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How long does it take for a fatty liver to repair itself?

A fatty liver, also known as hepatic steatosis, is a condition where excess fat builds up in the liver cells. It is normal for the liver to contain some fat, but when more than 5-10% of the liver’s weight is fat, then it is considered a fatty liver (1). This extra fat causes the liver to become enlarged and can lead to damage of the liver tissue over time. Fortunately, in many cases a fatty liver is reversible if the underlying cause is addressed. But how long does it actually take for a fatty liver to repair itself and return to normal?

What Causes a Fatty Liver?

There are several factors that can cause fat to accumulate in the liver:

Alcohol Consumption

Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol over many years can lead to a fatty liver. Alcohol prevents the liver from effectively metabolizing fat, leading to a buildup of fat in liver cells (2). This type of fatty liver is known as alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Poor Diet

Eating a diet high in refined carbohydrates and low in fiber can also contribute to excess fat in the liver. Foods high in added sugars and saturated fats promote fat storage in the liver. Additionally, being overweight or obese stresses the liver which can worsen fatty liver (3).

Metabolic Disorders

Certain metabolic conditions increase fat storage in the liver. These include diabetes, high cholesterol, and high triglycerides. The insulin resistance that underlies these disorders causes increased fat delivery to the liver and impaired fat export (4).

Genetic Factors

Some people may have a genetic predisposition to developing a fatty liver, despite having minimal risk factors (5). Genetic traits can affect how the liver metabolizes and stores fat.

Stages of Fatty Liver Disease

Not all fatty livers are the same – some have progressed further than others. Fatty liver disease is generally categorized into the following stages (6):

Simple Fatty Liver (Steatosis)

This refers to the early stage of fatty liver when fat makes up less than 10% of liver weight. At this stage liver enzymes and function are normal. Simple steatosis tends to be reversible.


If fatty liver persists it can progress to inflammation and liver cell damage, known as steatohepatitis. Liver enzymes become elevated. Steatohepatitis may advance to liver fibrosis.


Continuing inflammation causes scar tissue to form in the liver. This fibrosis impairs liver function.


Extensive scarring replaces healthy liver tissue. Cirrhosis causes severe loss of liver function and increased risk of liver failure and liver cancer. Cirrhosis is often irreversible.

How Long Does it Take for a Fatty Liver to Heal?

The timeline for healing a fatty liver depends on several factors:

Cause and Severity

The underlying cause and how much fat has accumulated determine prognosis. Alcoholic fatty liver disease takes longer to resolve than a mild fatty liver in an overweight person. Advanced fibrosis and cirrhosis may not significantly improve.

Adherence to Lifestyle Changes

Closely following an appropriate diet and exercise program speeds recovery. Failure to make lifestyle changes delays improvement.

Medications and Supplements

Certain medications and supplements may assist in fat removal from the liver. Others, like steroids, can exacerbate fatty liver.

Individual Variation

Each person responds differently to fatty liver treatment. Age, genetics, and other health conditions affect repair time.

With these factors in mind, here are some general timelines for reversing a fatty liver (7, 8):

Simple Fatty Liver (Steatosis)

  • With alcohol abstinence and diet/exercise – Fatty infiltration may resolve in as little as 2 weeks, though complete resolution often takes several months.
  • With bariatric weight loss surgery – Fatty liver resolves within 6 months in most patients.
  • With medications like vitamin E, metformin, probiotics – May take 2-6 months for significant improvement.


  • With lifestyle interventions, moderate exercise – Can take about 8 months for liver enzymes to normalize.
  • With medications that reduce liver inflammation – Liver enzymes can improve after 4-12 weeks but it may take up to 1 year for complete resolution.


  • With eliminating causative factors – Mild fibrosis may stabilize or partially reverse after 1-2 years.
  • With anti-fibrotic medications – Scar tissue may diminish over 1-3 years.


  • With abstinence from alcohol – No further progression but limited reversal of scar tissue.
  • With medications to reduce fibrosis – Mild improvements may occur over 2+ years.

The below table summarizes typical fatty liver healing timelines:

Stage of Fatty Liver Typical Healing Timeline
Simple Steatosis 2 weeks – 6 months
Steatohepatitis 4 months – 1 year
Fibrosis 1 – 3 years
Cirrhosis Limited reversal

Tips to Help Your Fatty Liver Heal Faster

You can optimize your fatty liver treatment and expedite healing with the following methods:

Lose Weight

Losing as little as 5% of body weight through calorie reduction and exercise significantly decreases liver fat within 6 months (9).

Follow a Liver-Friendly Diet

Eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and fish. Avoid processed carbs, sugary foods, saturated fats, salt and alcohol.

Exercise Regularly

Aim for 150 minutes per week of moderate activity like brisk walking. Strength training also helps reduce liver fat.

Manage Related Health Issues

Work on improving conditions like obesity, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.

Ask About Helpful Supplements

Vitamin E, milk thistle, omega-3s, and some herbal preparations may support liver health. Discuss options with your healthcare provider.

Consider Medications

Medications that reduce inflammation, oxidative stress, or fibrosis may be recommended for steatohepatitis and/or fibrosis.

Avoid Toxins

Steer clear of alcohol, unnecessary medications, industrial pollutants, aflatoxins from spoiled grains/nuts, and anything else potentially toxic to the liver.

When to Seek Medical Treatment

Most mild-moderate fatty liver cases can be managed with lifestyle interventions alone. However, you should consult a doctor if you experience any of the following:

  • Persistent elevation in liver enzymes
  • Enlarged liver or developed signs of liver disease
  • New onset fatigue, nausea or abdominal pain
  • Risk factors like obesity, diabetes or metabolic syndrome
  • Family history of liver disease

Seeking timely medical care allows proper diagnosis and monitoring to prevent any progression to advanced liver damage.


In many instances, fatty liver disease can be completely reversed and the liver restored to normal when caught early and proper lifestyle changes are implemented. However, it does take time – often a minimum of several months. More advanced stages of fatty liver are harder to correct but further deterioration can usually be halted. Patience and persistence with treatment is key. Committing to healthy diet, regular exercise, and avoiding alcohol provide the best chance for full recovery of liver health.