Alanine transaminase (ALT) and aspartate transaminase (AST) are enzymes that are normally produced by the liver. But if the liver suffers any injury or is inflamed, these enzymes are leaked into the bloodstream in excessive amounts. And this causes the liver enzyme count to shoot up. Although the condition of elevated liver enzymes may sound intimidating, in most cases, it does not indicate any severe or chronic liver problem. Also, the enzyme levels usually get high temporarily and mildly.
What Elevates the Level of Liver Enzymes?
As there could be a plethora of underlying medical conditions which may manifest themselves through elevated liver enzymes, the diagnosis is made by reviewing the medications taken by the patient, his/her signs and symptoms, and by conducting tests and procedures to determine abnormal liver function. Common causal factors of this condition may include hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C, obesity and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
Liver enzymes may also increase in response to use of certain medicines such as those used to control cholesterol, and pain. Less common causes may include Celiac disease, heart attack, liver cancer, Wilson's disease, underactive thyroid gland, and inflammation of the gallbladder. Alcoholic hepatitis and a condition known as hemochromatosis are also in the list of the offenders.
Itching and jaundice are the only symptoms which occur when liver enzyme levels become abnormally high. Itching can occur due to other medical conditions too. However, jaundice is always associated with the liver. It may give rise to secondary symptoms such as dark or cloudy urine, or light stools. If the whites of the eye, the skin and mucous membranes turn yellowish, then these might also indicate the onset of jaundice. General weakness and fatigue might accompany the above symptoms.
The condition of elevated liver enzymes is treated by addressing its underlying cause. Self-medication is not recommended for treating the condition thus patients must avoid over-the-counter drugs. Only drugs which are prescribed by a doctor must be administered.
As alcohol consumption is also a potential cause of increase in liver enzymes, the patient must completely avoid alcoholic beverages while he/she is recovering. Even after the patient has fully recovered, he/she must drink in moderation, lest the condition should occur again without any warning. As obesity is a contributing factor in causing high liver enzymes, inculcating a healthy diet and regular exercise also provides a great of help in preventing and treating such conditions.
Tips for Healthy Liver
- Include more foods rich in antioxidants in your diet
- Avoid antibiotics and antacids. Use them sparingly if you need to
- Avoid smoking, and drink in moderation
- Increase water intake, and reduce stimulants like tea and coffee
- Cut down your daily salt and sugar intake
- Get vaccinations to prevent Hepatitis A and B
- Water helps get rid of toxins from the body and improves liver function. Drink at least 8-9 glasses of water daily
- Raw vegetable and fruit juice help prevent inflammation of the liver, and improves its function as well. Doctors recommend drinking juice made from apples, grapefruit, beets, carrots, cabbage, celery, etc.