The human body is constantly exposed to environmental chemicals and along with toxins produced in our own body, our body’s ability to deal with these toxins may be impaired. Anyone suffering from a resulting low immune system could benefit from a liver and gallbladder flush or another detox program. But how would you know if your liver is not functioning optimally?
While there are many possible observable symptoms of toxicity, including physical symptoms such as liver swelling, if you require more definitive information it is easy to have a liver blood test and there are a number of other liver function tests available that can more accurately reflect the degree we have been exposed to toxins. A high liver count on these tests generally indicates something that might warrant further investigation and you’ll need to seek specialist advice if you haven’t already done so.
Standard blood tests
A standard blood test may be ordered by your doctor to measure the blood levels of various liver enzymes, blood proteins and bilirubin. Bilirubin is created when haemoglobin (a core component of red blood cells) breaks down. Bilirubin is yellow in color and is excreted in bile and urine, causes the yellow color of bruises and jaundice, and colors faeces brown.
While elevated bilirubin levels may suggest certain diseases, unfortunately this standard blood test is not very sensitive, and can only detect whether there is actual liver disease present. Your test results may come back normal, yet you may still have significant liver dysfunction. Fortunately, there are more specific tests u can be used to assess whether you need to detox your liver.
Advanced blood tests
These tests go by a variety of names including Comprehensive Detoxification Profile Test or a Functional Liver Detoxification Profile. They involve stressing the liver with safe oral doses of caffeine, paracetamol and aspirin. Samples of urine and saliva are then collected at specifically timed intervals and sent to a laboratory which measures how quickly the liver is working and the levels of breakdown products of these drugs.
These tests can be ordered by your doctor, naturopath or nutritionist and are designed to determine the ability of the liver to detoxify and eliminate drugs and chemicals. They specifically assess both phase I and phase II detoxification pathways by the liver. Most commonly phase I is adequate or overactive, and phase II is sluggish. These tests can let you find out if this is happening in your body.
Collecting the urine and saliva samples can be conveniently done in your own home and the results are sent to a laboratory for assessment.
Liver function panel test
This is a group of tests looking at different aspects of your liver. A standard liver panel can include the following tests:
• An elevated level of Total Bilirubin (TBIL) in the system causes jaundice which can signal a number of problems including anemia or internal bleeding, problems with the liver (eg cirrhosis or viral hepatitis), or the obstruction of the bile ducts that hinders the excretion of bilirubin.
This can be narrowed down further by looking at the levels of Direct Bilirubin ad depending on the results could indicate either viral hepatitis or cirrhosis if the levels are normal, or if the levels of Direct Bilirubin are elevated, then it could indicate gallstones or possibly even cancer.
• Albumin is a specific liver protein and is easily and cheaply measured. Low levels of albumin is associated with many different diseases and disorders and it is therefore used in a variety of settings to help diagnose disease, to monitor changes in health status with treatment or with disease progression, as well as a screen that may serve as an indicator for other kinds of testing.
Low albumin levels can indicate that albumin is leaking into the urine, which suggests that the kidneys are unable to prevent this. In such cases albumin (or protein) levels in the urine should also be measured. Low albumin levels can be associated with shock, severe inflammation and malnutrition and it can also indicate chronic liver diseases such as cirrhosis.
• Alanine transaminase (often referred to as the Alt Liver Test or just simply ALT) detects liver injury and is usually assessed along with Aspartate Aminotransferase (AST) and Alkaline Phosphatase (ALP) to help diagnose the type of liver disease that may be present.
ALT is typically used to assess a patient showing liver disorder including dark urine, nausea, vomiting and unusual weight gain, abdominal swelling and pain or jaundice. People with milder symptoms (eg loss of energy, tiredness etc) to test for chronic (long-term) liver disease ALT can be used.
To monitor the treatment of persons with liver disease, ALT is often used either by itself or along with other tests such as Alkaline Phosphatase (ALP) and Aspartate Transaminase (AST). The ratio of AST to ALT is sometimes useful in differentiating between causes of liver damage. High AST levels do not necessarily mean liver damage as AST is also used for determining heart disease.
• Gamma Glutamyl Transpeptidase (GGT) is fairly specific for the liver organ and is usually a better sensitive marker for cholestatic damage compared to ALP. Elevated GGT levels are often associated with minor levels of liver dysfunction and an isolated increase in ALP (eg acute and chronic alcohol consumption toxicity generally results in raised levels of GGT).
If any of these tests come back positive, your health professional may be able to prescribe a course of treatment. Additionally there is a range of detox solutions available on our website that may assist, ranging from one day detox at home programs through a natural body cleanse to undertaking an ultimate detox program. Before embarking on any of these, do check with your health professional or your doctor.
Where do I go to have these tests done?
Whether your having a Detoxification Profile Test, Functional Liver Detoxification Profile completed, or a Standard Blood Test you need to do the following:
Note: Depending on which country you live (the steps may be slightly different)
|Step 1||You first need to make an appointment with your local Doctor. (You can also go to one of your local Medical Centres to visit with a Doctor)|
|Step 2||Discuss with your Doctor any symptoms and concerns you have and the Doctor will arrange for you to have a blood test for the appropriate Liver Test(s)|
|Step 3||You Doctor will then give you a referral slip to take with you to Pathology for a blood test. Note: you cannot have a blood test without the Doctors the referral slip. Most times there is a Pathology centre within Medical Centres – if not ask your Doctor where the nearest Pathology is located. The results of your blood test take approximately 3-4 days to be completed. The results of the test will be sent to your Doctor.|
|Step 4||Once the results of your blood test come back from Pathology, make another appointment with your Doctor to discuss your blood test results associated with the Liver Test(s)Ask your Doctor to print you out a copy of your blood test if you want to keep a copy for yourself.|
|Step 5||Your Doctor will talk you through the blood tests results and let you know if you should be concerned with the results. Your Doctor may recommend a treatment, also depending on the results of your blood test, your Doctor may send you to have further tests (if required). If you need more tests completed by a Specialist Doctor, your Doctor will write you a referral to take with you for your visit with a Specialist Doctor.|
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Hechtman, L, Clinical Naturopathy Medicine, Elsevier Australia, 2012
Doctors Choice, www.doctorschoice.net
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Lab Tests Online, www.labtestsonline.org.au
Healthscope Pathology: www.healthscopepathology.com.au/index.php/functional-pathology/tests/functional-liver-detoxification-profile-fldp/