Liver dysfunction or damage can have a number of causes, including alcoholism, hepatitis and certain drugs. A liver function test will report whether or not you have suffered liver damage. The liver has some regenerative abilities, and a number of treatments exist to stimulate and assist with this.
Liver Function Test
In a liver function test, a sample of your blood is taken and tested for specific enzymes that are usually present at certain levels. If you have liver disease, these enzymes will be at a higher level than normal because when the liver is damaged, they leak out of liver cells and into the blood stream. A typical liver function test checks for five or six specific markers for dysfunction and disease, including alanine, aspartate transaminase, alkaline phosphatase, bilirubin and gamma glutamyl transpeptidase.
The Liver's Self-Healing Properties
The liver has the capacity to regenerate itself; amazingly, it can do so from as little as 25% of its original tissue. Scientists do not yet fully understand how the liver does this, though it appears to be a similar process to that of organ development in an embryo. The process can be enhanced by stimulating certain proteins within the liver. For patients suffering from a liver tumor, for example, this means that it is possible to have the tumor surgically removed and then for the rest of the liver to grow back again and be healthy. This capability reduces the need for liver transplants.
Milk Thistle for Liver Repair
Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) has been used medicinally for centuries for a number of disorders. Nowadays, the herb has been shown to be beneficial for the treatment of liver diseases such as hepatitis and jaundice. It may even have the ability to counteract some effects of liver damage due to alcohol consumption. The active ingredient in milk thistle is silymarin, which has both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. This means that it can reduce the inflammation in damaged liver tissue and help the liver eliminate toxins.
Dandelion for Liver Repair
Dandelion is another herb often recommended for liver detoxification and to stimulate regeneration. Dandelion contains B vitamins that are beneficial to liver functions and help increase the production of bile. Bile plays an essential role in the digestion of fats, enabling them to be absorbed in the small intestine. Dandelion also enhances the function of the spleen, which creates lymphocytes – a type of white blood cell that helps with the destruction and recycling of old, red blood cells.
Diet for Liver Repair
A healthy diet prevents the liver from having to work too hard. All food is metabolized through the liver, and proteins are particularly important because they help repair body tissue and prevent the buildup of fats and damage to liver cells. Foods rich in protein include chicken, salmon, flounder, turkey, ricotta cheese, lamb, couscous, evaporated milk, oat bran and cottage cheese. Carbohydrates are stored in the form of glycogen. People suffering from liver disease have depleted levels of glycogen, so it may be advantageous to increase carbohydrates in this instance. Carbohydrates include cereal, bananas, apples, whole grains, squash and pasta. Reducing the amount of sodium in your diet is also beneficial for liver health.