What Is The Main Function Of Your Liver – If you’ve ever had a blood test, you’ve probably been faced with a huge list of data along with medical jargon displayed on your patient portal. Unless you work in the medical field yourself, these results probably don’t mean much, and your doctor probably doesn’t have the time to teach you.
Due to lack of time, a large amount of valuable information hidden in blood tests can be missed. Here we detail the liver function test, or his LFT, that appears on the Comprehensive Metabolic Panel (CMP).
- 1 What Is The Main Function Of Your Liver
- 2 Ways To Keep Your Liver Happy And Healthy
- 3 Portal Vein: Anatomy, Location & Function
- 4 Liver Function Test
- 5 How It’s Made: Cholesterol Production In Your Body
What Is The Main Function Of Your Liver
By understanding these tests and their results, you can be proactive in managing your health. So for anyone looking to better understand their own diagnosis and treatment, the first step is to demystify the science.
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Liver function tests are common biochemical markers used when doctors want to take a closer look at liver function. These include waste products such as bilirubin, functional proteins such as albumin, and enzymes such as ALT, AST, and ALP.
Your liver has more positive effects on your body than you might think. It contributes to metabolism, vitamin absorption, blood sugar regulation, detoxification, and bile production, to name a few.
Metabolism is a long list of chemical reactions necessary to turn food and water into energy. The liver contributes to this by converting glucose (sugar), amino acids (the building blocks for proteins), and lipids (fats) into things that cells can actually use.
It is also involved in telling all the other systems involved in metabolism how much energy they can use and how much they need to produce.
Ways To Keep Your Liver Happy And Healthy
This is part of the reason why the liver is so important. Depending on the amount of stored energy available, certain organs take up more glucose than others. For example, when you’re starving, your brain consumes glucose first, and other systems (such as digestion) take a backseat.
All sorts of decisions have to be made regarding the distribution of resources, and the liver is in charge. These “decisions” are facilitated by important regulatory hormones that interact with the liver to control metabolism. Examples include insulin and thyroid-stimulating hormone.
If you are interested in any of these hormones in particular, check out our articles on understanding and controlling blood sugar levels and reading your thyroid-stimulating hormone results.
The classic toxin that comes to mind is alcohol. The metabolism, or breakdown, of alcohol produces toxic byproducts. The liver converts it into a form that can be washed away by the bloodstream and eventually into the urine. Another toxin that you are probably familiar with is ammonia. It is a byproduct of amino acid (protein) breakdown and is toxic to the central nervous system. By chemically modifying ammonia to urea, it becomes more “compatible” with water and is secreted in the urine rather than in other organs.
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These are just a few examples of chemical modifications that the liver uses to process all kinds of compounds. Keep in mind that this happens with almost every drug or supplement you take.
It also destroys red blood cells, ensuring an incredibly high turnover rate, and even aids in the production of chemicals for blood clotting.
The less satisfying answer is that all liver function markers are related to health. Otherwise, it will not be tested on a metabolic panel.
Results outside certain ranges may indicate underlying disease or cell damage, while many other results simply indicate abnormalities that may be due to medication, diet, or hormonal fluctuations. However, there are some that are more commonly out of scope than others.
Complete Metabolic Panel (cmp)
Remember! If you have any questions or concerns about your blood test, please consult your doctor before taking any action. Many of these factors are interdependent, and a single out-of-range result is rarely sufficient for diagnosis.
Bilirubin is essentially a waste product from the recycling of red blood cells. A 2015 study explains that in the absence of other abnormal liver markers, mild bilirubin accumulation has minimal direct effects (except in newborns). Still, it’s a good way to test for liver dysfunction.
It is not uncommon for people to have elevated levels of bilirubin because delayed removal of waste products increases the amount of bilirubin in the bloodstream. This “slowing down” can be caused by drugs or excessive alcohol consumption. It can also be caused by a fairly common genetic disease called Gilbert syndrome. Gilbert syndrome prevents the proper removal of bilirubin, but there are few negative effects.
In more extreme cases, excess bilirubin can be caused by liver diseases such as hepatitis (inflammation of liver tissue) and cirrhosis (scarring from disease or injury). High levels can also be caused by bile duct obstruction. This is discussed in more detail below in the context of abnormal ALP levels. Bilirubin has a bright yellow pigment, so high levels of bilirubin are often accompanied by jaundice and yellow pigmentation of the skin.
Liver Function Test
The main purpose of albumin is to draw water-containing fluid from outside the capillaries. In other words, it prevents “leakage” from blood flow into the surrounding space. This is very important so that the blood can transport important substances to where they are needed without losing them.
This protein is made in the liver and makes up most of the blood plasma (the liquid part that carries salts, hormones, drugs, and waste products). It also acts as a transporter itself. This is because its negative charge makes it “sticky” to other charged molecules. It binds bilirubin, electrolytes, drugs, etc. and delivers them to and from various tissues and the liver.
Low albumin levels, also called “hypoalbuminemia,” often occur when there is malnutrition or when the body has problems absorbing protein. It can also be lowered by certain hormones, such as those found in oral contraceptives and those produced by pregnant women.
In cases of malnutrition, the liver does not have sufficient resources to produce more albumin. However, when your liver is unable to break down the food you ingest, protein absorption can decrease.
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Rather than thinking of this as the main symptom, you should think of it as a symptom caused by various other symptoms. This makes it impossible to narrow down the diagnosis based on albumin indicators alone. As with all these markers, they must be considered in the broader context of health.
The liver synthesizes albumin, so if liver cells are damaged by disease, the liver may not produce the normal amount of albumin. Albumin loss may also be due to albumin degradation and increased clearance from the bloodstream. Alternatively, albumin itself may leak out of the bloodstream if you have another disease that makes your blood vessels easier to pass through than normal.
Albumin is normally bound to substances carried through the blood, so having too little albumin can lead to things like increased sensitivity to drugs. Without enough albumin, these unbound molecules can float around in the bloodstream and interact more with target organs.
Remember that albumin is found in the watery part of your blood. If there is global fluid loss, the concentration of albumin relative to body fluids may increase.
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Some enzymes that can be checked in a liver blood test are alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST). Both help break down amino acids (which make up proteins) to produce energy.
Alkaline phosphatase (ALP) is also an important liver enzyme, but rather than breaking down things directly, it produces bile, which breaks down fats.
Enzymes are a diverse group of proteins that assist in nearly every process in the body. Unlike bilirubin and albumin, it is not a byproduct or transporter of metabolism, but rather promotes metabolism. Speed up the chemical reactions needed for critical processes by getting the chemicals of interest where you need them and at the right time.
Mild elevations in each of these enzymes may occur due to mild liver inflammation. When liver cells are damaged, ALT and AST are released into the bloodstream, causing higher than normal levels in blood tests. Inflammation does not necessarily mean extensive damage and can be caused by a variety of causes. Although not unrelated, here are some factors to consider before getting sick.
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For example, intense exercise can double your ALT. Physicians should also consider differences in age, weight, and whether the patient is menstruating before making a decision. The liver also processes most medications and nutritional supplements, so it is very common for these substances to alter liver enzymes.
In cases of chronic liver disease, these markers may also decline over time. This happens because when the liver becomes weak, its ability to produce enzymes decreases.
Please note that if you have concerns about your liver health, you should seek medical advice from your doctor.
The two often wax and wane together, and in some cases the relationship between the two can provide diagnostic clues.
Reasons Why You Should Take A Liver Function Test
If the ALT level is high (e.g. exceeding 1000 U/L)
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