Livingsta is a writer and physicist who loves research and technology. She writes about anything that fascinates, provokes or interests her.
What Is the Function of the Liver?
The liver is one of the most important organs in the human body. It is also the largest gland in the body, situated below the right rib cage just above the abdomen. The liver uses thousands of enzymes to perform essential chemical processes as follows:
- It removes toxins from the body and cleans the blood.
- It helps with food digestion.
- It produces enzymes including digestive liquid (bile).
- It controls the flow of urine.
- It stores important vitamins, minerals and nutrients.
- It helps with blood clotting.
Here's a detailed look at liver enzymes, the causes and symptoms of increased enzymes, ways to lower these levels and ways to keep enzyme levels healthy and stable.
How to Lower Elevated Liver Enzymes Quickly
In order to bring dangerously high enzyme levels down to normal, one must be careful about what they eat and drink. Whatever we consume is digested or processed with the help of the liver. As a result of this, unhealthy and harmful foods or drinks can be damaging to the liver.
There are various ways in which one can lower liver enzymes quickly. Before attempting any of the recommendations below, keep in mind:
- Never take medicine, supplements or herbs without your doctor's approval, as even some herbal remedies can be harmful to the liver.
- Talk to your dietician or nutritionist and ask them for a diet plan that you can follow which will help improve the health and function of the liver.
- Discuss with your doctor any other drugs you are using such as those used to lower cholesterol and ask to see if you can stop them.
As with all supplements, consult with your dietician and doctor before consuming; acquire them from an approved and trustworthy health store.
What Herbs and Supplements Help to Lower Liver Enzyme Levels?
Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum)
Milk thistle, Mary thistle or holy thistle is an herb in the daisy and ragweed family that contains the active ingredient silymarin which may host anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antioxidant properties. The European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry published a study that documents the therapeutic use of milk thistle for numerous liver disorders, including jaundice, hepatitis, cirrhosis (alcoholic liver disease), non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and gallbladder complications.
Dandelion or Taraxacum Root
Dandelion is an herb that helps to detoxify the body and improves the health of the liver, according to one such study conducted by China Pharmaceutical University, Nanjing. The study reveals that polysaccharides found in dandelion may help reduce damage from drug-related hepatotoxicity or liver damage. Dandelion has been used as a liver tonic in folk medicine for many years. Dandelion root may be consumed as a tea and is additionally known to decrease cholesterol levels. Precautions must be taken as some individuals may be allergic to dandelion.
Eat Fruits and Vegetables
Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables that are rich in antioxidants, as these will help to reduce toxin levels and cleanse the liver. Lemon, in particular, which is high in vitamin C, may lower levels of GGT in the body. High GGT levels lead to the destruction of glutathione, one of the body's natural antioxidants which lowers oxidative stress. To benefit, juice one lemon in an 8-ounce cup of warm water daily; check with your doctor if you are on any prescriptions before proceeding.
Fish oil and flax oil may help improve liver function by lowering triglyceride levels (fat) in the liver. Consider taking food rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as vitamin B12 paired with coenzyme Q10 (with your doctor's approval), as they help to rebuild damaged cells in the liver. Green tea is another beneficial supplement. It helps with fat loss and reduces free radicals in the body.
Lifestyle Choices to Help Improve Liver Health
Avoid Synthetic Drugs
Do not take any drugs or over-the-counter medicines unless prescribed by your doctor or health professional. Combinations of certain drugs can harm the liver, and it is always best to consult your doctor (physician) or health professional before taking any.
Avoid Pollution (Cigarettes Included)
There are so many toxins in polluted air—cigarette smoke, paint fumes, burnt rubber and other chemicals. One needs to stay away from these toxins as they may affect the liver.
Consider Alternative Pain Relief
Even ibuprofen and aspirin can be damaging to the liver, so it is best to consult your doctor regarding alternative pain relief. With the help and advice of a dietician, nutritionist or your doctor, try your best to take herbal remedies rather than other drugs to lower liver enzyme levels.
