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Wayne Eskridge is a well-respected voice in the liver health community, CEO of Fatty Liver Foundation (FLF), and a liver patient himself. His foundation works hard to promote liver health education and aims to increase awareness of the dangers concerning liver disease. Wayne ‘s own experience with liver disease has allowed him to relate to other liver disease patients and recognize the key obstacles that stand in the way of people actually improving their diagnoses. His foundation makes it their mission to eliminate these obstacles and provide individuals with the tools they need to become liver healthy once again.

Today, Wayne took the time to answer a few of our questions and shed some light on the rising rate of liver disease in the United States.

Can you please fill us in on the current state of liver health in the United States?

We call it a silent epidemic. A simple way to think of it is that if you have two friends one of you has a fatty liver. That is 100 million people. Of those 20 million have the disease condition called NASH which is when inflammation and scarring is occurring, and about 5 million have cirrhosis, the most serious stage and they don’t know it.

What are the specific risk factors for liver disease?

This is primarily a problem of how our modern society has changed its diet and how sedentary we have become. Since WWII our national diet has become increasingly highly processed food and as people we have become less physically active. That combination has resulted in overtaxing our livers which causes fat to accumulate in the liver and that can increase the risk of development of serious disease. It can be a problem even for young people but the high risk group are people over 50 who are overweight and has some aspect of metabolic syndrome or pre-diabetes.

Your connection with liver disease is quite personal, what is the best piece of advice you could offer a liver disease patient, looking to improve their own liver health?

There are no quick fixes. It took decades to develop the disease and improving the situation means you have to be kind to your liver every day for a long time. Since diet is the only real tool available to us taking care with what you actually eat is the key to managing the disease. In simple terms, eat your vegetables, eliminate added sugar, use very little salt, minimize saturated fat, increase unsaturated fat, minimize refined starches like white bread and rice.

What measures should be taken to increase awareness on liver health in the United States?

People need to learn more about nutrition and the consequences of a poor diet. We need to teach that you can’t actually diet. The idea that you can do some kind of quick fix is simply wrong. The disease develops over decades and there is no miracle food or super pill than can reverse that. Taste cannot be the key measure by which we choose food because that is manipulated by food processors to sell products and usually leads to excess sugar, salt, and unhealthy fat. We should also make sure that people understand that a fatty liver usually comes from eating too much sugar not from the fat you eat. Our lack of knowledge about nutrition just sets us up to eat too much of the wrong things too often.

How did your concept for the Fatty Liver Foundation come about, and what is the FLF’s mission going into 2019?

My personal story is one of learning I had cirrhosis, being told I didn’t, spending 4 years of increasing damage without diagnosis, being misdiagnosed with iron overload, giving 7 liters of blood to no avail, and finally getting diagnosed with cirrhosis again. Then I changed my lifestyle and over the next 2 years was able to halt and actually reverse my disease. The experience led me to an awareness that my experience was common. In order to help others have a better experience I started the foundation with the goal of educating people at risk to help them avoid the disease and to provide support to people who already have the problem. Over time we want to promote a change in the way liver disease is diagnosed by championing screening of people who are at risk but don’t have symptoms.

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