FDA Approved Weight Loss Supplement May Cause Permanent Liver Damage

Back to News Homepage Next


Four Recipe Substitutions That Favor Liver Health

Do You Have High Liver Enzymes or a Fatty Liver?


Nicole Cutler

Jan 2nd, 2013

If your doctor delivers news of high liver enzymes or a fatty liver, make sure you understand what that means.

Do You Have High Liver Enzymes or a Fatty Liver?

A routine doctor visit is an opportunity to discuss nagging health concerns, whether or not they seem important. Patients complaining of fatigue, aches and general malaise are frequently ordered to undergo blood panel or imaging tests in an effort to rule out any major health issues. Much to the patient’s chagrin, a liver-related result “out of the normal range” can surface. Thanks to the modern physician’s ability to analyze seemingly vague symptoms with lab test findings, many people are learning that their health woes are due to high liver enzymes and/or a fatty liver.

Liver Enzymes

High liver enzymes are one of the more frequent findings at a routine doctor visit. Potentially indicating liver damage, high liver enzymes are detected by a simple blood test. While liver enzymes are usually found in the liver, damage to this important organ causes the enzymes to leak into the bloodstream.

The two liver enzymes that are the most straight-forward to test for and evaluate are aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and alanine aminotransferase (ALT). Normal, or healthy ranges for these liver enzymes are:

  • AST = 5 to 40 units per liter of serum
  • ALT = 7 to 56 units per liter of serum

High liver enzymes could indicate many different types of conditions – some are mild, temporary and unimportant; others are high, chronic and hazardous. The following are some potential reasons for high liver enzymes:

  • Consequence of taking a medication – prescription or over-the-counter
  • Casual or problematic alcohol use
  • Exposure to toxins
  • Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C
  • Heart failure
  • Obesity
  • Celiac disease
  • Cirrhosis
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Wilson’s disease
  • Mononucleosis

Although the list above is not exhaustive, a fatty liver is by far the most common culprit of high liver enzymes.

Page 1 2, Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: 5 Tips for Treatment, Prevention, January W. Payne, Retrieved October 28, 2012, US News & World Report, LP, 2012., When and how to evaluate mildly elevated liver enzymes in apparently healthy patients, George Aragon, MD, et al, Retrieved October 28, 2012, Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, March 2010., Elevated Liver Enzymes, Retrieved October 28, 2012, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2012., Fatty Liver Disease, Retrieved October 28, 2012, WebMD, LLC, 2012.

  • DRP

    I have non alcoholic fatty liver. I have hypothyroidism but my T4 and T3 are under control by taking medicine. Last month I did my blood test and found my AST 38 (13-39) and ALT is 51 ( 5-52) are within the range. I did ultrasound today and technician ( not doctor said yet) said I still have fatty liver. I am 5’9″ and weigh only 140lb and my waist is 30″. Not a over weight. I am a thin guy.

    I found fatty liver last November and since then I started taking Milk thristle, proper diet and started aerobic exercise but still my fatty liver is not going away. Why?

    I also do not have Dietetics, cholesterol. I check for these every year and they are normal. I have take Tylenol or Advil only one time in whole year, no liquor and totally veggie.

    My GI doctor told me that due to thyroid, you have fatty liver and once it is under control, you will be fine. But since last 6 months my T4, T3 and TSh are normal. My LFT are normal then why my fatty liver is not going away.

    What should I do to get rid of fatty liver? Please help


    • JH

      Try exercise. Walking about half a hour daily.

    • Yosako

      Some rat studies show what’s going on…the liver needs enough choline to flush fats out via VLDL particles, so if its intake is insufficient, fat gets stuck.

      So, you might want to try supplementing choline (as choline bitartrate) 1000 mg/day for a time, to correct any underlying deficiency, plus BCM-95 curcumin to stop inflammation and help bringing liver enzymes down. Watch out for ALT/AST ratio however: if ALT is significantly elevated over AST, even in the normal range, it usually indicates fatty liver.

      As for side effects, choline slightly raises triglyceride levels, which can be countered with enough omega-3 intake.

  • Nick Armijo

    Had blood and urine tested for the first time everything was normal except my ast was 42 the range 11-41 and my alt was 69 the range was 3-63 should I be concerned about these high levels, my diet has been really poor lately and I had a really fatty meal the night before

    • SPT

      I wouldn’t be ‘worried’ but if it were me I’d heed the warning and make sure that I am not drinking too much or eating poorly – remove all ‘crap’ food. Nothing but healthy food and sugary foods and drinks as a treat only, no more than once a week. Cardio 30 min a day, maybe weights as metabolism is tied to muscle so add a bit of weight training a couple days a week. Make sure you keep your waist (at largest spot) less than 36 in – best if around 32 inches for a man, less than 30IN for a woman. Take fish oil or find a way to get omega 3 in your diet, they help with inflammation. CoQ10 is a good antioxidant and Vit C is as well. Turmeric supplements are good for liver and quite safe since it is just turmeric but you can also just add to your foods. Read books about fructose and liver health and get your liver enzymes checked at least every year. Also, get your iron checked annually and men in general should donate blood once a year – good for heart health and over all health. Make sure to get your cholesterol checked annually and especially watch your triglycerides and LDL. If these start to rise, it is a sign of liver struggles.