Stop Drinking Alcohol
Stop drinking alcohol completely for a speedy recovery. Even after a complete recovery, it is best not to consume alcohol at all. If you do, consume it rarely and in limited amounts as the level of enzymes can increase at any time. Consider further reading on the ways to reverse liver damage from alcohol abuse.
It is good to be active so that the body gets some mild exercise. Sometimes, obesity is the cause of an increase in the level of liver enzymes. It is good to lose weight gradually and not rapidly, for example, two pounds a week. Even a brisk walk or jogging for 30 minutes will help improve blood circulation and bring new blood to the liver.
Get Your Sleep
Get enough sleep and rest, as this is very important for repairing bodily damage by allowing your system to regenerate. This keeps the body and liver healthy.
What Foods Help Lower Elevated Liver Enzymes?
Cook Your Own Low-Carb and Low-Fat Food
Always cook your own food. Do not eat fatty food or food that is high in carbohydrates. Avoid ready-made, pre-cooked and preserved food from the supermarkets or elsewhere, as chemicals are added. Since the liver plays a major role in digesting food, additives and chemicals put a strain on the liver.
Go Organic (Food and Products)
Avoid salt, red meat and excessive oil in your diet—these are the worst foods for your liver. Consume only healthy foods and drinks. Try your best to eat organic food (food grown naturally without chemicals or pesticides) including fruits, vegetables, meat and fish. Incorporate fibrous foods and cruciferous vegetables into your meals. Be careful about skin-care products, as these products are absorbed dermally and processed by the liver. Use natural products when possible.
According to Healthline.com, several superfoods help to reduce liver enzymes and improve liver health overall. Here's a list of the top-rated liver-friendly foods:
The Best Foods for Lowering Liver Enzymes
- Coffee (decaf)
- Cruciferous greens
- Milk and low-fat dairy
- Sunflower seeds
- Olive oil
- Green tea
Drink Water, Limit Caffeine, and Cut Sugar
Drink water (at least eight glasses a day), as this helps to flush toxins out of the body, and limit caffeine intake. Avoid artificial ingredients, fizzy drinks and fruit-juice cocktails which have a high level of fructose. Limit your sugar intake to 200 calories a day (sucrose and fructose are bad sugars). Do not use refined sugar as it contains 95% sucrose and offers no nutritional value.
Does Green Tea or Coffee Lower Liver Enzyme Levels?
One study by the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, found that coffee (decaf or regular) had a protective effect on the liver:
"The results showed that people who said they drank three or more cups of coffee a day had lower levels of all four of these enzymes, compared with people who did not drink any coffee. Surprisingly, it didn't matter whether a person drank regular or decaf coffee: the effect on liver enzyme levels was almost identical."
An additional double-blind placebo-controlled study published in the International Journal of Molecular Medicine found that individuals with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease who consumed green tea for 12 weeks saw a reduction in fatty liver deposits, a reduction in oxidative stress on the liver and a normalization of liver enzymes.
Consume Healthy Proteins
Consume low-fat proteins such as eggs, milk products, fish, meat (lean meats) and poultry, as these can be processed by the liver easily.
Additional Foods That Are Good for Your Liver
How Long Does It Take to Lower Liver Enzyme Levels?
The time it takes for liver enzyme levels to return to normal depends on each person, the severity of the condition of the liver, overall health and/or the frequency and intensity of alcohol consumption. Levels usually go down in a few weeks (four to eight) if the condition is not too severe and if strict diet and health recommendations are followed. In severe cases, it can take a few months. If high enzyme levels are left untreated or treatment is delayed, these conditions can lead to liver cancer.
Attempting to lower liver enzyme levels immediately before a liver function test is not recommended. Dietary and lifestyle changes should be permanent and enduring. Prolonged liver damage may lead to chronic and irreversible health conditions and even death.
