Fatty liver disease symptoms: The colour of your poo can be a serious warning sign

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As the liver becomes inflamed, you may not have any noticeable symptoms. However, alcohol-related liver disease can lead to cholestasis – a reduction or stoppage of bile flow. The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy (MSD) – the world’s best-selling medical textbook – explained further. Pale, light-coloured stools that “smell foul” are a warning sign of this condition.

Bile (a digestive fluid produced by the liver) usually flows between the liver cells and the duodenum – the first segment of the small intestine.

However, when bile flow is reduced or stopped, the pigment bilirubin (a waste product) escapes into the bloodstream.

As this goes on, more bilirubin – waste products made from old and damaged red blood cells – seeps into the bloodstream, accumulating in mass.

Where bilirubin is supposed to be eliminated from the body, signs that it’s not include jaundice.

This is where a yellow-is sheen develops on the skin, and the whites of the eyes turn yellow.

As well as light-coloured stools and jaundice, other symptoms include dark urine and itchy skin.

Cholestasis can also result in a calcium and vitamin D deficiency, which can lead to the loss of bone tissue.

Earlier warning signs of alcohol-related fatty liver disease include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Tender liver

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More “serious” side effects can include internal bleeding and deterioration of brain function.

“The best treatment is to stop drinking alcohol,” advised the MSD Manual.

The more alcohol a person drinks, the greater the damage to the liver will be.

Miraculously, the liver can continue to function when about 80 percent of the organ is damaged.

However, if the liver damage extends past the point, the person can die from drinking too much alcohol.

There are three distinct phases of fatty liver disease:

  1. Hepatic steatosis
  2. Alcoholic hepatitis
  3. Cirrhosis

Hepatic steatosis

This type of fatty liver disease occurs in 90 percent of people who drink more than the 14 units of alcohol advised by the NHS.

Alcoholic hepatitis

As the condition progresses, the liver becomes inflamed and symptoms may begin to appear.


At this stage of the disease, a large amount of the liver tissue is permanently replaced with scar tissue.

This is when liver function is affected, and the liver might shrink in size.

Cirrhosis can lead to further complications such as liver failure, portal hypertension, and loss of brain function.

People with a loss of brain function may become drowsy and confused in everyday life.

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