Beware the perils of ‘Dr Google’

I am not alone in being guilty of consulting ‘Dr Google’ in the absence of being able to get hold of my GP or their Practice Nurse. However, the trap in this is that it seems to be human nature – or maybe just my nature – to pick out the worst ‘what if’s’ from the myriad of information out there regarding any health condition.

As I said in a previous post I had an ultrasound last week, which was requested by my GP Practice thinking I had gall-bladder issues. However, the tests did not show any gall-bladder issues but rather ‘fatty liver’ was discovered. Because it was a weekend I could not get hold of a proper health professional to explain to me my own particular situation, so I went to Dr Google.

What started it all was a very brief text saying “Hi Sue – USS showed fatty liver. Dr Hollie”. So I started Googling to try to find out what this was all about. Here’s a sample of some of the things that jumped out at me….

Here’s a good one to start… NAFLD is Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease…

“Some individuals with NAFLD can develop nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), an aggressive form of fatty liver disease, which is marked by liver inflammation and may progress to advanced scarring (cirrhosis) and liver failure. This damage is similar to the damage caused by heavy alcohol use.”

and this gem…

“Fatty liver disease is a build-up of fats in the liver that can damage the organ and lead to serious complications

Nice… (Not)

Then there’s this headline…  “4 Warning Signs of Dying Liver.

So, all this has been in my head all weekend. Catastrophizing left right and centre. Feeling like I have another major health issue to navigate my way through. So, early this morning I contacted my GP Practice and asked to see my GP Alex. Luckily, he was able to fit me in this afternoon and my husband and I went together to find out exactly what my particular ‘fatty liver issue’ was. I’m so glad we did, as we had a really good talk about things and it turns out that ‘fatty liver’ is quite common and often found when looking for other things like my gall-bladder investigation.

While he acknowledged that fatty liver can be serious, we are not at the very serious end of things. The other thing is my liver issues interact with other things in my body like my hiatus hernia and each can exacerbate the other. So, we talked about what I can do to address the issue. Basically, there is not really any medication to take and we don’t need to consider any kind of surgical intervention, which is good news. The way to manage this, is to make lifestyle changes to be a healthier me. This means predominantly losing weight and exercising regularly to get rid of a lot of the excess fat in my body which is not doing my liver any favours. I told my Doctor that I have lost 2.9kg since the end of May and he said he was happy with that rate of loss. Too much loss in too short a time, he said, would not necessarily be sustainable.

I advised that I have been using some meal replacement shakes approximately four days a week – sometimes more – two meals a day. Also, trying to eat healthier and reduce portion sizes. In addition, I am trying to go to the gym twice a week -sometimes three times – and going to Aquarobics on a Wednesday night. He said that I am on the right track and that if I keep things up the weight loss will address the issue.

The other issue discussed was alcohol consumption. Now, as a Social Worker I know that if I ask a person how much alcohol they drink almost everyone will under report. So, if they were to say they drink two nights a week, they probably drink four and if two ciders a night probably at least four! I tried to be honest, but may have been a bit on the under-reporting side of things, when you consider what an official ‘standard measure’ is as our servings are probably a bit more generous. We had a good discussion and he said ideally not to consume alcohol at all. However, he also said that in order to make a change that is sustainable it shouldn’t feel like a punishment or a complete ban as this is often difficult to maintain.

I have decided for myself that I will choose one alcohol item per week. We talked about options and out of things like cider, spirits and red wine that red wine was the best of the options being lower in sugar and having antioxidants. So, after our discussions my aim now is to cut out cider and spirits and just stick to red wine. I will also save my one night a week for a night when we have a nice roast meal or a casserole or lasagna or something else that goes well with red wine.

So, after all our discussions I feel a weight has lifted off my shoulders. The diagnosis of fatty liver is not as serious for me as I envisaged, thanks to Dr Google! However, I do feel that this has been the ‘shot across the bow’ that I needed to get serious about my weight and health management. Having Parkinson’s as a constant in my life, I certainly am inclined with any health issue, whether Parkinson’s related or not to try to find ways to minimise adverse effects. With this latest diagnosis, I am now reassured that I can manage this health situation myself and it is very much in my power to do so. The good news is, I can still enjoy the odd glass of red wine and with the number of good alcohol free beverages available – such as alcohol free cider – I can still enjoy a nice drink without damaging my body. Plus, the bonus for my husband is he has his very own sober driver on tap anytime we want to go out for dinner! I hasten to add though, that he’s not a big drinker!

So, thank you Dr Alex you are much more reassuring than Dr Google!

Published by kiwipommysue

I work in health and have been with the same supportive team for over 7 years. They are all aware of my diagnosis and this helps tremendously especially while I get used to the idea of my diagnosis. My parents both had Parkinsons, so I guess my odds were higher than most.

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