Liver function tests help determine the health of your liver and whether it's working correctly. Problems with the liver can make a person very sick and can even be life-threatening. Aside from the typical liver function tests, don't let your practitioner overlook some other important liver tests.
Early Signs of Liver Disease
Prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, hypoglycemia, blood sugar imbalances, eczema & psoriasis, weight gain, bloating, gout, dark under-eye circles, chemical sensitivities, brain fog, SAD, accelerated aging, methylation issues, hormone imbalances, varicose and spider veins, cellulite, fluid retention, SIBO, swollen hands and feet, and even low hydrochloric acid in the stomach. These are all liver related.
Lactate Dehydrogenase (LDH)
LDH is an overlooked liver marker and represents the exchange of glucose (aka: energy production) across cell membranes in almost all the body’s cells, and how effectively electrolytes are carried with them, particularly chloride and sodium. LDH is part of a group of 5 different isoenzymes (two cardiac isoenzymes, 1 red blood cell isoenzyme and 2 liver isoenzymes), and elevated levels usually indicate some type of tissue damage. But to know whether levels of LDH are elevated because of the liver, an LDH isoenzyme test specifically targeting the liver must be run. This will give practitioners a better idea of the type, location and severity of the cellular damage.
Alkaline Phosphatase (ALP)
ALP is an enzyme in the liver, bile ducts and bone. It’s a good marker for both liver and gallbladder function, and if your liver is making thick bile, which looks a lot like sludge, ALP will increase. What causes bile to become too thick? ALP also increases when the liver is inflammed, for whatever reason.
When bile is too thick, as it moves from the liver to the gallbladder, the sludge-like consistency can cause biliary stasis or obstruction. This causes ALP and other liver enzymes to increase because the bile is backing up into the liver.
When a liver enzyme test shows elevated enzymes, it’s an indicator to look more carefully and take better care of our liver, through whatever avenue we choose. A great starting point is implementing simple suggestions for optimal liver cleansing.
Albumin is a type of protein produced only in the liver and is the major protein circulating in your bloodstream. Albumin has a handful of responsibilities, but one of them is transporting many substances such as drugs, lipids, hormones, and toxins that are bound to albumin in the bloodstream. You also need a proper balance of albumin to keep fluid from leaking out of blood vessels.
This lab should be above 4 g/dL. When it drops below 4 g/dL, it means the liver isn’t making enough albumin protein and indicates poor liver function. It can take the liver several weeks of impaired albumin production before serum albumin level drops.
Albumin is also necessary to maintain normal fluid balance. Low levels cause the cells to swell (water retention) because the cells can’t clear the fluid out. This causes ascites to occur. Ascites is the accumulation of protein-containing fluid in the abdomen/belly area.
To fix this dynamic, liver function must be improved. You also must determine why the liver is losing function (ie: hepatitis C, cirrhosis, portal hypertension)
To start, the liver is obviously not tolerating refined carbohydrates and sugar. To support your liver, add more vitamin B12, folic acid, hydrolyzed beef and whey proteins, glutathione and lipotropics.
What are Lipotropics?
Lipotropic compounds assist in the breakdown of fat during metabolism in the body and they cause the bile to thin.
They include: Choline, Inositol, Methionine (will bind to toxins and remove them), Trimethyl glycine (TMG) (aka: oxidized betaine)
SHBG (Sex Hormone Binding Globulin)
SHBG is a protein produced in the liver and binds hormones like testosterone, dihydrotestosterone, and estradiol (an estrogen). SHBG carries these hormones throughout the bloodstream, and hormones in this bound state aren’t available for your cells to use. It’s your body’s way of regulating hormone levels.
When SHBG levels are low, your body has more hormones available for use. When SHBG levels are high, your body has fewer hormones at its disposal because they’re all being bound up. High SHBG levels are also a liver congestion marker for the presence of excessive xenoestrogens. It’s a direct xenoestrogen marker. The higher the SHBG, the more environmental xenoestrogens the person has.
As SHBG levels decrease and normalize (a good thing), it’s possible for hormone levels to also normalize. I like DIM-X for supporting the endocrine system by protecting against environmental xenoestrogens.
It’s important to learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of liver-related distress. Beat the tests to the punch because when it comes to the liver, we want the early-bird special.
Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods