The liver performs over 500 vital functions, and this includes bile production which helps carry away waste and breaks down fats in the small intestine during digestion. Check your liver function with a blood test.
Liver disease can be hereditary or caused by a variety of factors like viruses, alcohol and obesity.
The liver is a large, meaty organ and the largest gland in the human body. It performs over 500 essential tasks, including:
Liver function tests are blood tests that checks how well your liver is working. It measures proteins, enzymes, certain substances and bilirubin. They diagnose liver damage and diseases like hepatitis and cirrhosis.
Liver function test measures the main proteins like:
The main enzymes measured include:
Alkaline phosphatase (ALP) - breaks down protein for easy absorption
Alanine transferase (ALT) - also helps in breaking down protein
Aspartate aminotransferase (AST) –This also helps in the breaking down of protein
Gamma-glutamyltranspeptidase (GGT) - helps in detoxifying alcohol and drugs
This is part of bile, and the substance is coloured yellow. It is formed during the breaking down of red blood cells. Too much bilirubin in the blood can cause jaundice.
Prothrombin time - measures how much time it takes for your blood to clot
A liver function test can check out for:
The following are signs and symptoms of liver dysfunction:
It is advised to make an appointment to see your doctor and test your liver function if you are experiencing any of these signs and symptoms.
Testing your liver function requires a blood test. It can be done with your GP or using a test kit at home, especially the at-home finger-prick blood test.
Checking your liver function regularly is good if:
Checking for liver damage using an ultrasound scan or biopsy may be done by your doctor if the results of your liver function are out of range.
A liver function test measures several things, thus it helps pick up a wide range of issues. An increase or decrease in levels of certain enzymes and proteins can indicate red flags with your liver.
The normal albumin level range from 34 - 50 g/L. Anything not within this range shows that your liver or kidneys are not working properly. This can cause your albumin levels to drop. Possible causes might be inflammation, infection, kidney disease, or a poor diet.
High or low levels of globulin can be caused by several conditions. If your albumin levels are low and globulin levels are high, this can indicate liver disease. The normal globulin levels range from 19 - 35 g/L.
A reduction or low levels of total protein can signify liver or kidney problem. It can also indicate that you are not absorbing food very well, for instance, if you have coeliac disease or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
High total protein levels can be a symptom of chronic inflammation or viral hepatitis. Although it is rare, it can also be a sign of bone marrow disorder or HIV.
The normal total protein levels range from 63 - 83g/L
Increased ALP levels can be a symptom of liver inflammation, bone disease or damage to your gallbladder.
Normal ALP level is under 104 IU/L.
This enzyme is mainly found only in your liver, so it is a good sign of your liver function. Normal ALT level is under 35 IU/L. A high ALT level may be a sign of liver damage.
AST is mainly found in your liver, muscles, and heart. Because of this, an increase in your AST levels doesn't necessarily mean there's a problem with your liver. Which is why it is crucial to check both your AST and ALT levels.
High AST levels may be a sign of liver damage.
Normal AST level is under 40 IU/L.
Too much alcohol increases your GGT levels. High GGT levels may be a symptom of liver disorder or disease.
Normal GGT levels range from 6 - 42 IU/L.
Excessive intake of alcohol, certain medications, haemolysis (destruction of red blood cells) and sometimes Gilbert's syndrome - a harmless inherited disorder can increase your level of bilirubin.
Normal bilirubin level is under 24 umol/L. A high bilirubin level can be a sign of liver damage.
Taking too much alcohol can cause alcohol-related fatty liver disease (ARLD). This is because excessive drinking destroys your liver and makes it unable to break down fats. If you reduce or stop your alcohol intake to a safe level; your liver usually repairs itself. But if you keep on drinking, your liver will become inflamed and over time can lead to permanent scarring on your liver (cirrhosis) and cause liver failure.
Apart from alcohol, gaining too much weight can also be related to fatty liver disease, called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). The risk factors of this are:
Just like ARLD, untreated NAFLD can permanently damage your liver.
Overdose or abuse of some over-the-counter drugs like paracetamol and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (aspirin and ibuprofen) can badly damage your liver.
Avoid taking these with alcohol or for a hangover until all the alcohol is out of your system. This is due to the fact that it interrupts your liver function and can be fatal.
ther drugs that can affect your liver include:
Consulting your doctor when taking any medication is always important. If liver damage is a possible side effect of the medication, then regular liver function tests are necessary.
The kind of food you eat affects your liver. Some of the worst foods for your liver are:
Since permanent liver damage takes years to develop, if you diagnose it early, you can make a lot of lifestyle changes that can cause your liver to repair itself.
To improve the function of your liver, you need to:
Taking care of your liver will add up to your general well-being. If one organ in your body is bad, your whole body will be affected as well.