What are liver enzymes, and what is their role in the body?

Liver enzymes are proteins that help facilitate chemical reactions in the liver. They play a crucial role in breaking down substances, such as drugs and toxins, and converting them into forms that can be eliminated from the body. Monitoring liver enzyme levels can help identify liver damage or disease.

The liver is the most important organ of detoxification in the human body, and it's vital for our health and our survival. Even if three-quarters of it gets destroyed, it can regenerate itself into a whole new functioning organ. Unfortunately, in today's environment, there's so much pollution that our livers are being challenged like never before, but there are also other factors, such as the overconsumption of processed foods, alcohol, and pharmaceutical drugs.

Functions of the Liver

Your liver acts as a filter for your blood, and your entire blood supply will pass through your liver to be cleaned several times a day. Now, if something happens where your liver's detoxification capacities become impaired, then this is when the toxins in your blood begin to build up and disease can set in. But filtering your blood isn't the only function that your liver performs. It also plays a crucial role in producing proteins, storing energy, and breaking down food, including waste products, making it essential to regularly monitor its health through liver function tests, also known as a liver panel, using a blood sample. These liver tests can help identify any potential issues and allow for early intervention to optimize the health of your liver.

It's also responsible for storing glycogen that you can use for energy later on. It produces bile, which helps break down dietary fats. It manufactures certain vitamins and minerals. It also helps to break down the protein, carbs, and fats that you eat.

Your liver also manufactures and excretes certain hormones, which helps to maintain stable blood sugar levels. One of the important functions of the liver is to protect the body from harmful substances and toxins. However, when the liver is overloaded with toxins, it can lead to liver inflammation and damage. Fatty liver disease, a condition that manifests as an abnormal accumulation of fat in the liver cells, is one of the most typical causes of liver inflammation. This can lead to cirrhosis of the liver, a chronic condition that can develop over several years and often has no noticeable symptoms. While cirrhosis of the liver was once mostly seen in alcoholics, it is now becoming more common in the general population due to factors such as obesity and autoimmune disorders. Understanding your liver function test results is crucial to monitoring the health of your liver and identifying any potential issues. Your provider can explain what your results mean and compare them to the normal range for each substance measured.

liver enzymes

Causes of High Liver Enzymes (AST and ALT) and Toxicity

Some of the common causes are exposure to toxic chemicals, the abuse of pharmaceutical drugs, obesity, and diabetes. Other common causes of a dysfunctional liver are viral infections and hepatitis B and C. These two conditions, combined, affect hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

The good news about hepatitis B is that only around five to ten percent of the cases ever become chronic. Ninety percent of people infected with hepatitis B will eventually develop antibodies that make them immune to any future infections. Hepatitis C, on the other hand, has a less optimistic outcome for infected individuals. The large majority of cases of hepatitis C will eventually progress to either cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer.

Tattoos, sexual contact, and sharing needles with someone who has infected blood are just a few examples of the ways that the Hepatitis C virus can spread via blood. Those are the two main causes when it comes to a dysfunctional liver in our modern society.

Fortunately, there is an effective treatment for hepatitis B (however, many people do not find out they have Hep B until later in the disease). Hepatitis C can now be cured with an effective treatment that lasts only a few weeks. But it is important to find out if you have either by getting tested.

Another factor usually not considered to explain mildly elevated liver enzymes is resistance exercise.

Resistance exercise can increase liver enzymes. Some physicians do not know this and get concerned when they see elevated ALT and AST levels in healthy men without liver disease, excessive alcohol use, or medication-related liver effects. Muscular exercise can cause highly pathological liver function tests in healthy men

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Symptoms of Liver Toxicity

But, as I mentioned earlier, there aren't always conspicuous symptoms to let you know that your liver is impaired or breaking down. This is why it's important to get periodic blood work done through your family physician.

However, occasionally, your body will exhibit certain signs and symptoms when your liver begins to break down or becomes impaired. Some of those signs and symptoms include gallstones and gallbladder disease, abdominal bloating with nausea, unstable blood sugar issues, poor mental focus, food intolerances, chemical sensitivities, chronic fatigue, body odor, and bad breath, dark circles under your eyes, and yellowing of the whites of your eyes, as well as a loss of appetite and low levels of albumin and globulin. These symptoms may also indicate a blockage in the bile duct, which can lead to liver damage and toxicity. A bilirubin test, which measures levels of bilirubin in the blood, and an LDH test, which measures levels of lactate dehydrogenase, are important diagnostic tools for liver health. Red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body, are broken down in the liver and can contribute to elevated bilirubin and LDH levels if the liver is not functioning properly.

