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What Causes High Liver Enzymes?

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 04/26/2024

When it comes to liver health, understanding everything you can is important, because the liver is one of the most vital organs in the body.

Learn about the liver, how it uses enzymes, and what high enzyme levels mean for your liver and overall health.

Understanding High Liver Enzymes and Their Indicators

Your liver is constantly working at detoxifying your body. Enzymes like AST (aspartate transaminase), ALT (alanine transaminase), and ALP (alkaline phosphatase) are released by the liver when it is under stress, indicating potential problems.

These can act as warning signs of potential problems.

The Role of AST, ALT, and ALP in Liver Health

AST: Aspartate Aminotransferase primarily resides within the heart tissues and liver cells. It leaks into the bloodstream when these tissues are damaged.

ALT: Alanine Transaminase plays a similar role but mainly stays within the confines of your liver.

Moving on to our third player: ALP (Alkaline Phosphatase). It is found in various parts of your body with high concentrations in your liver; it too spikes when damage occurs.

How to Interpret High Levels of AST, ALT, and ALP

If any one or more than one enzyme level goes beyond the normal range, alarm bells should ring. High levels of AST, ALT, and ALP may suggest inflammation or harm to liver cells, potentially resulting in illnesses like cirrhosis or hepatitis.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver illustration

Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease as a Primary Cause of High Liver Enzymes

The engine that powers your body, the liver, is crucial in processing everything you eat or drink. But what happens when it gets bogged down with fat? That's where nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) comes into play.

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

Often silent in its early stages, NAFLD is important to keep an eye out for. You might feel tired or ache on the right side just below your ribs. These are subtle signs that are easy to dismiss.

To confirm NAFLD diagnosis, though, doctors usually rely on imaging tests like ultrasounds. In some cases, they may resort to liver biopsies.

The Link Between Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease and High Liver Enzymes

Excess fat triggers inflammation in the liver, leading to damage, and consequently, high levels of enzymes like AST and ALT are released into your bloodstream.

Specific lifestyle changes can help repair this damage—it's not always permanent.

The Impact of Insulin Resistance on Liver Health

Insulin resistance has a substantial effect on liver health. Simply put, insulin resistance happens when your body doesn't respond well to the hormone insulin. This leads to more insulin production, causing high blood sugar levels.

Understanding Insulin Resistance

When you're resistant to insulin, cells refuse to open for insulin. This forces glucose to remain in the bloodstream, raising blood sugar levels. Studies suggest that nearly 70% of individuals with fatty liver disease have some degree of insulin resistance.

How Insulin Resistance Contributes to Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

The sugar in the bloodstream is then taken other places for storage. Often, the body will turn it into excess fat stored around organs, including the liver.

Research shows that this can lead directly to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and an increase in liver enzymes, a sign something isn't quite right.

Other Causes of High Liver Enzymes and Liver Damage

Beyond nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, other factors can spike your liver enzymes and damage this vital organ. Let's delve into some surprising causes you might not have considered.

Alcohol's Role in Liver Damage

You're probably aware that excessive alcohol consumption is harmful to the liver. But did you know it leads to a condition called alcoholic fatty liver disease?

This nasty condition affects almost all chronic heavy drinkers (90-100%), believe it or not. Over time, too much booze triggers inflammation and scarring, leading to cirrhosis if left unchecked.

The Impact of Certain Medications on Liver Health

Unfortunately, certain drugs like statins, steroids, Tylenol, and antibiotics could harm your liver function.

Always be sure to discuss potential risks with your healthcare provider.

Infections That Can Cause High Liver Enzymes

Diseases such as hepatitis viruses and even certain parasites can trigger high enzyme levels in the blood. The silver lining here is most infections are treatable once detected early enough.

Cirrhosis as a Result of High Liver Enzymes and Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

High liver enzymes and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease can pave the way to cirrhosis, an advanced stage of scarring on your liver.

Cirrhosis interferes with the performance of your liver, making it difficult for this vital organ to cleanse your body or generate necessary proteins.


High levels of AST, ALT, and ALP are often indicative of cirrhosis-related liver damage.

High levels of the enzymes might indicate inflammation or damage in our hepatic cells that could eventually lead us toward cirrhotic conditions.

Fight Back Against Cirrhosis

Recognizing these signs early enough allows us ample time to make necessary changes, such as adopting healthier dietary habits, including more exercise in our routines, and reducing alcohol intake.

Remember, your liver is a forgiving organ; give it the right conditions to thrive and reward you with better health.

probiotic as pathogenic strains

Probiotics and Fatty Liver Disease

Probiotic enzymes hold promise in potentially aiding individuals with fatty liver disease. Fatty liver disease, characterized by the accumulation of fat in the liver, can range from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) to more severe non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).

Emerging research suggests that probiotics, particularly those containing specific strains of beneficial bacteria, may help mitigate the progression of fatty liver disease.

Probiotic enzymes can contribute to a balanced gut microbiome, which plays a significant role in overall liver health. They may assist in reducing inflammation and oxidative stress, factors closely associated with the development and progression of fatty liver disease.

However, it's crucial to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized guidance and to determine the most appropriate probiotic supplement for your specific condition, as more research is needed to establish precise recommendations for treating fatty liver disease with probiotics.


Understanding liver health is crucial because the liver plays a vital role in overall well-being. Enzymes like AST, ALT, and ALP are essential indicators of liver function, and elevated levels may signal potential issues.

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a common cause of high liver enzymes, often linked to factors like insulin resistance and lifestyle habits. Early detection and lifestyle modifications can mitigate liver damage and promote healing.

Alcohol consumption, certain medications, and infections can also contribute to liver damage, potentially leading to conditions like cirrhosis.

Prioritizing liver health through informed choices and proactive measures is essential for maintaining overall health and well-being. Probiotic enzymes show promise in managing fatty liver disease, but more research is needed to confirm their efficacy.

By taking steps to support liver health, you can protect this vital organ and optimize your overall health.

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