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Liver Problems – What are the Symptoms?

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Liver problems can range from mild liver congestion to a serious liver disease. Depending on the problem, many people are unaware they have a liver problem and may only have vague symptoms. One of the most common symptoms is chronic tiredness. These people generally feel lethargic and sluggish during the day, especially in the morning.

Due to the fact that the liver is one of the hardest working organs in the body and has many roles, there are a number of problems that can occur with the liver. The three main categories these problems fall into are:

1. Disease of the liver cells

2. Problems producing or secreting bile

3. Problems with detoxification

How do you know if you have a liver problem?

Tests are available through standard pathology labs that measure liver enzymes, total protein, albumin and bilirubin. Although these tests are called liver ‘function’ tests, they indicate whether the liver is damaged rather than how it is functioning. In other words, they are used to detect liver diseases, such as hepatitis and cirrhosis as well as liver cells being damaged from viruses, bacteria, alcohol, drugs and so on. These tests are not useful in detecting mild problems with liver congestion and sluggish detoxification. This is best done by observing your symptoms. However, it is important to consult your practitioner and have the tests performed anyway, just to rule out the possibility of liver disease.

An ultrasound can detect if there is a blockage in the bile duct. This is most commonly caused by the presence of gallstones in the biliary duct. It is estimated that around 10-20% of people over 40 years of age have gallstones and their presence is linked to a high fat, low fibre diet. The presence of gallstones in the bile duct typically causes nausea and pain. Bile flow can also be impaired through the liver, however this can be difficult to detect with standard testing.

General symptoms that can indicate a liver problem

  • Feel tired and unrefreshed when you wake up
  • Energy levels fluctuate throughout the day, with your tiredness becoming worse around mid-morning and/or mid-afternoon
  • Difficulty losing weight
  • Frequent headaches
  • Bad breath, digestive problems, bloating, gas, indigestion
  • Allergies and intolerances to foods that are worsening as time goes on
  • Reactions to many chemicals including cleaning products, petrol, paint, perfumes, bleaches, etc.
  • Problems digesting fatty/creamy/oily foods. They can make you feel unwell, nauseous or cause heart burn and reflux
  • A yellowish tinge to the skin, eyes and palms of the hands
  • Reactions to drugs, in particular headache tablets, antibiotics and anti-histamines
  • An intolerance to alcohol. Either you get drunk very quickly or you have bad hangovers that are out of proportion to the amount of alcohol you have drunk
  • Caffeine gives you a strong buzz and can keep you awake for hours
  • When you eat asparagus, you have a funny smell in your urine
  • Skin problems such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, general rashes, itchy skin
  • Hot flushes that feel as if they rise up from the torso towards the head
  • You frequently wake up around 1-3am in the morning
  • Please note: The information in this article is not intended to take the place of a personal relationship with a qualified health practitioner nor is it intended as medical advice.

    By Alison Cassar

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