weeks of this diet and change in lifestyle I noticed a few things. First, my weight dropped dramatically. Initially from water and then throughout my face, neck and torso. Second, all of my systems felt better, but mostly my gastrointestinal system and my muscles and joints. Third, my sleep patterns improved and my energy went through the roof. Lastly, I took a second blood test. Here are the results:

Follow-Up Blood Test Taken 8 Weeks Later

Follow-Up Blood Test Taken 8 Weeks Later

Wow! With a little discipline, I learned a huge lesson. I was able to change my health. I also proved to myself and my doctor that the issue was not liver disease, but a liver incased and marbleized with fat.

The only problem for me was that the lesson did not stick. Eventually, my old habits drifted back into place and the lifestyle followed. Within a short amount of time, all the markers for fatty liver disease returned as well.

Unfortunately, this was not the end of liver issues for me. I'll continue the story in my next post where I was mistaken for a Marvel superhero.

Quietly making noise,

PART 1: Middle Age Status
PART 2: Fatty Liver Disease
PART 3: Ironman Is Here
PART 4: Hypertension
PART 5: Bloody Noses and a Tumor
PART 6: Stress and Depression
PART 7: Diagnosis: Diabetes!
PART 8: Get Out and Get Walking!
PART 9: Kicking Sugar to the Curb!