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One Liver to Love

May 1996

What does my liver have to do with this?

Your liver is a very important organ, especially if you have HIV or AIDS. However, a lot of us don't hear about how important it is until something goes wrong with it. Very often, the doctor will tell you that there is something wrong with your liver by telling you that you have elevated liver enzymes.

What are liver enzymes?

Everybody has liver enzymes. These enzymes help your liver get rid of the waste that is produced in your body. The more waste in your body, the more enzymes your liver needs to produce to get rid of it. Drugs, alcohol, and medications that you take to treat HIV and infections can make your liver work overtime. Diseases like hepatitis can also produce high liver enzymes. Simply put, high liver enzymes mean that your liver is really stressed out.


Why is this bad?

First of all, if your liver is stressed out, it can make you feel sick. If you're taking a lot of pills and medications for HIV or AIDS, a stressed out liver can make the side effects of these drugs a lot worse. This can be very dangerous.

If your liver is stressed out, it may not be able to absorb the really important drugs you are taking to treat HIV or other diseases. It will also prevent you from absorbing important nutrients your body needs. Your may not be able to take important medications or join a clinical trial if your liver enzymes are elevated.

What will cause my liver to stress out?

Not everyone who has HIV or AIDS has a stressed out liver. However, some people are more likely to have liver problems than others. Following is a list of things that can raise liver enzymes:

  • Hepatitis. Hepatitis is an inflammation or infection of the liver. Hepatitis is usually caused by viruses. These viruses include hepatitis A, B, and C. CMV (cytomegalovirus) and Epstein-Barr virus can cause hepatitis. Hepatitis can also be caused by IV drug use and alcohol use.
  • Alcohol and IV drug use. These chemicals can cause hepatitis. They can also cause liver enzymes to elevate, putting a large amount of stress on your liver.
  • Medications. People with HIV or AIDS may have to take a lot of pills and shots. While these are intended to help you get better, they can also put a lot of stress on your liver. If your liver is really stressed, it won't allow your body to absorb these drugs properly.

How do I know if my liver is stressed out?

Your doctor can perform blood tests to measure the amount of liver enzymes being produced by your liver. These tests are the best way to check if your liver is stressed. However, there are certain physical symptoms that may give you and your doctor hints. Signs include: fever; stomach pains; and yellow coloration of the skin and eyes.

How Can I help my liver?

While you may not be able to take out your liver and send it to Hawaii for a two-week vacation, there are a number of great things you can do to help you liver with stress. If you can lower your enzymes, you will have many more drugs to choose from to fight HIV disease, like protease inhibitors and anitbiotics:

  1. Watch your liver enzymes carefully. Keeping them low will make things a lot easier and healthier for you in the long run.
  2. Cut down on alcohol and drugs . The liver has a hard enough time as it is without these things making it worse.
  3. There are some drugs and nutrients that may help you lower your liver enzymes. Some of them are also good for hepatitis. Ask your doctor or call us at the PWA Health Group to learn more about these products:

Alpha Interferon | Beta Interferon | Ribavirin | 3TC | Thioctic Acid | SSKT | Glycerrhizin | Milk Thistle | NAC | Astragalus | Chickory | Dandelion | Centaury | American | Mandrake | Celandine

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This article was provided by PWA Health Group.