Friday, March 24, 2017

NASH: The silent and often forgotten cause of liver problems


Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis, or NASH, is a more severe form of Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD). It results when fat builds up in the liver causing inflammation, and it’s a growing health problem that is already the second-leading cause of liver transplant in the U.S. By 2020, it’s expected to be first. Over 12% of Americans are affected by NASH making it the second most common cause of liver transplant. 

While I don’t deal with NASH myself, my mother has it. As I’ve said before, we don’t talk, but I think it’s important that I’m educated about it and help raise awareness of it among others. I’m not going to ignore that there is a genetic link – those that carry a certain gene have a greater chance of getting NAFLD and NASH. 

There isn’t really one specific cause for NASH, but if you have type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, obesity, high cholesterol or high blood pressure you may be at greater risk. 

In some cases, NASH patients might have pain in the upper right side of their abdomen along with fatigue. Symptoms like an enlarged liver, insulin resistance, and cirrhosis may lead to further testing. However, NASH can go undetected for decades because symptoms are often minimal until the disease has advanced, so if you’re at risk it’s critical to have regular blood function tests during your annual physicals. Blood tests, ultrasounds, CT scans, MRIs, or biopsies are other common types of testing for liver disease.

To me, the scariest thing about NASH is that over time, it can cause serious complications like cirrhosis (severe liver scarring) and liver cancer.

With no FDA-approved medications yet available to treat NASH, options for managing the disease are limited to diet and lifestyle modifications. If you or a loved one has NASH, talk to your doctor about participating in a clinical trial – you can learn more at www.NASHStudy.com. But for now, maintaining a healthier lifestyle is the best way to help control NASH and reduce some of the top risk factors like obesity. 

Look, losing weight and eating healthy aren’t easy. Trust me, I know. It doesn’t get any easier the less active we are, though.

In the past, I have tended to overdo things when I’m feeling well from my various invisible illnesses. A few weeks ago, I went from agonizing pain to relief overnight and decided I should go running. 

This was not a good idea for me.

Still, that doesn’t mean that I’m not active. Since finally getting the release from my rheumatologist to be able to do yoga again, I’ve been keeping up with stretching every single day. I try to do a bit every few hours. 

Right now, that’s all I can do – and that’s okay. I know I can build up to being more active, especially as the weather outside becomes less full of ice and snow.

As far as eating goes, I just had a visit with my rheumatologist. Since I’m not able to be maybe as active as I’d like, we discussed supplementing some of my activity with a bit of a better diet. We talked about the potential benefits of a Mediterranean diet for those of us with autoimmune/autoinflammatory diseases and decided to head in that direction. 

It makes the most sense for me anyway. When I cook, whatever meal it is tends to have an Italian spin on it. 

My rheumatologist’s nurse always comes in last and we went over her tips and tricks for eating well – high-quality olive oil to dip bread in or fry up lean meats, a handful of nuts like almonds every day or so, and getting those fish-supplied Omega-3s.

The trip to the grocery store afterward wasn’t necessarily the cheapest, but the subtle changes I’ve made so far have, at the very least, helped me feel a little healthier. The nice thing is that we are giving it time. I have until my next appointment with them in July to fully adopt this diet.

Thank goodness, because I don’t know how I’m going to give up tacos… maybe I’ll just make them Italian.

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Intercept Pharmaceuticals, Inc. a biopharmaceutical company, and should not be construed to constitute medical advice. My personal story and opinions are my own. I am not a medical professional and am not qualified to give medical advice. Please talk with your doctor about your individual medical situation, including whether enrolling in a clinical trial, such as NASHStudy.com, could be the right option for you.  





Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Diagnosis: Nothing


I woke up way earlier than I have in a while to head in for an MRI this morning. It went pretty well and very quickly. I was told I should hear something by tomorrow.

But, surprise, my neurologist shot me a note just now! Unfortunately, the results really don't help do anything but rule out some stuff.

Everything looks fine in my noggin and neck. I do have "prominent lymph nodes noted within the upper neck and submandibular regions" AKA the lymph nodes I've always had swollen for approximately 23 years. Of course, the left side is generally worse on a day-to-day basis in regards to the lymph nodes.

There are no lesions, hemorrhages, stenosis, or really anything.

Real talk? I'm glad this isn't MS. I've talked about how that scares me just because of my experience with my great grandma passing away from related complications. Yes, this was in 1999 and there have been great advancements since then, but it's still a scary thought. I had kind of made peace with the fact that it might be and steps to take afterward and all of that.

The fact that I have no answers after all this testing kinda sucks.

At least I know that this neurologist is ready to stay by my side and figure out what's going on. And, hey, maybe we can get my migraines under control, too.





Monday, March 20, 2017

New Post on Healthline

I've been writing a few pieces for Healthline like a real writer and getting paid and all that? What?

Surprise!

I'm writing about health fun, most specifically on relationships, sexuality, sexual health, and all that good stuff. You know my niche.

Check out the new post - In Sickness and in Health: Making Love Last While Living with Chronic Illness. It also features hella cute drawings someone did of T and me!

If you missed my first piece with Healthline, here's that one too - Let’s Get Intimate: 8 Tips for When Chronic Illness Gets in the Way of Your Sex Life.