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Possible Causes for Elevated Liver Enzymes & an Upset Stomach

by
author image Mary Earhart
Mary Earhart is a registered nurse, a public health nurse and licensed midwife. Her articles have appeared in professional journals and online ezines. She holds a Bachelor of Science in nursing from California State University at Dominguez Hills. She works in a family practice clinic, has a home birth practice and her specialty is perinatal substance abuse.
Possible Causes for Elevated Liver Enzymes & an Upset Stomach
Older man with an upset stomach. Photo Credit Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images

Overview

Your liver produces enzymes in response to an injury or toxin. When these enzymes enter the bloodstream at higher than normal amounts, they are said to be elevated. Because the liver's functions effect every part of the body, inflammation in this organ may cause stomachache, nausea and vomiting. Your doctor can determine the cause of liver distress with the help of blood tests and a comprehensive health history.

Viral Hepatitis

Loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pain could be the flu, but if your liver enzymes are elevated it could be a case of hepatitis A. The hepatitis A virus also typically causes jaundice. It is spread by fecal-oral contamination, a result of poor bathroom hygiene or food contamination. The virus is shed in the stool of infected persons. Hepatitis A is a self-limiting disorder; you may need only rest and plenty of fluids to get over it. Infection with the hepatitis B or C viruses may cause chronic illness and damage to the liver that occurs over time. The Illinois Department of Public Health reports that hepatitis C is spread by blood, putting health care workers, IV drug users and those who received blood transfusions prior to 1992 at highest risk. Hepatitis B can be prevented by vaccines.

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Alcoholic Liver Disease

A healthy liver aids the digestion of fats and proteins, regulates sex hormones, breaks down toxins in the bloodstream and removes excess red blood cells. Chronic alcohol abuse taxes the liver, causing accumulation of fatty deposits, which become inflamed, leading to alcoholic hepatitis. The American Liver Foundation states that 35 percent of heavy drinkers develop this condition. If drinking continues, healthy liver tissue is gradually replaced by non-functioning scar tissue, a process known as cirrhosis. Abdominal swelling and tenderness, loss of appetite and nausea may characterize alcoholic liver disease.

Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis

Obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes are risk factors for non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. The disorder generally follows the same course as alcoholic liver disease, however patients may be non-drinkers. The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse advises that many people with NASH do not have symptoms of fatigue and upset stomach until liver damage is advanced. Losing weight, eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise can help you manage NASH. Regular medical care is also needed to control the effects of this disease.

Medication Side Effects

The entire family of cholesterol-lowering medications known as statins can damage your liver. Regular blood tests can detect changes and avoid the development of an associated muscle wasting condition known as rhabdomyolysis. Symptoms may include stiffness, swelling and tenderness in the large muscles of the legs and back, dark urine, rapid heart rate, fever, nausea and vomiting. Liver impairment or failure can also result from long-term use or high doses of other medications, including over the counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen. Toxic effects of these medications can cause jaundice, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and loss of appetite.

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References

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