Liver enzymes are crucial proteins that catalyze various chemical reactions in the body. However, when these enzymes surpass their usual concentration, it can signify a problem with liver function, potentially impacting overall health. In this article, we explore ways on how to lower liver enzymes and delve into what happens when they are elevated.
Understanding Liver Enzymes
Liver enzymes are integral to the body's functioning and liver health. They facilitate a range of chemical reactions, including bile production, blood clotting, toxin breakdown, and infection response. Common liver enzymes include:
- Alanine transaminase (ALT)
- Alkaline phosphatase (ALP)
- Aspartate transaminase (AST)
- Gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT)
When the liver sustains damage, often due to liver disease, it releases enzymes, predominantly ALT or AST, into the bloodstream. An excess of these enzymes can hinder body functioning.
Recognizing Elevated Liver Enzymes
Elevated liver enzymes refer to higher-than-normal levels in the blood, which could indicate liver disease or hepatitis. This rise could be temporary, but it might also suggest underlying medical conditions. Certain medication, like acetaminophen, can also lead to elevated liver enzymes.
Detection of elevated liver enzymes, which is crucial for liver health, is usually through a liver function test (LFT), a type of blood test that screens the liver for infections, assesses treatment effectiveness, and checks medication side effects. However, LFTs typically only include AST, ALT, ALP, total bilirubin, and albumin and do not determine the cause of elevated liver enzymes.
Why Are Liver Enzymes Important?
Liver enzymes play a crucial role in the body's functioning and liver health. They are involved in several chemical reactions, including the secretion of bile and other substances that aid in blood clotting, the breakdown of toxins and food, and the body's response to infections.
Excessive liver enzymes can disrupt the body's normal functioning. Thus, maintaining a healthy range of these enzymes is critical to ensure overall well-being and liver health.
Possible Causes of High Liver Enzymes
Various health conditions can lead to high liver enzymes. These include:
- Metabolic syndrome
- Cirrhosis (liver tissue scarring)
- Alcohol or drug use disorder
Some less common causes of high liver enzymes are autoimmune hepatitis, celiac disease, liver cancer, mononucleosis, sepsis, Wilson’s disease, and hemochromatosis. Certain medications, such as painkillers, can also lead to high liver enzymes and contribute to liver disease.
Symptoms and Diagnosis of Elevated Liver Enzymes
Elevated liver enzymes often do not produce symptoms, which is why doctors may check for symptoms of other conditions known to increase liver enzyme levels. If a liver function test result is positive, indicating potential liver disease, the doctor will determine the cause and recommend appropriate treatments.
How to Lower Liver Enzymes
There are several ways to decrease liver enzyme levels and potentially reduce the risk of liver disease.
Regular coffee consumption can protect the liver by lowering liver enzymes. One study found that drinking 1 to 4 cups of coffee daily can lower liver enzymes, particularly ALT levels, which reduces the risk of liver disease and cancer, effectively helping to lower ALT levels.
Increasing Folate Consumption
Introducing folate-rich food to the diet and taking folic acid supplements can help lower elevated liver enzymes. Foods rich in folate include dark leafy greens, bananas, nuts, beans, seafood, eggs, and dairy, all of which are essential components of a healthy diet rich in vegetables.
Regular aerobic and resistance exercises can reduce hepatic fat content and elevated liver enzymes, particularly in people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Exercise is a key factor in maintaining liver health and managing liver enzyme levels.
Adopting a Balanced Diet
A balanced diet can help in lowering elevated liver enzymes, thus reducing the risk of liver disease. Generally, cutting down on fats and carbohydrates can help in preventing NAFLD, a common cause of high liver enzymes, and support weight loss and a healthy diet.
Smoking can increase levels of certain liver enzymes, leading to liver damage. Quitting smoking can lower the risk of liver disease or cancer.
Reducing Alcohol Consumption
Decreasing alcohol intake can improve liver enzyme count, even in the short term. Abstaining from alcohol for even as little as 1 month can significantly lower ALT levels and reduce levels of certain liver enzymes.
High liver enzyme levels can stem from various conditions, such as liver disease, liver injury, or medication side effects. If a liver function test reveals high liver enzyme levels, it's crucial to consult with a doctor. They can discuss the possible causes, including liver disease, and recommend the best strategies for how to lower liver enzymes.
Remember, maintaining a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet, regular exercise, and limiting alcohol and tobacco consumption can significantly help in maintaining healthy liver enzyme levels. Incorporating a healthy diet and consistent exercise into your routine is particularly beneficial for liver health.
Please note that this article is for informational purposes only. Always consult with a healthcare professional for medical advice.