Physicians are always telling patients to eat right and get enough sleep, but now more than ever the relationships between the two are becoming clearer. Snoring is not just an aggravation to your bedmate, but a wake up call that the body is in danger.
Patients with sleep apnea are at risk for many diseases, with hypertension and heart disease receiving most of the press. Yet it seems that this population of people with OSA are at increased risk of fatty liver disease independent of weight, alcohol intake or use of hepatotoxic medications.
How can this be and why does fatty liver matter?
The liver uses up a lot of oxygen to do its job and if it is denied oxygen repeatedly, it can become injured. Studies are showing that hypoxia (low oxygen) alone can accelerate fatty liver by impacting cholesterol metabolism and increasing insulin resistance.
The health of the liver is crucial because it is the first organ to see all the substances absorbed in the small bowel and acts as a processing center. When the liver is impaired, it leads to inefficient filtering and toxins are able to reach the systemic circulation and set off a cascade of events leading to a multitude of inflammatory symptoms.
It only makes sense then that we should rethink our evening nightcap. If you snore, avoid the evening cocktail which can directly cause harm to the liver. A better option may be a handful of sunflower seeds and a green spinach smoothie which are packed with vitamin E and alpha lipoic acid (respectively). These two supplements have been shown to reverse liver damage. Probiotics are also helpful as a good balance of flora in the GI tract can prevent toxin delivery to the liver and take a load off. And of course, listen to your partner and get that sleep study done.
Kelly Cobb MD is a board certified internal medicine physician raised here in Lafayette. She believes that she is a partner in her patients’ quest for optimal health. By asking questions and listening, a dialogue begins that allows for relationship building. It is in this dialogue, in which patients actively participate in the decision making process, that healing begins. She is currently accepting internal medicine and functional medicine patients. To schedule an appointment call 337-266-9985
SOURCES– (HEPATOLOGY 2005;41:1290-1296. Respiratory Care, Feb2012, vol 57, no 2, Chest. 2014;145(3):525-533. doi:10.1378/chest.13-0938, ACG 2011 Annual Scientific Meeting, abstract 38))