The Causes of Elevated Liver Values
|Condition||Presentation, Transmission or Acquirement|
Alcoholic liver disease
Alcoholic hepatitis from excessive consumption or alcoholism
Anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs)
A compromised liver will endure further insult when metabolizing these drugs
The body's immune system may attack the liver
Symptoms present when gluten is introduced to the diet
Often associated with insulin resistance (type II diabetes) and fatty liver disease
Hepatitis A and B (HAV and HBV)
Fecal-oral transmission (Hep A); bodily fluid (Hep B)
High salt and herbal supplement intake
Abnormal dietary amounts or metabolism
Systemic infections, sepsis, viral hepatitis and gallbladder infections
Inflammation of the gall bladder
May result from metastasis
Statin drugs used to control cholesterol
Medication (pain relief)
Medicine taken for pain relief; acetaminophen (Tylenol, others)
Enzymes leaking out of damaged muscles
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
Obesity or excess body fat; too much fat stored in liver cells
Hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease
Hepatitis, Epstein-Barr, Mononucleosis
Food, chemical, metal toxicity or poisoning
How Are Liver Enzymes Tested?
A high level of liver enzymes does not necessarily mean that the liver is producing excessive enzymes. It may be simply that the level of liver enzymes present in the blood has increased. This does, however, indicate that the liver is under excessive strain.
Liver Function Tests: What to Expect
A liver function test will be ordered by your doctor. It is important to follow any instructions you may be given prior to the test (e.g., whether or not you are asked to fast overnight).
The test involves a routine blood draw and is often performed by a phlebotomist or a nurse. Your inner forearm (at the fold of your elbow) will be assessed for venipuncture, and a small needle or catheter will be placed into your vein. Some individuals experience a short, sharp sensation upon immediate placement. The venipuncture and draw often take no longer than a minute.
Once the blood is collected, your phlebotomist will place a band-aid or wrap around the puncture site. It is important to keep this on for the recommended duration of time to allow your blood to coagulate and to keep the entry point clean. Most individuals go about their normal activities for the rest of the day. Some individuals may experience mild bruising at the site for the following day or so.
What Is the Function of Liver Enzymes in the Body?
Enzymes are proteins that aid in the essential chemical processes of the body. When the liver is damaged, overworked or diseased, its walls become perforated. As a result of this, enzymes escape the liver and enter the bloodstream. The most common enzymes produced by the liver are:
- Aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and alanine transaminase enzymes (ALT). These are known together as transaminases. AST helps to manufacture amino acids in the body; high levels may indicate cardiac issues. ALT helps to metabolize food and convert it into energy. Elevated levels of ALT indicate hepatic insult from either acute or chronic liver damage.
- Alkaline phosphatase (ALP) and gamma-glutamyltransferase (GGT). These are known together as cholestatic liver enzymes. ALP helps to break down proteins in the body. High ALP levels are associated with bone and liver disease. GGT helps with the catabolism and regulation of molecules in the body. High levels of GGT may indicate liver or bile duct damage.
Liver enzyme values are often compared in ratios to aid in the diagnosis of certain medical conditions. According to Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine (2008), several conditions may be indicated below by the following ratios:
- AST:ALT ratio is 1:1 (ALT is higher) = acute viral hepatitis
- AST:ALT ratio is 2:1 = alcoholic liver disease
- AST:ALT ratio >1 (AST is higher) = cirrhosis (unrelated to alcoholic liver disease)
Normal and Abnormal Results: Reference Ranges in a Liver Function Test
7 to 55 U/L
Alanine aminotransferase or ALT helps break down proteins.
Low values are considered normal. High values are often associated with liver damage or acute hepatitis.
8 to 48 U/L
Aspartate transaminase helps with protein metabolism.
Low levels are normal. High levels are associated with liver damage or disease, inflammation and cardiac complications.
45 to 115 U/L
Alkaline phosphatase is found in your liver, bile ducts and bones and helps to break down proteins.
