Dr Wendi's Health

How to support your liver health

How to support your liver health

What does your liver do?


Sign/ Symptom of Dysfunction

Glycogenesis—converting excess glucose into glycogen.  Glycogen a type of carbohydrate stored in the liver and muscles.  Endurance athletes store more glycogen than non-athletes.

Blood sugar stays high longer than normal after eating.  Fatigue occurs sooner during exercise.

Glycogenolysis—breaking down glycogen to produce glucose.

Low energy during exercise, sugar cravings, mood swings, and difficulty losing weight.

Gluconeogenesis—breaking down fat (the glycerol component) or protein (amino acids), lactate or pyruvate to produce glucose.  This occurs in liver and kidneys.

Low blood sugar and low energy during fasting or exercise.

Lipogenesis—converting glucose and amino acids into triglycerides. Triglycerides (fat) is the primary form of stored energy in the body, all excess macronutrients are stored as fat in adipose tissue (fat cells) under our skin.

Unstable lipid metabolism can cause unregulated blood sugar that over time can lead to type 2 diabetes, fatty liver, low energy, as well as effects on the immune and nervous system. 

Lipolysis—breaking down fat and converting fatty acids into ketones, which can be converted into acetyl-CoA and then used to produce ATP. This process increases in efficiency as your body adapts to exercise and fasting.

Low blood sugar and low energy during fasting or exercise.  Sugar cravings, mood swings, and difficulty losing weight.

Synthesizing bile that is required for fat digestion. Bile is an emulsifier for breaking down fat, it also contains toxins and breakdown products for elimination.

Indigestion, abdominal pain after eating, floating bowel movements, gallstones can form when bile production is low.

Producing lipoproteins (LDLs) – low density lipoproteins transport digested fats through the bloodstream to the adipose tissue to be stored in fat cells

If fats can’t be properly transported to the adipose tissue, then it can build up in the liver causing fatty liver disease.

Storing excess fat-soluble vitamins—vitamins A, D, E, and K

Vitamin deficiency symptoms.  Fat-soluble vitamins play a myriad of roles including vision, immune function, antioxidants, growth, and reproductive functions

Storing minerals and trace metals.  Unfortunately, conventional food grown in depleted soil makes mineral deficiencies common without having liver dysfunction.

Mineral deficiencies affect every cell in the body because minerals act as co-factors that help all enzymes perform chemical reactions.

Producing urea from the breakdown products of proteins to be excreted by the kidneys.

Protein breakdown produces ammonia that is a strong base and needs to be converted into urea to maintain blood pH, urea cycle disruptions cause neurological impairments and can be fatal.

Breaking down old red blood cells (the spleen also does this); the heme component of hemoglobin becoming bilirubin, which is added to the bile and then excreted with other waste from digestion through defecation.

Since bilirubin is yellow, is this cannot be excreted properly then jaundice develops.

Breaking down organic and inorganic toxins— such as drugs, alcohol, hormones, heavy metals, plastics, pesticides, herbicides, preservatives, and chemical toxins from environmental exposure— toxins or the breakdown products are added to the bile for excretion via the digestive tract.

Inability to breakdown and excrete toxins causes you to feel ill.  Severity will depend on the toxin load and can range from fatigue, loss of appetite, irritability, depression, anxiety and other mood manifestations malaise to severe nausea and vomiting, and neurological manifestations. Dark urine can also occur if the toxin excretion burden falls on the kidneys. Bad breath, odorous and excessive sweating can occur if the skin is also trying to excrete toxins the liver can’t get rid of. The liver will enlarge if chronically exposed to toxins and this will cause abdominal pain.

Excreting excess trace metals.  This includes metals that have no function in the body such as lead, mercury, cadmium, or radioactive isotopes. There are trace metals we need but still can’t have in excess, such as zinc, copper, magnesium, iron, chromium, and iodine.

Depending on exposure or level in the body, symptoms can vary from headaches, malaise, fatigue, skin or digestive problems to severe neurological symptoms, confusion, vomiting, and difficulty breathing.

Synthesizing plasma proteins such as albumin, which is important for osmotic regulation and also binding proteins for the transport of fat-soluble hormones in the bloodstream.

Low albumin results in swelling/ edema in the tissues, most notably under the eyes and in the legs, feet, and ankles in people with liver disease.

Synthesizing fibrinogen, the protein required for blood clotting to prevent excess blood loss when there is tissue damage.

Easy bruising. 

Producing insulin-like growth factors (IGFs) in response to growth hormone that stimulates protein synthesis and cell division.

Poor/ slow wound healing. Poor wound healing can also be associated with vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

Synthesizing angiotensinogen, involved in the renin angiotensin system (RAS), to regulate blood pressure.


Altered blood pressure homeostasis. Although the RAS normally functions to increase blood pressure, in people with liver disease, they can have high pressure in the portal vein that brings blood flow and nutrients from the intestines to the liver, called portal hypertension. 

Activating vitamin D—the precursor produced in the skin during sun exposure— that’s required for calcium homeostasis and immune regulation (also activated by kidneys).

Without active vitamin D we can lose bone mineral density and have reduced immune function, making us more susceptible to colds and flus. Vitamin D deficiency is also highly associated with increased inflammation.

Secreting complement proteins involved in directly killing some pathogens and recruiting immune cells to areas of infection.

Without sufficient complement function, we are more susceptible to any infections. Liver dysfunction can also result in an increased inflammatory response anywhere in the body.

Immune functions – The liver contains Kupffer cells that are a type of immune cell, as well as mast cells that produce histamine, involved in wound healing, inflammation, and blood vessel dilation during infections.

Mast cell activation can trigger the mast cells in the liver to over-produce histamine, that causes itching.  Itching is a common sign of liver dysfunction (it can also indicate fungal infection such as Candida). Liver damage, such as high toxin load, triggers Kupffer cells and mast cells to become inflammatory.

Production of liver enzymes such as:

Alkaline phosphatase (ALP) that helps break down proteins in the body

Alanine transaminase (ALT) converts protein into energy

Aspartate transaminase (AST) breaks down amino acids

Gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT) main role in metabolizing toxins, drugs and alcohol

When someone has liver damage, drinks too much alcohol, takes drugs or high amounts of medications, has fatty liver disease, hepatitis, cirrhosis or liver cancer, blood tests can be done to look at these liver enzymes.  If these enzymes are elevated, it generally indicates some form of liver dysfunction. GGT is the most common test used to determine if someone is drinking excessive amounts of alcohol or taking drugs.

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