Now keep in mind that these symptoms can also indicate other conditions. This is why it's important if you're exhibiting these signs and symptoms to go to your family physician and get the appropriate testing done, including a CMP test that, among other tests, includes an ALP test to check for levels of alkaline phosphatase and a total protein test to measure levels of protein in your blood. The ideal situation is obviously to avoid letting your liver's health deteriorate to the point where your body begins to display those signs and symptoms, which can result from liver damage and other liver diseases. In order to prevent this, you have to take two measures. You have to reduce your exposure to environmental toxins, take in nutrients that support the health of your liver, especially if you have a history of heavy alcohol use or alcohol use disorder, and monitor for potential side effects of medications that can affect your liver. A note from the Cleveland Clinic: If your blood test shows high levels of liver enzymes, including ALP and total protein, talk with your provider about potential causes and ways to optimize the health of your liver.

What is Cirrhosis, and What Causes it?

Cirrhosis is a chronic liver disease that occurs when healthy liver cells are replaced with scar tissue, leading to impaired liver function. There are several causes of cirrhosis, including long-term alcohol abuse, hepatitis B and C infections, fatty liver disease, and autoimmune diseases. Over time, the damage to the liver becomes irreversible and can lead to complications such as jaundice, ascites, and hepatic encephalopathy. Treatment for cirrhosis focuses on managing symptoms and preventing further liver damage through lifestyle changes such as abstaining from alcohol and maintaining a healthy diet. In severe cases, a liver transplant may be necessary.

How to Protect Your Liver

One of the best ways to reduce chemical contaminants in your immediate environment is to look at any products that you use in your home, such as personal care products or household cleaning products. Most commercial products contain chemical contaminants that can gain entry into your body, through your skin or your lungs, and these chemicals can overburden your liver, leading to high liver enzymes, specifically alanine transaminase (ALT) and aspartate transaminase (AST) levels, and inflammation in the bloodstream. It is important to take steps to protect your liver from these chemical reactions by using natural and non-toxic products.

So, check with your natural health food store, and often they have alternatives that have fewer chemicals or more natural ingredients. Another source of chemical contaminants in your immediate environment can be the foods that you eat, like fruits and vegetables with a high pesticide load or animal products that contain antibiotics or hormones.

If your budget allows for it, try to purchase more of your fruits and vegetables in organic form, so there's less of a pesticide load. Also, when it comes to animal products like meat or fish, try to choose animals that were either pasture-raised or wild-caught. This will again reduce the amount of exposure to things like antibiotics or hormones.

When it comes to supporting and strengthening the health of your liver, there are three great supplements: Milk Thistle, Dandelion Root, and NAC, or N-Acetyl Cysteine.

Milk thistle has been used in traditional medicine for hundreds of years, and extensive studies are proving its efficacy for healing and strengthening the liver. It acts as an antioxidant to help protect the liver from free radical damage. It can block the uptake of various toxins into the liver. It also enhances the detoxification enzymes required for the liver to do its job, and it can even help regenerate damaged liver cells. The recommended dose is 300 milligrams per day, taken for seven days in a row each month as a liver maintenance protocol.

Dandelion Root is a bitter herb that's been used in traditional medicine for hundreds of years to treat a so-called sluggish liver. It's been shown to help cleanse the liver of pharmaceutical drugs, and it also helps to stimulate the flow of bile from the gallbladder. The recommended dose is two to three grams per day, taken for a one- to two-week period each month.

N-Acetyl Cysteine, or NAC, is an amino acid that is used in emergency medical situations in hospitals when patients present with liver toxicity due to overdosing on Tylenol or poisonous mushrooms. It's capable of protecting the liver by increasing intracellular levels of glutathione, which is the most powerful antioxidant in the human body. But it can also neutralize toxic heavy metals such as mercury, which tend to have an affinity for organs such as the liver and kidney and can cause significant damage. The recommended dose for N-Acetyl Cysteine is 600 milligrams, taken one to two times every day.


Maintaining optimal liver health is crucial in today's world due to various factors like pollution, processed foods, alcohol, pharmaceuticals, and lifestyle diseases. Understanding the liver's critical functions, such as blood filtration, energy storage, bile production, and toxin breakdown, highlights the importance of regular monitoring. Elevated liver enzymes like AST and ALT can indicate liver stress or damage caused by conditions like hepatitis, obesity, diabetes, or intense physical exercise. Early detection through regular testing is essential. At DiscountedLabs.com, we offer affordable blood tests like the CMP Panel, GGT Test, and Hepatic Function Panel to conveniently monitor your liver's health without visiting a doctor.