The liver is responsible for a number of essential functions. As a part of the digestive system, the liver helps promote optimal digestive function by producing bile and enzymes essential for the breakdown of food. The liver also converts nutrients from your food into substances the body can use and is a place for vitamin and mineral storage.  

Outside of the digestive system, the liver performs additional tasks that benefit your entire body. The liver is responsible for removing contaminants from your blood and processes potentially harmful substances like drugs or alcohol as well as hormones. The liver is also responsible for making albumin, an essential transport-carrier protein in the body, and proteins needed for blood clotting. 

The liver is a vital organ that requires daily maintenance. Problems with the liver can be life-threatening, so liver function tests should be done regularly to protect this organ.

What Is Liver Function Evaluation?

The evaluation of liver function is done using tests that identify issues. These tests are important for the proper maintenance of liver health. Evaluation typically involves comprehensive blood panels that measure proteins, enzymes, and other substances produced by the liver. Identification of abnormal levels of any of these substances can be indicative of poor liver function or damage. 

Liver function tests are most often used to:

♦ Measure liver health
♦ Monitor effectiveness of treatment for liver conditions
♦ Check for liver scarring
♦ Monitor side effects of certain medications, such as antibiotics and pain relievers.

In some cases, more frequent testing may be recommended by your doctor. This is common if you have specific chronic health issues that impact liver function. It is also advised that you get liver function testing:

♦ If you regularly drink alcohol. The liver is responsible for breaking down alcohol, which creates metabolites that can reduce liver health. 

♦ To check for damage from liver infections caused by viruses

♦ If you take any medications or strong supplements on a regular basis, even ones that are available over-the-counter

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Symptoms of Poor Liver Function

The liver performs several important roles and is integral to overall health, and poor liver function impacts other systems in the body. Symptoms can occur in different areas of the body, so it is important to know what to look for to identify potential damage to your liver. 

♦ abdominal pain, especially in the right upper part of the abdomen
♦ fluid collection in the abdomen, known as ascites
♦ fatigue 
nausea or vomiting
♦ digestive issues 
♦ weakness
♦ weight loss or excessive weight gain from water retention
dark-colored urine
♦ pale-colored stools
♦ yellowing of the whites of the eyes
♦ abnormal bruising or bleeding

Whisky in a shot glass on wooden table

These symptoms can also be associated with other health conditions, so it is important to get your liver tested should these symptoms occur. Early identification of poor liver function may be essential for effective treatment. 

You should also get regular liver testing if you have a higher risk of liver issues. Risk factors that can contribute to poor liver function include:

♦ A family history of liver disease
♦ Excessive consumption of alcohol
♦ Exposure to viral infection
♦ Long term use of medications
♦ Liver Function Tests & What Results Mean

Blood tests are performed to check liver function. A small sample of blood is collected. Your doctor will advise you to fast for 10 to 12 hours before the test. By measuring the levels of proteins and enzymes in the blood, doctors can evaluate the health of your liver.

An abnormal reading from any of the liver blood tests can indicate that your liver is not functioning properly. Liver function can be impaired by a number of different conditions, so tests to check liver function will look at:

Alanine aminotransaminase (ALT) - This is an important enzyme for amino acid metabolism. Higher levels of ALT are released when the liver is not functioning efficiently. The presence of fat deposits around the liver can result in higher ALT production and can be indicative of a risk of scarring. 

Aspartate aminotransferase (AST) - Another important enzyme for amino acid metabolism found mostly in the liver and muscle. A healthy liver will release low AST levels, so identifying high levels of this enzyme could indicate poor liver health. Consuming more alcohol than your liver can breakdown can interfere with liver function, resulting in elevated AST levels in the blood. 

Alkaline phosphatase (ALP) - This is important in numerous enzymatic reactions. The liver is one of ALP’s primary sources, and high levels in the blood can be indicative of issues with the liver. Infections are commonly known to cause elevations in ALP as well as AST and ALT levels. 

Albumin - The main transport-carrier protein in the body and binds to many nutrients as a way to deliver them to cells. Albumin also helps support proper circulation by creating oncotic pressure within your blood vessels. A poorly functioning liver will produce lower levels of this essential protein. 

Bilirubin - This is a component of bile made by the liver that supports proper digestion by emulsifying fat. When your liver is healthy, bilirubin levels will be lower. Excess alcohol consumption is one factor that can contribute to elevated bilirubin levels. Liver function becomes less efficient as a result of trying to break down alcohol. 

