It is believed non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) affects nearly a third of the UK population to some extent. The condition is pernicious because it rarely produces symptoms in the early stages. If the condition reaches the later stages, however, an overproduction of toxic compounds could release a “suffocating odour” when you go to the toilet.
According to the NHS, NAFLD is a term used for “a range of conditions caused by a build-up of fat in the liver”.
The health body continues: “Early-stage NAFLD does not usually cause any harm, but it can lead to serious damage, kindling cirrhosis, if it gets worse.”
The role of the liver is to break down potentially threatening substances before they damage the body.
An accumulation of fat in the liver, however, can prevent the organ from working efficiently.
When it is unable to carry out its function, toxic compounds infiltrate the bloodstream.
This prompts a surge in the production of ammonia, a toxic enzyme that is picked up by blood tests to determine a diagnosis.
The colourless gas is a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen – and has been described as having a “sharp suffocating odour”.
What’s more, the accumulation of ammonia will set the stage for a plethora of complications, including scar tissue development which worsens the disease.
Other symptoms signalling the presence of ammonia may include confusion, disorientation and coma.
Fetor hepaticus is another sign that the liver is having trouble doing its job of filtering out harmful substances.
In one study, researchers explained: “Foetor hepaticus is a feature of severe liver disease and sweet and musty smell both on the breath and in urine.”
At this stage, sulphur compounds that end up in the bloodstream can make their way to the lungs, releasing a strong musty smell.
There is mounting evidence suggesting that losing roughly 10 percent of body weight can reduce liver fat, resolve inflammation and potentially improve scarring.
Furthermore, specific types of exercise such as strength training, have shown evidence of improving the condition.
NAFLD has no association with alcohol, but alcohol should be avoided at all stages of the condition.
Research to find treatment for NAFLD is ongoing, with no medicines for the condition available to date.