  • Au Naturel Mel

    Good distinctions. Mel at fattyliverdietguide

  • Sheryl Arnett

    my ALT is 135 and my AST is 64; my My red cell distribution is high and so is my hemoglobin and anion gap. tests for gallbladder are okay, but now what should i do/

    • SPT

      If you are no longer getting regular menses you may want to have your iron/ferritin checked. Hemochromatosis is a common genetic issue that impacts the liver – women don’t usually notice until they stop monthly menses due to iron lost during that time. Men usually have issues in the +40 range but if someone can’t/doesn’t want to go get the lab test – you can go donate blood!!! Go donate blood at a local blood bank, it is free and they will tell you what your iron level is. If your iron level is too high they won’t let you donate, but if it is on the boarder or normal you can donate and do your civic duty!!! :) Free blood testing – kind of, they take a pint of blood :)
      Men should donate one or twice a year as a manner of habit for heart health. I am not a crazy nut – it is well known. To confirm ask a cardio doc or call the local blood bank and ask them why would men benefit from an annual blood donation.

    • SPT

      Sheryl – You would also likely benefit from the 3 week protein only diet as mentioned above in my reply to Shelley. You can google books about liver and fructose, basically diet is 3 weeks of nothing but protein, milk and nuts (Milk, eggs, nuts, green tea and fish/meat). Absolutely nothing else and if you can go 3 weeks with zero cheating your liver enzymes will likely improve. After the 3 weeks you can return to a normal, but low sugar and healthy diet with 30 min of cardio a day and assuming nothing else is wrong (such as iron overload) you’d likely see a perfectly healthy liver in about a year or so (liver heals itself but it takes a bit of time to recover). Also, turmeric, milk thistle and green tea are good for the liver.

      • Sheryl

        Thank you, I have added turmeric to my diet as well as going to get my iron level checked. I still have pain in my right side up to just under my shoulder blade….they want to do a biopsy now.

  • Shelley

    My ALT is 158, AST is 177 and Alkaline Phosphatase is 148. I have back pain, fatigue and achy . What should my next step be?

    • SPT

      Try this….For 3 weeks eat 100% protein – zero anything else. Milk, eggs, nuts, fish/meat, white/green tea and nothing else. It isn’t fun, cravings are hard to resist and meal time is dreaded…. but it’s only 3 weeks. If you can stick with it and not cheat at all for 3 weeks then…. Then go back to a regular – but healthy diet and 30 min of cardio a day. It worked for me and at my 3 month follow-up MD apt he was so impressed he said they don’t normally see liver disease reverse so quickly. The US showed my liver was over 3 cm smaller that it was – albeit still larger than it should be. It took a year before my US showed a normal sized liver but it is now normal. Sounds crazy but it works. There are a few books about fructose out there that may help…certainly better than cirrhosis! Try reading any books/website about fructose and liver problems. Also, milk thistle and green tea are helpful. You may also want to see a hepatologist or at least a GI doctor.

      • Stephanie

        Is this all you ate for 3 weeks. Also what are the foods you should avoid while doing this?

  • Mia

    Hi, I’m a 55 year old female. I just got results that my ast is 55 and my alt is at 59. I’m not abusing or drinking. My thought was that what diet can I do to help my liver? I have had chronic pain in the past back in 2009 to 2012. But I got over it. My liver function has always read normal until last week. I’m suffering from chronic pain again for the last 3 months.
    When this new bout of chronic pain started I was over weight by 35 pounds, I’ve lost 20. I had been taking over the last three months until my doctor switched my meds after my recent abnormal liver reading, celexa 30 mg, Tylenol 3 at 2 to 3 tabs , daily, unisom 1 to 2 gel caps nightly,, over the counter leg muscle relaxers at night and during the day and a supplement called MSM. As well as several supplements. My doctor stopped all that and switched meds for my pain as stated below.
    Now I want to know if milk thistle is ok to take while trying to heal liver? Plus, Is including juice of 1 beet and a chunk of ginger on a daily bases ok for the liver during this time for me? Can anyone talk to me about what would be helpful in supplements and diet for me while realizing that now at this time, I must take Prozac 20 milligrams, maloxacam 15 to 20 milligrams, and a time released tramadole 100 milligrams all daily? Thanks Mia