Your Liver Enzyme Levels Have Immense Impacts on Your Overall Health: Here's How

Learn how tracking liver enzymes through blood tests can help detect potential liver damage early. Keep your liver in top shape for optimal health.

Liver health is the foundation of long-term wellness and longevity.

Monitoring your liver enzyme levels is one of the most important ways to catch issues early. High liver enzyme levels are a signal that your liver cells may be inflamed or damaged. Left unaddressed, abnormal liver enzyme levels can lead to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, hepatitis, cirrhosis, and even liver cancer.

By understanding the meaning and importance of tests for alkaline phosphatase (ALP), gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT), alanine aminotransferase (ALT), and aspartate aminotransferase (AST), you can work with your doctor to interpret results and make a plan to bring your levels into the optimal range.

TLDR: Liver enzymes provide an insight into your liver and overall health.

  • Monitor your liver enzyme levels regularly through blood tests to detect potential liver damage early
  • High levels of certain liver enzymes like ALT, AST, GGT and ALP could indicate issues like fatty liver, hepatitis or cirrhosis
  • Understanding your liver enzyme results and making lifestyle changes can help optimize your liver health and reduce risks of serious liver conditions

Understanding Liver Enzymes: What are They?

Your liver enzymes, which include alanine aminotransferase (ALT), aspartate aminotransferase (AST), alkaline phosphatase (ALP) and gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT), are important indicators of your liver health and function.

ALT

ALT is an enzyme found mostly in your liver cells. When liver cells are damaged, more ALT is released into your bloodstream. Therefore, high ALT levels usually indicate inflammation or damage to your liver cells.

AST

AST is an enzyme found in your liver cells and heart muscle. When liver cells are damaged, AST is released into your bloodstream. Therefore, high AST levels can also indicate inflammation or damage to your liver or heart cells.

ALP

ALP is an enzyme that is found mainly in your bones and liver. Elevated ALP levels may indicate problems with your bones, liver or gallbladder.

Specifically, high ALP levels could point to:

  • Bone diseases: Conditions that affect bone formation like Paget's disease, osteomalacia and rickets can raise ALP levels.
  • Liver diseases: Liver conditions like primary biliary cirrhosis, viral hepatitis and alcoholic liver disease can increase ALP production.
  • Gallbladder issues: Gallstones and gallbladder inflammation may cause elevated ALP.

GGT

GGT is an enzyme found mainly in your liver and bile ducts. High GGT levels often indicate liver inflammation or damage, especially from conditions like fatty liver disease, hepatitis and alcohol abuse.

Why Liver Enzyme Levels Matter for Your Long-Term Health

The liver plays a crucial role in maintaining overall health and wellbeing. It performs many essential functions like metabolizing nutrients, filtering toxins, producing proteins and hormones. When the liver is dysfunctional or damaged, as indicated by raised liver enzyme levels, it can have significant implications for a person's health.

Some of the key consequences of liver dysfunction include:

  • Fatigue and weakness: The liver helps produce red blood cells and store glycogen for energy. With liver damage, a person can experience fatigue, weakness and low energy.
  • Malnutrition: The liver metabolizes vitamins and minerals to make them usable for the body. When it is dysfunctional, a person can become deficient in nutrients and experience malnutrition.
  • Immune system issues: The liver produces proteins that support immune function. Impaired liver function can lead to immune system problems and increased risk of infections.
  • Hormonal imbalance: The liver metabolises important hormones such as estrogen. Liver damage can disrupt hormone balance and metabolism.
  • Internal bleeding: The liver produces proteins that help blood clot. When clotting factors are reduced, a person has an increased risk of internal bleeding.
  • Cognitive Impairment: The liver is important in removing toxins, such as urea and ammonia, from your body. If your liver is dysfunctional, these toxins can accumulate in your blood and brain, leading to impaired brain function.
  • Organ failure: In severe cases, chronic liver dysfunction can progress to cirrhosis and liver failure, requiring a transplant.

So maintaining healthy liver enzyme levels through a healthy lifestyle and regular testing is important for overall health and wellbeing. Any signs of impaired liver function should be evaluated promptly by a healthcare provider.

Causes of Elevated Liver Enzymes in Adults

Elevated liver enzymes in adults can have several possible causes that are important to understand for long-term health and wellness.

Viral Hepatitis

Two of the most common causes of elevated liver enzymes are hepatitis B and C, which are viral infections that inflame the liver. Hepatitis B and C can become chronic if left untreated, potentially leading to cirrhosis or liver cancer over time.

