The liver is the detoxification hub of your body. It works with your digestive tract, gallbladder, and pancreas to process everything you eat and drink, from almonds to zucchini — plus the occasional donut. But sometimes, toxins or disease damage the liver. Among other issues, this can cause elevated liver enzymes to course through your veins.
What exactly does this mean? What is a liver enzyme, and what does it mean when they are higher than “normal”? Read on to learn more about liver enzymes and how to lower them naturally.
What Are Liver Enzymes?
Enzymes are proteins in your body that speed up the body’s biochemical reactions. Each enzyme works on a specific chemical reaction.
In your liver, enzymes break down bilirubin, a blood waste product. They also help turn proteins and carbohydrates, including glucose, into energy that your body can use.
Common liver enzymes include:
- Alanine transaminase (also called alanine aminotransferase, ALT)
- Aspartate transaminase (or aspartate aminotransferase, AST)
- Alkaline phosphatase (ALP)
- Gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT)
These commonly-measured enzymes are usually found inside your liver. When the liver is distressed or damaged, it can release extra enzymes into your bloodstream.
Take note: Higher ALT and AST levels don't always mean a serious liver or medical condition. Many things can cause a temporary liver enzyme spike that resolves naturally.
Common Signs of Elevated Liver Enzymes
Liver conditions may occur with no outward symptoms. Also, elevated liver enzymes in and of themselves may not cause any symptoms. However, if liver damage continues, signs may appear. Your healthcare provider may order a liver test to check for elevated liver enzymes or bilirubin. Below are some of the common symptoms that may co-occur with elevated liver enzymes indicating possible liver issues:[2, 3]
- Poor appetite
- Yellow eyes and skin (jaundice)
- Swollen abdomen
- Pale stool and dark urine
- Skin blemishes, spots, or rashes
Natural Ways to Lower Elevated Enzymes
The liver is an incredible organ. It’s one of the only body organs that can repair itself and return to its previous level of function! That requires resting your liver and supporting it with a healthy lifestyle. Here are a few of the most effective natural ways to support the health of your liver and digestion system.
Stop Drinking Alcohol
If you have elevated liver enzymes, stop drinking alcohol. Alcohol is very hard on your liver. Excessive drinking is one of the most common reasons for elevated liver enzymes. Cutting down or stopping your consumption of alcohol is an excellent way to bring them down and help your liver heal.
If you have developed an "alcoholic fatty liver," the most effective management strategy is drinking less — or not at all. Even if your liver is already injured, stop drinking. Cutting out alcohol for one and a half years improved survival rates of patients with alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver.
Avoiding alcohol can help even if you have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and only partake on occasion. In fact, cutting out alcohol can help you maintain a healthy liver and keep your liver enzymes in a normal range no matter the condition of your liver.
Change Your Diet
Because your liver breaks down everything you eat, opting for a healthier diet gives it a chance to rest and become less inflamed.
First, start by reducing your fat intake. This not only helps weight loss efforts but may also decrease any elevated liver enzymes. Replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats. This will also lower your risk of heart disease.
Next, lower your sugar intake. Cut out soft drinks and store-bought juices, which have large amounts of sugar. Try eating low-glycemic index foods, such as gluten-free whole grains or leafy green vegetables, instead of high-glycemic-index foods like white rice, bread, and cookies. These steps will also reduce your risk of metabolic syndrome and other metabolic disorders.
Last but not least, add a variety of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables into your daily diet and cut down on meat. Eliminating harmful foods is the basis of a liver cleanse — see below.
Take Medicinal Herbs
Many medicinal herbs contain beneficial plant compounds and bring added nutrients to your body. The following ones specifically support your liver.
Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is one of the most-used herbal supplements for liver health in the world — and for good reason. Milk thistle’s active compound silymarin protects the liver against harmful toxins and invading organisms. It also reduces redness and swelling. Milk thistle is safe and well-tolerated. You can find it in Livatrex®, an advanced Raw Herbal Extract™ formula that supports liver health.
Holy Basil (Tulsi)
Tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum) has liver-protective effects and also reduces systemic redness and swelling. It is a potent adaptogen that helps the body respond to stress. Tulsi may work synergistically with milk thistle, which means the two herbs complement the action of the other.
One of the most popular spices in Indian cuisine, turmeric (Curcuma longa) is also well-known as a medicinal herb. It promotes normal liver enzyme levels and reduces redness and swelling. You can also find turmeric in Livatrex.
Consider doing a liver cleanse to remove toxins and encourage your liver back to overall health. Global Healing Center's liver cleanse program involves eating liver cleansing foods and adding natural digestive aids to your diet. These include olive oil, Epsom salts, ozonated magnesium, and turmeric. A liver cleanse using these supplements will also cleanse your gallbladder.
See our step-by-step guide to get you started.
Points to Remember
Your liver and gallbladder process everything you eat and drink, breaking down toxins and turning proteins and sugars into energy. Diets high in fat, sugar, and alcohol can stress the liver and may lead to elevated liver enzymes. Other conditions may also cause elevated liver enzymes, which may come with symptoms like fatigue, weight loss, abdominal pain, dark urine, and itching.
The good news is that even if you have liver disease, the damage is reversible with changes to diet and lifestyle. If you have elevated liver enzymes, you can decrease levels naturally by changing your diet. First, cut your consumption of alcohol and saturated fats and lower your sugar intake. Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables.
Have you ever experienced elevated liver enzymes? What worked for you? Please share in the comments below!
- Malakouti M, et al. Elevated liver enzymes in asymptomatic patients – what should I do? J Clin Transl Hepatol. 2017 Dec 28;5(4):394-403.
- Your Liver Delivers: Protect It From Harm. NIH News in Health, National Institutes of Health. Mar 2014.
- Beckingham IJ, Ryder SD. Investigation of liver and biliary disease. BMJ. 2001 Jan 6;322(7277):33-36.
- Xie YD, et al. Effect of abstinence from alcohol on survival of patients with alcoholic cirrhosis: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Hepatol Res. 2014 Apr;44(4):436-449.
- Mann RE, et al. The epidemiology of alcoholic liver disease. Alcohol Res Health. 2003;27(3):209-219.
- Eating, Diet, & Nutrition for NAFLD & NASH. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health. Accessed 12 October 2018.
- Kostek H, et al. Silibinin and its hepatoprotective action from the perspective of a toxicologist. Przegl Lek. 2012;69(8):541-543.
- Xiong F, Guan Y-S. Cautiously using natural medicine to treat liver problems. World J Gastroenterol. 2017 May 21; 23(19):3388-3395.
- Rivera-Espinoza Y, Muriel P. Pharmacological actions of curcumin in liver diseases or damage. Liver Int. 2009 Nov;29(10):1457-1466.
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.