Many people enjoy a drink now and then. But how is that alcohol affecting your body? The liver is where a lot of your metabolism lives. It filters out harmful substances, like alcohol and toxins, from your blood. But its duties don't end there. It processes what you eat and drink into energy and nutrients for your body, produces bile to help you digest those nutrients, stores blood sugar in the form of glycogen, and performs many other essential functions. So a healthy liver is critical to your overall well-being and performance. But how can you find out whether your liver is healthy, or whether you may have pushed it too far? Well, the best way to monitor your liver health is through a blood test for liver damage biomarkers, such as ALT.
What is ALT?Found primarily in your liver cells, ALT is an enzyme that plays a role in converting stored glucose into usable energy. When liver cells are damaged, ALT can leak out into your bloodstream. Normally, there is only a small amount of ALT in your blood; higher levels of ALT typically indicate liver injury or inflammation
The normal range for ALT is 10-40 units per liter (U/L) of blood for men and 7-35 U/L for women. Blood tests from InsideTracker will tell you your optimal range for ALT based on your age, gender, ethnicity, athletic activity, alcohol consumption, BMI, and smoking history. And if your levels of ALT are elevated, InsideTracker will recommend diet, lifestyle, and supplement changes that can help to reduce your ALT levels. Since high levels of ALT indicate liver damage or disease, it’s important to consult your physician if you have elevated ALT.
What causes elevated ALT?Many lifestyle factors can influence your ALT levels, including:
- Alcohol intake
- Body weight
- Triglyceride levels
- Muscle damage
One of the more frequent causes of high ALT levels is a condition commonly referred to as a fatty liver, which is a reversible condition that occurs when large amounts of triglycerides (the type of fat typically found in food) accumulate in liver cells. In the United States, alcohol abuse is one of the largest contributors to fatty liver, but other causes include elevated blood glucose and excess body weight. Disease and certain medications can also increase ALT.
How can I decrease my elevated ALT?The good news is that many people can lower their elevated ALT with changes in their lifestyle and exercise:
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Lose weight
- Quit smoking
- Get regular exercise
- Consider taking probiotic supplements to improve your digestive health
- Eat a healthy diet
InsideTracker will recommend personalized lifestyle changes to help you decrease your ALT.
What types of foods will help to lower elevated ALT?What you eat also has an effect on ALT. Limiting high-fat foods, especially ones that are derived from animal sources, may help decrease elevated ALT levels. High-fat foods increase fat levels in your blood, which may end up being deposited in the liver.
Helpful changes can include:
- Choosing lean proteins, such as chicken breast, fish, or beans, and low-fat dairy products.
- Reducing the refined carbohydrates and sugars in your diet. Instead, eat whole foods like beans, whole grains, berries, oatmeal, and vegetables, which provide fiber, vitamins and antioxidants.
- Eating foods high in folate, which studies have shown can help to reduce ALT and improve liver health. Foods include black-eyed peas, fortified breakfast cereals, Brussels sprouts, and avocado.
With an InsideTracker Ultimate test you can easily check whether you have elevated ALT, and learn how to improve your liver health using simple interventions such as food, supplement, exercise, and lifestyle changes.