The Surprising Link Between Fatty Liver Disease and Long COVID

The Surprising Link Between Fatty Liver Disease and Long COVID

Since 2020, medical researchers have been studying the many ways that the COVID-19 virus affects the body. New evidence suggests that COVID-19 can have a negative impact on the liver.

What is a Fatty Liver?

The liver is the major organ for detoxification. It detoxifies, by metabolizing and/or secreting the toxins out of the body.

Alcohol abuse will damage and eventually destroy the liver. This is what most people think of when they hear of liver damage, they think of alcoholic liver damage.

But there is a liver condition that is affecting an ever-increasing number of Americans. and it has nothing to do with alcohol. It’s non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

The liver can be damaged over the years in many ways - by smoking, sugar-laden sodas, fried foods, processed foods, drugs, alcohol, and environmental toxins. These all tax the liver, but sugary, fried, and processed foods give the body a real problem. The excess sugar and fat cannot be utilized by the body and so is stored as fat in the body, and particularly in the liver.

The result is a compromised liver, and the toxins that are normally filtered out can re-circulate through the body re-exposing it to harmful compounds and can trigger a toxic overload. 

This liver condition may have significant implications for health.  It is estimated that 25% to 30% of adults in the United States have a fatty liver. Even more worrying is the fact that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) states that non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is now the most common liver disease in children today with an estimated prevalence of 7 million affected children in the US.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is now referred to as metabolic-dysfunction associated fatty liver disease (MAFLD) – a more accurate description.

What is Metabolic Dysfunction?

Metabolism is a generic word for EVERY chemical process in your body from energy production to cellular reproduction and fighting off disease.

The mitochondria are the batteries of your cells.  Mitochondrial Dysfunction means the body has fewer mitochondria, and the ones it does have are smaller and inefficient. This leads to metabolic dysfunction.

Understanding Metabolic-Dysfunction Associated Fatty Liver Disease (MAFLD)

This is a chronic liver disease and is the most common liver disorder, often associated with conditions such as obesity and Type 2 diabetes. It occurs because of metabolic dysfunction – basically the metabolism is not functioning as it should – and the result is a build up of harmful fat in the liver.

The Liver’s Role in Long COVID (originally called Long Haul COVID)

Long COVID encompasses a cluster of symptoms that a person suffers, usually for an extended period, after they had the COVID virus. The nature of the cluster of symptoms can make it difficult to receive a diagnosis that leads to the person making a full recovery to normal health.

With the usual environmental stresses - pollution, chemicals in your food and mental and physical stress – a COVID infection places an even heavier burden on your liver.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), liver injury is frequently observed in patients infected with the COVID-19 virus. A study conducted in Italy found that the majority of Long COVID patients had MAFLD or fatty liver.

This suggests a link between one’s ability to fully recover from COVID -19 and liver health. 

How Long COVID may make Fatty Liver (MAFLD) Symptoms Worse

Research done shows that those with pre-existing liver conditions may be at an increased risk of experiencing Long COVID. The inflammatory response triggered by the COVID-19 infection could increase the liver damage in MAFLD patients, potentially leading to more severe complications.

What Can You Do to Help Long COVID? 

Lifestyle Changes to Support Liver Health During Long COVID

Adopting a liver-friendly lifestyle can help support overall liver health.

A Healthy Diet: Adopting a balanced and nutritious diet.  Focus on consuming plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins while limiting intake of processed foods, sugary snacks, and saturated fats.  You also need to find out exactly what nutrients your body needs. Eat for your health.

Regular Exercise: Regular physical activity can help improve your liver function and reduce the accumulation of fat in the liver. Consult your healthcare practitioner first if you have an underlying health condition.

Weight Management: Maintaining a healthy weight is essential as excess body fat, particularly around the abdomen, is a significant risk factor for the condition. If you’re overweight or obese, aim to achieve gradual and sustainable weight loss.

Limit Alcohol Consumption: Limiting or avoiding alcohol altogether is important for managing the condition. Alcohol can further damage your liver and lead to worsening symptoms.

If you have lingering symptoms after having had the COVID virus, speak to your healthcare professional about the link between Long COVID and Metabolic-dysfunction Associated Fatty Liver disease (MAFLD.)  Addressing this could make all the difference to your recovery.

Dr. Freddie Ulan, the founder of Nutrition Response Testing®, has been researching the connection between Long COVID and MAFLD. His research shows the connection and offers a method of addressing this issue. You can find out more about Nutrition Response Testing here:

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