Screening for hepatitis B and C is recommended for all adults, especially those with risk factors like intravenous drug use or multiple sexual partners. Early diagnosis and treatment are key to preventing long-term liver damage.

Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

Another frequent cause of elevated liver enzymes is non-alcoholic fatty liver disease or NAFLD. As the name suggests, NAFLD occurs in individuals who drink little to no alcohol.

It is often associated with obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. NAFLD occurs when there is excess fat accumulation in liver cells, which can lead to inflammation and scarring.

Losing excess weight, controlling blood sugar, and making dietary changes can help prevent and even reverse NAFLD.

Alcohol Abuse

Long-term, excessive alcohol use is damaging to the liver and a common reason for elevated liver enzymes.

While an occasional drink may be fine for some, regularly consuming more than 1 drink per day for women, or 2 per day for men, can lead to alcoholic liver disease and eventual liver failure.

Autoimmune Disease

Certain autoimmune diseases like autoimmune hepatitis can also cause inflammation of the liver cells, resulting in elevated enzymes.

Autoimmune hepatitis requires diagnosis and long-term treatment, often with steroids and other immunosuppressants to prevent permanent liver damage.

Signs Your Liver Enzymes May Be High

If your liver enzymes are elevated, it can indicate your liver may be stressed or damaged. Getting your liver enzyme levels tested regularly is important for monitoring your long-term liver health and overall wellness. Some signs your liver enzymes may be high include:

Fatigue and Low Energy

Your liver is responsible for metabolizing nutrients and producing proteins essential for energy. High liver enzymes can impair these functions, causing fatigue, weakness, and low stamina.

Loss of Appetite

Your liver aids in digestion and produces bile to help absorb fats and nutrients. When your liver is inflamed or damaged, it can lead to loss of appetite, nausea, and weight loss.

Jaundice

Jaundice causes a yellowing of the skin and eyes. It occurs when bilirubin, a bile pigment, builds up in the blood. High liver enzymes are a sign your liver may not be properly breaking down bilirubin.

Dark Urine

Concentrated, dark urine is another symptom of potential liver damage or disease. Your liver helps filter waste products from the blood, so impaired function can lead to excess bilirubin excretion in urine.

Abdominal Pain

The liver is located in the upper right abdomen below the ribs. High liver enzymes may indicate inflammation or swelling of the liver, which can cause a dull or throbbing pain in this area. The pain may also radiate to the back or shoulder.

Seeking diagnosis and treatment for elevated liver enzymes is critical to avoid permanent damage or irreversible scarring of the liver. Discuss screening for and managing high liver enzymes with your doctor. Lifestyle changes, medication, supplements or procedures may help improve your liver health and overall longevity.

Ideal vs. Concerning Liver Enzyme Ranges

To maintain optimal liver health and function over the long term, it is important to understand ideal versus concerning ranges for key liver enzymes. These enzymes are measured through a simple blood test and provide insight into your liver’s condition.

Alkaline Phosphatase (ALP)

Normal range: 30 to 120 IU/L.

Elevated ALP levels can indicate bile duct blockage or other issues. Levels over 120 IU/L warrant follow up testing.

Gamma-Glutamyl Transferase (GGT)

Normal range: 0 to 50 IU/L.

High GGT levels suggest bile duct inflammation or damage. Levels over 50 IU/L may require additional testing to determine the underlying cause.

Alanine Aminotransferase (ALT)

Normal range: 0 to 44 IU/L.

ALT levels over 44 IU/L can signify inflammation or damage to liver cells. Persistently high ALT should prompt evaluation for possible liver disease.

Aspartate Aminotransferase (AST)

Normal range: 0 to 40 IU/L.

Like ALT, elevated AST indicates potential inflammation or injury to liver cells. AST levels over 40 IU/L require follow up to determine if there are any liver issues present.

For most adults, liver enzyme levels within the normal ranges indicate your liver is functioning properly. However, any results outside of these ranges warrant repeat testing and possibly imaging scans or biopsies to determine the cause of the abnormality.

How Often to Test Your Liver Enzyme Levels

To maintain optimal liver health and function over the long term, it is important to have your liver enzyme levels tested regularly. For most adults, the general guidelines are:

Every 1-2 Years

Have your ALT, AST, ALP and GGT tested every 1-2 years. These are markers of liver inflammation and damage, as well as bile flow. Elevated levels of these enzymes can indicate liver disease or injury, even before symptoms appear. By detecting changes early, you have the best opportunity to diagnose and treat any potential issues.

