Last Updated on August 24, 2021
If you’ve never had a liver function test, you may want to consider getting one. It’s important to detect any abnormalities in your liver early. Liver disease can be deadly, but treatable (and survivable) if addressed in time. In this article we’ll discuss how to test for liver disease, the specifics of getting a liver test, and why you may want to talk to your doctor.
Why Getting a Liver Function Test Is Critical
Of course, we’re most concerned with alcohol use disorder (AUD), which is one of the prime reasons for getting a liver function test1. If you’re drinking alcohol (perhaps more than you should) you may want to consider a test to make sure your liver is functioning properly.
Being exposed to hepatitis is another reason to consider this test. And if you are having any symptoms of liver disease, this type of information is essential. Also consider any medications you’re already taking. Some of these can cause stress on the liver. Your doctor may advise you to stop taking a particular medication and change to another.
Finally, you should also consider a test if you have a history of liver disease in your family.
What Types of Tests Are Available?
A liver function test measures a number of different chemicals, such as albumen, bilirubin, types of proteins, and enzymes, among other substances. If the presence of these is abnormal, it may be an indication of liver disease.
Your doctor may recommend other tests2 for other afflictions affecting the liver, such as infections or hepatitis. And in some cases, a liver biopsy may be required, which means taking a small sample of liver tissue to be evaluated. (For most people, this is not needed.)
How Is the Test Done?
Many of us have had blood drawn for one test or another. Similarly, a liver function test uses a blood sample from an arm. Though the procedure may leave a small ache or slight bruise at the spot where the needle enters, it is mostly pain-free. The blood sample is then sent to a laboratory for analysis. These days, the results are usually available within a few days.
To prepare for a liver function test, you may need to stop eating for 12 hours prior to the test. And drinking alcohol is verboten, too. Of course, drinking water is just fine. Consult your doctor with any questions.
And this may sound like simple advice, but if you have a short-sleeved shirt, wear it to the test! It will make it easier to take a blood sample.
What to Know About the Results of a Liver Function Test
This type of test can help reveal a number of conditions, such as different types of hepatitis or diabetes. Of course, it can also be a sign of excessive alcohol use or AUD. In dire cases, the results may be a warning of liver cancer.
Your doctor can help with the liver function test interpretation, and give you advice on next steps to take. For most people, making changes in lifestyle will help. As always, nutrition can make an enormous difference. Foods that help your liver3 include whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, and lean meats (such as skinless chicken).
An imaginary liver chat from the American Liver Foundation offers a gently humorous take: “I’m working hard, doing my best to process what you eat and drink into energy and nutrients. Hey, I’m also your filter! I’m trying to remove harmful substances from your blood. So, won’t you at least help me?”
Of Course, the Best Advice Is…
If you really want to be kind to your liver, the best advice is to cut down on drinking. For most people, that doesn’t mean you have to stop drinking completely, if that sounds too scary. But alcohol is one of the prime culprits, and liver problems are on the rise, such as fatty liver disease and cirrhosis. If you are drinking a lot, your doctor may recommend cutting out alcohol completely—at least, for awhile.
At Ria Health, we have the science, the medications, and the compassion to help you change your relationship to alcohol. Call us for more information, or if you’re phone-averse, look at our website to find out more. After a few months on our program, yes, you can still drink if you want to. But our hunch is that—perhaps to your surprise—you won’t be thinking as much about alcohol.