Liver is the second largest organ in the body, weighing about 3 pounds. It is an organ that has many vital functions in the body including metabolism, digestion, regulation and storage of nutrients along with immunity in the body. It is imperative that one take a healthy diet for optimal functioning of liver. However, liver is a very resilient organ that has a capacity to recover and regenerate on its own. The first sign of liver damage can be seen through elevated liver enzymes. The most common liver enzymes are alanine transaminase (ALT), aspartate transaminase (AST), alkaline phosphate (ALP), lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) and gamma glutamyl transferase (GGT).
Many conditions and diseases can cause liver enzyme elevation. These include alcohol consumption, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, obesity, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, liver cirrhosis, heart failure, certain medications (Tylenol, statins), autoimmune hepatitis, alcoholic hepatitis, cytomegalovirus infection, celiac disease, Epstein-Barr virus, hemochromatosis, liver cancer, mononucleosis, thyroid disorder, pancreatitis, polymyositis, sepsis, toxic hepatitis, Wilson’s disease, adrenal insufficiency, alpha 1 antitrypsin deficiency, diabetes, muscle disorders, liver or bile duct tumors. It can also be caused due to excessive herbal supplements such as kava, pennyroyal, comfrey and skullcap.
What Not to Eat With Elevated Liver Enzymes?
Elevated liver enzymes may be a sign of liver damage/disease that signifies improper functioning of liver. Since liver is a vital organ and has over 500 functions in the body, it is crucial to eat foods that are healthy for liver, which do not put extra strain on it. Certain foods should be avoided in elevated liver enzymes to maintain a healthy liver and these are:
Alcohol: In moderation, alcohol does not have much effect on liver, but when consumed excessively and regularly the workload on liver increases leading to alcoholic fatty liver disease and also liver cirrhosis in the long run causing scarring and death of liver cells. In addition, the paracetamol should be avoided with alcohol that can precipitate liver damage. In elevated liver enzymes, it should be completely avoided; otherwise, it may lead to further liver damage.
Fatty Foods: The intake of fats should be limited as too much fat increases the chance of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease as well as obesity. The daily fat intake should not be more than 20 to 35% of total daily calorie. Unhealthy fats contain saturated fats that are hard to digest and these include processed, fried and fast foods. In elevated liver enzymes, fat consumption should be minimized along with weight reduction to improve blood liver enzyme levels.
Salt: The daily intake of salt should be around 1500 mg. It is generally not bad, but there are certain foods that contain too much salt such as soups, canned foods and fast foods. These foods contain too much sodium and when consumed in excess they cause liver damage. Excess salt causes fluid retention in the body, thus it should be minimized in elevated liver enzymes.
Proteins: They are good for health, but when consumed in excess they can cause liver to malfunction and also leads to other diseases such as gout. Proteins should be balanced with carbohydrate intake and vegetables. Meat, steaks, turkey, and bacon should be avoided in elevated liver enzymes as they are hard to digest. It is best to eat eggs and lean meat.
Foods Rich in Vitamin A: Vitamin A has many health benefits such as they are good for eyes, skin and normal growth of the body. However, excessive vitamin A consumption can lead to its toxicity as well as liver failure.
Soda and Sugar: Carbonated drinks have a lot of sugar and caffeine. Excess sugar is converted into glucose and stored in liver as glycogen, but when excessive sugar is consumed it can damage the liver. Excess sugar also leads to greater risk for obesity. It is better to avoid simple and refined carbohydrates such as donuts, cookies, pastries, pastas, white breads, desserts, and processed foods and drinks.
It is best to eat a healthy diet with fresh vegetables and fruits for elevated liver enzymes and optimal liver function.