Every 3-5 Years

In addition to the basic panel, have liver function assessed more comprehensively every 3-5 years with tests such as:

  • Albumin and bilirubin: Measure liver protein production and red blood cell breakdown.
  • Viral hepatitis screening: To check for hepatitis A, B and C infections which can cause liver damage.
  • Liver ultrasound or CT scan: To examine liver tissue, bile ducts and blood vessels for any abnormalities.

If At Higher Risk

Some individuals are at higher risk of liver disease and should be tested more frequently, such as every 6-12 months. This includes those with:

  • Fatty liver disease or hepatitis C: Can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer.
  • Type 2 diabetes: Excess sugar can damage liver cells.
  • Obesity or metabolic syndrome: Linked to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
  • Heavy alcohol use: Excessive drinking takes a major toll on liver function.

By monitoring your liver enzyme levels and other markers of liver health regularly, especially if you have certain risk factors, you can detect any issues early and work with your doctor to manage them.

Mito Health's flagship package, priced at $499, offers testing for your liver enzymes as well as 63 other carefully curated biomarkers that provide insight into various aspects of your health - this comprehensive suite of tests allows for early detection of cancer, heart disease, neurodegenerative disorders, diabetes and more. 

In addition to testing, you will receive a personalized health optimization plan from our doctors incorporating supplements, nutrition, exercise and sleep strategies, discounted pricing for specialized additional tests, and access to exclusive health and longevity events.

Lifestyle Changes to Improve Your Liver Health

To improve your liver health and enzyme levels, making positive lifestyle changes is key. Focus on the following areas:

Exercise Regularly

Engage in moderate exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Walking, swimming or yoga are excellent options. Exercise reduces insulin resistance, helps you lose excess weight, and improves circulation to support your liver.

Manage Your Weight

Losing excess pounds can significantly improve liver health and function. Aim for a balanced plan of diet and exercise to lose 1-2 pounds per week. Losing at least 10% of your body weight can help reverse nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and lower elevated liver enzymes.

Reduce Stress

Too much cortisol from chronic stress can negatively impact your liver. Try relaxation techniques like meditation, deep breathing, or massage therapy. Getting enough sleep every night is also essential for your liver and overall health. Aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night to allow your liver to detoxify and regenerate.

Making a commitment to these lifestyle changes will have significant benefits for your liver enzyme levels and long term health. Be patient and consistent, as it can take time to improve liver function. But with time, you'll reap the rewards of better health and vitality.

Diet and Supplements for Healthy Liver Enzyme Levels

To maintain healthy liver enzyme levels long-term, making adjustments to your diet and supplements can be an effective approach.

Reduce Alcohol and Sugar Intake

Both alcohol and sugar consumption put extra strain on your liver, elevating liver enzymes over time. Limiting or eliminating alcoholic beverages and high-sugar foods is one of the best ways to support liver health and optimize liver enzyme levels.

Increase Fiber and Antioxidants

A diet high in fiber, antioxidants and nutrients will promote liver health. Focus on eating more:

  • Leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale, broccoli which provide fiber, folate and antioxidants.
  • Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts which are high in glucosinolates that aid liver detoxification.
  • High-antioxidant fruits like berries, cherries, and citrus which fight free radicals that damage liver cells.
  • Legumes such as beans, lentils and peas which provide fiber, protein, iron and magnesium.
  • Nuts like walnuts and almonds which are high in healthy fats, protein, and vitamin E, an important antioxidant.

Key Supplements

Certain supplements can also help support liver health and balance liver enzymes:

  • Milk thistle contains silymarin, an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that helps protect liver cells and promote regeneration.
  • N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) helps produce glutathione, a potent antioxidant essential for liver detoxification.
  • Dandelion root aids digestion and acts as a mild liver tonic.
  • Turmeric or curcumin has antioxidant effects and helps reduce inflammation in the liver.
  • A broad-spectrum multivitamin provides essential nutrients like B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin D and selenium which the liver needs to function properly.

Making healthy changes to your diet and lifestyle, reducing toxins, and providing nutritional support are effective ways to maintain balanced liver enzyme levels and lifelong liver health. Partnering with your doctor to determine the approach right for your needs is recommended.

Conclusion

In summary, understanding and monitoring your liver enzyme levels is one of the most important things you can do for your long term health and wellness. Your liver is responsible for critical functions that keep you alive and thriving, so keeping it in optimal working condition should be a top priority.

At Mito Health, we specialize in advanced health diagnostics to test your liver enzyme levels (along with 63 other biomarkers) - to form a science-based, personalized health plan to help you optimize your health. Sign up for our flagship package today to take control of your health and your future. 

Written By
J. Hsu
December 29, 2023
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The information provided by Mito Health is for improving health and wellness only, and not to be taken as medical advice or medical recommendations.

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