Treatment Options for Liver Damage

The liver is able to regenerate in some cases, but depending on the severity of the damage, you can seek treatment to alleviate symptoms and promote liver health. Treatment is more effective when identified early, making regular liver function tests essential for maintaining healthy liver health.

Liver test results

Some liver issues can be treated with lifestyle modifications, including dietary changes, weight loss, and abstaining from alcohol consumption. You can also add a clinically studied and effective liver support supplement, like 1MD Nutrition’s LiverMD®️. Other problems may require medications, surgery, or even organ transplant in very severe cases. The treatment prescribed will depend on the cause and how well the liver is working. 

♦ Excessive alcohol consumption requires the immediate cessation of alcohol use. In some cases, steroid drugs can help slow liver scarring to preserve liver function. There are also circumstances where steroid drugs are prescribed to help reduce inflammation in the liver and prevent or slow down scarring. 

♦ Viral infections are treated based on the virus you have. Some infections will clear up on their own, but others are chronic and will require therapy in the form of antiviral medications. 

♦ Scarring of the liver cannot be reversed but can be treated depending on the extent of the scarring. The goal of treatment is to slow the progression of the scarring and prevent complications associated with the condition. Typically, medications such as beta-blockers and diuretics are prescribed. Dietary changes are also recommended, so you will likely be advised to increase plant-based proteins. The additional antioxidant support is beneficial for liver function.    

Natural Treatment To Boost Liver Health

In some instances, the liver can regenerate cells, but serious damage or scarring cannot be reversed. It is important to get regular liver function testing to ensure the liver is functioning efficiently and identify any issues early on. Early treatment provides the most beneficial outcomes if there are any issues and can reduce the risk of serious complications. 

In addition to monitoring the function of your liver, supporting liver health with natural supplements may improve overall function and help alleviate symptoms associated with scarred liver tissue. There are certain natural supplements that can boost liver health by optimizing liver function and slowing the further progression of any damage.

LiverMD® is the single most effective liver health supplement on the market today, and clinical studies back each ingredient. The benefits of LiverMD® include significant improvements in liver function, detoxification, and an overall positive effect on liver health. The combination of patented and clinically effective ingredients is an effective way to provide natural and safe daily care for your liver. 

♦ TocoGaia™ is a supercharged and clinically proven form of vitamin E that helps protect the liver from free radical damage and abnormal cell division. This full-spectrum complex of tocotrienols and tocopherols works to promote optimal liver function. 

♦ Selenium is a powerful antioxidant that can help support a healthy environment for your liver, helping promote cellular healing and proper function.

♦ Siliphos® bioavailable silybin is ten times more bioavailable than generic milk thistle extract, which has been used for centuries to promote liver health.  Siliphos® strengthens liver cells, helps support the breakdown of toxins, and helps maintain healthy liver function. 

♦ Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) has the ability to bind with free radicals in fatty liver cells and protect them from the oxidative damage that can slow scarring of liver tissue. This can allow time for liver cells to regenerate. 

♦ N-Acetylcysteine (NAC) is an amino acid that replenishes glutathione, the main antioxidant in the body. This helps provide protection for the liver, reducing stress to liver cells. 

♦ Zinc is an essential micronutrient that supports overall liver function and can slow the progression of scarring. Poor liver function has been linked to zinc deficiency. A lack of this essential mineral can impair the ability of liver cells to regenerate.

Foods rich in vitamin E

Final Thoughts

The liver performs essential digestive and metabolic functions. Your body relies on the liver to process nutrients, detoxify the body, and produce important proteins. These functions expose the liver to by-products that can cause stress to the liver, and without time to regenerate and repair itself, overall function can become impaired. 

Healthy lifestyle choices, including a diet rich in healthy fat (e.g. avocado, salmon) and low in sugar, regular exercise, and the supplemental support of LiverMD®️ will provide enhanced protection for liver cells and support liver regeneration. Severe scarring cannot be reversed, but the progression of the scarring may be slowed down. 

Regular liver function testing is essential for proper liver care, and the clinically proven ingredients of LiverMD® will help maintain healthy liver function and support better overall health. 

Dr. David Kahana


Dr. David Kahana is board certified in Pediatrics and Gastroenterology through the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP), as well as Medical Nutrition through the National Board of Physician Nutrition Specialists.