Low levels indicate zinc deficiency or bone metabolism. High levels indicate diseases or conditions of the liver or bones.
3.5 to 5.0 g/dL
A protein manufactured by the liver that helps keep fluid in the bloodstream.
Low levels indicate shock or malnutrition. High levels indicate dehydration or a high-protein diet.
6.3 to 7.9 g/dL
The total amount of albumin and globulin protein in the blood.
A low level indicates challenges with the digestion or absorption of protein. High levels indicate dehydration or disorders of the blood.
0.1 to 1.2 mg/dL
A byproduct of red blood cell breakdown. The liver generally removes bilirubin from the body.
Low levels are not concerning. High levels indicate red blood cell, liver or gallbladder disorders. Excessive amounts present as jaundice.
9 to 48 U/L
Gamma-glutamyl transferase is an enzyme.
A low level is often normal. A high level indicates liver damage and often coincides with elevated ALP in bile duct disease.
Signs and Symptoms of Liver Disease
Acute or chronic inflammation and liver cell damage will cause an abnormally high amount of liver enzymes to leak into the bloodstream. A doctor may order a liver function test or liver chemistries which will reveal protein, enzyme and bilirubin levels in your blood in order to analyze the health of your liver and potential underlying causes of damage. The symptoms of an increase in liver enzymes are not always obvious. They include:
- Jaundice: Yellowing of eyes and skin; results from an excess of the pigment bilirubin.
- Abnormal Stools and Dark Urine: Diarrhea, steatosis (fatty stools) or pale, clay-coloured stools may occur. Dark urine is an indication of bile in the urine.
- Cirrhosis: Irreversible scarring or fibrosis of the liver and loss of liver cells. Often attributed to Hepatitis B and C.
- Fatty Liver or Hepatic Steatosis: Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) occurs when portions of the liver cells contain higher than normal fat. Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is characterized by inflammation of the liver in addition to excess fat. Type II diabetes, metabolic syndrome and obesity are leading causes of these conditions.
- Hepatitis: Often caused by viral hepatitis but may be caused by autoimmune disorders in which the body attacks the liver. Substance abuse and overconsumption such as excessive drinking may result in alcoholic liver disease.
- Pain: Experienced in the lower right side of the abdomen. Blood tests, ultrasounds or biopsies may be ordered to diagnose ascites, viral hepatitis, liver failure, liver abscess or liver tumors.
- Skin Abnormalities: Superficial skin issues may arise such as spider angiomas (outcroppings of inflamed blood vessels, Bier spots (pale spots arising from vascular changes) or "paper-money" skin (fine capillaries) may be present in individuals with chronic liver disease, according to the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine; excessive bruising is another indication.
- Weakness: General fatigue, loss of appetite, joint and muscle aches. High body temperature and nausea have been documented.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Liver Damage and Disease
A doctor can determine the source of the problem of high enzyme levels, symptoms associated with poor liver health and other factors before making a diagnosis. It is good to sit with your doctor and understand why your liver enzymes have increased, as this will help you to understand how to care for your liver and avoid further injury—this includes discussing any medications (over-the-counter and prescription), supplements, vitamins and herbs you may be taking.
One must also have a proper diagnosis and undergo treatment from their doctor in order to lower their liver enzymes. Once a diagnosis is made, it is best to have a liver function test (LFT) done once every six months or even more frequently, as advised by your doctor or health professional until the liver enzymes return to a normal level.
I chose to write about this topic after a friend of mine experienced liver failure. I researched liver health and felt the need to share some of what I found with you. I hope you found it helpful.
This article is for general information only and should not be used as an alternative or substitute for medical advice from your own doctor or other health professional. Always consult your GP if you are concerned about your health in any way.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Lynne on October 28, 2019:
Thank you. Well written and informative article on how to keep your liver healthy.
anita garg on April 19, 2018:
indian herb for chronic constipation. herb to lower liver enzmes.
margaret on April 13, 2018: