24 March 2009

Liver Worries

Semi-Teetotaler from here on out.

Just got back from the doctor's office.

At the end of January I had a doctor's appointment during which the doctor mentioned that in 2007 a blood test had noted that I had an elevated liver enzyme, Gamma-glutamyl transferase or
GGT. The GGT is the liver enzyme involved in the transfer of amino acids across the cellular membrane (among other things). The normal range for me should have been between 7 - 64 IU/L (International Units per Liter). The 2007 test had the GGT at 90 IU/L. She had said the elevation could have been due to having alcohol a day or two before the test. She suggested then that we retest it, and I agreed. It would be a good time to test since I'd had the flu and hadn't had anything to drink for a few days. I had another blood draw.

The doctor called me at home a couple days later, around the first of February, to tell me the test had shown a GGT level of 201 - extremely elevated! 

She also said another liver enzyme, alanine aminotransferase or ALT, was at 101. The normal range for this should have been 10 - 60 (in 2007 it had been 51). She was concerned and suggested we schedule a re-test. 

That freaked me out. I looked it up online and discovered that the causes of elevated GGT and ALP levels include scarring of the bile ducts, fatty liver (steatosis), alcoholic liver disease, liver inflammation from medications or certain herbs, liver tumors, and gallstones or gall bladder problems.

I immediately stopped drinking all alcohol, and decided to wait a month before taking the retest. A friend of ours got married on February 14th, and I had one glass of wine to toast the nuptials, but other than that I haven't had a drop of alcohol since January 25th. No Guinness or Jameson on St. Paddy's Day, no beer at the soccer game - nothing. On February 20th I also quit drinking coffee. I started drinking green tea and mint tea. Went through a couple weeks of headaches with the caffeine withdrawl. Also began mixing
organic apple cider vinegar with water and drinking that throughout the day. In the mornings, instead of my normal espresso, I'd boil water and squeeze a half a lemon into it, a capful of the apple cider vinegar, and I'd cut up a bit of fresh ginger and steep that in the water.

I also began running a bit more regularly, as in at least 5K five or six days a week. Some days I'd run a 10K, some days I'd run a fast 5K, some days just a mellow jog - but at least 5K everyday. Usually on the treadmill in the weight room at the office before work, since the weather has been shite lately, but also at home outside with the dogs.

I've lost 15lbs since January, and I've got more energy. Last Thursday I went in for a blood draw for a full liver panel and hepatitis panel and this morning I met with the doctor to see the results.

All hepatitis results were negative.

The GGT level was back down to 71. Still a bit higher than the normal range of 7 - 64, but the lowest it's tested since 2007.

The ALT level was 43. Back within the normal range of 10 - 60.

ALP (alkaline phosphatase) was 46, within the normal 
range of 42 - 121.

A bunch of the other tests came back with good results as well: my
HDL Cholesterol (the good kind) was 40 (barely within the normal 40 - 59 MG/DL range - this one should be a little higher), and my LDL Cholesterol (the bad kind) was 117 (in the near optimal range). My Cholesterol index was 4.3 (in the average range of 4.0 - 6.7). My Triglyceride was at 82 (normal is anything below 150).

She was very pleased with the results, and I was quite relieved as I had been running through worst-case scenarios in my head and in my dreams: liver disease, liver failure, transplant lists, cancer, etc.

She said she didn't think I needed to give up alcohol or coffee for the rest of my life (another fear of mine), but that it would probably be wise to use them in moderation much more than I had in the past. Good enough for me. I'm thinking I'm done with hard liquor, except for maybe very rare occasions and then just one little shot to sip in celebration of something. I was given the green light to have an occasional beer or glass of wine or espresso, and so I will. Rarely. Looks like I'll no longer be going by the nickname
"Two Pints", but at least I don't need a liver transplant.

Palpable relief.

KJT - Seattle (2009)


cae said...

fewkin' a! Gettin' old sucks, eh?

Ah, well. You're likely better off cuttin' back anyway, especially with a kid coming along and, heck, you can always dig the bong out of the closet if you wanna get back to stupid land ...


BF kemyooter said...

Looks to me like you can eat more bacon.