You might have heard of the term “leaky liver” before, but how much do you really know about it? Well, I would love to help you make a little bit more sense of the term, the science behind it, and what you can do about it today.
Think of your body in terms of different compartments. Now, one of the main things that can go wrong with your health is when things go from one compartment (where they belong) to another (where they do not belong). Leaky liver is a lot like that.
The state of your body in the case of leaky liver is one where your liver has become overloaded with fuel. From there, it begins to leak fuel into the bloodstream – way more than your body needs at any given moment.
Key Insight: This phenomenon is the root cause of most blood sugar abnormalities, and it can also be the cause of higher blood triglycerides and all of the complications that both of those conditions tend to produce.
These fuel sources, when they are in circulation and in high quantities, they begin to hurt the blood vessels. This results in:
Bottom Line: The truth is that most disease develops from vascular damage, so all of the structural issues that come from damage to your blood vessels can often be traced back to extra fuel in your bloodstream – like in the case of leaky liver.
The concept of leaking is all about something being where it should not be. Autoimmune gastritis, for instance, is where biologically-active proteins are brought into the bloodstream by mistake.
These are things that should leave in your stool, but find a way to enter your bloodstream instead. These compounds can:
On the other hand, leaky brain is pretty much the same thing for the blood-brain barrier. This is where the brain exists in a separate environment, so things that belong outside find their way inside.
Bottom Line: How does leaky liver differ from autoimmune gastritis or even leaky brain, though? It is kind of like the opposite, where something that belongs outside of that particular compartment comes inside.
The primary role that your liver plays is to store fuel in your system, which comes in the form of fuel molecules known as:
We can make glucose from carbohydrates or we can convert it from muscular protein. Triglycerides can come from just about anywhere, from carbs, fats, or ketones. Last, but not least, ketones are made when we are not burning fat (which makes them a bit different).
When your liver is healthy, this process works like a dream. It has room to store any surpluses of fuel and releases it whenever your body needs it the most. The molecules coming out at a slow, steady rate, based upon your needs in that given moment.
There are times, though, that the liver gets overloaded. It just has too much fuel, and your liver no longer has adequate room for storage. In those cases, your body can have a tendency to unload too much fuel (more than it needs to unload).
The result is that this extra fuel goes where it does not belong, and starts to do damage on your system. We can even start to see short-term symptoms like:
This is a good space to mention autoimmune gastritis again. The two can contribute and influence one another in a whole host of ways, in what we call the gut-liver axis. The process is based on what we call “bacterial translocation.”
Bacteria and bacterial endotoxins can come from the gut into the bloodstream, and cause the liver to act differently altogether (to where it is more likely to leak out its fuel).
It goes the opposite way, too! There is another term known as the liver-bile-microbiome axis. Adults make about 800-1000 milliliters of bile on a given day (in more of a green fluid that comes from the liver). Bile has the ability to break down these bacterial translocation products.
However, when your liver is leaky it does not make the proper bile in ways that it should. That, on its own, can causes changes in the gut flora which contribute to and cause autoimmune gastritis syndrome.
Bottom Line: Autoimmune gastritis and leaky liver go together, and they happen to feed off one another in a few complex processes. This is just one way in which your liver is super central to all aspects of your general health.
We first began to understand how leaky liver works based on research of type 2 diabetes. We used to think that diabetes came about when the pancreas was simply unable to make insulin, or there was just too much insulin.
The data is now saying, though, that if you lump together those who are diabetic with those who are at risk of developing diabetes, that is over half of all adults (the majority of people in the world). That is a truly staggering number!
What we are seeing now is that diabetes is more often driven by the liver, rather than the pancreas. So, when the liver gets too much fat inside of it, it is more likely to cause fuel to spill out.
Your liver needs to be lean to be healthy. If your liver is more than five percent fat, we call that fatty liver syndrome (4). This is all to say that your liver is incredibly fat-sensitive.
Fatty liver is common, but it is very underdiagnosed. It can be present without yielding any abnormal findings, and the only way you can know for certain is by performing a biopsy (which is typically not done for screening purposes).
We suspect fatty liver whenever ALT scores are above 18 or 19 (for women) and above 30 (for men) – this is typically a cause for suspicion. Ultrasound studies can show fatty liver, but they do not rule out fatty liver (because it does not show up at the earliest stages).
When we get to the heart of the issue, there is simply too much fuel. That could include your total intake of carbs, fats, or ketones – but what is important to know is that not one singular source of fuel is bad, it is the total collective amount of fuel (5).
The other side of this is that your liver needs help. Specifically, it needs help from your skeletal muscle to make the best use of fuel. If the muscles are not working right, then it becomes all about the liver’s ability to manage and store fuel.
If they are less active, many can lose muscle from simple aging. We also see lots of total muscle loss from those who consume less dietary protein. We need protein both for chemical reactions and for building muscle tissue, but if we are too low in that intake we have to use up our own muscle tissue to keep these reactions going.
Another way that the muscles play into this is with regards to what we call fatty muscle syndrome (or IMAT). This is whereby the muscles are present, but they have too much fat inside of them as well. In fact, they no longer have any room to store fuel to take the load off of the liver.
Bottom Line: Fatty muscle syndrome is pretty much the same thing as fatty liver syndrome, but it is taking place instead in the muscles. We also see it in cases of inactivity, adrenal stress, and in those who have suffered from a stroke. The more that happens, the more the liver leaks.
The solution is simple, and it really helped inspire the idea behind the Metabolism Reset Diet. In choosing liver-supportive foods, in a short timeframe of intake, paired with quality protein (both for amino acids and to retain one’s own muscle mass).
Another important element is high amounts of Resistant Starch (RS) so that your gut could make short-chain fats to help reverse the autoimmune gastritis (and to help your liver with its detoxification processes at the same time).
Altogether, it works by reversing all of that bacterial translocation that we spoke about earlier. Also, by lowering the fat inside the liver cells and correcting the two main liver pathways:
Normally, phase two would lag far behind phase one leading to a state of re-toxification. With the Metabolism Reset Diet, though, we have balanced out the phases and kept them in stride with one another – for you, and your liver’s, ultimate benefit.
We also work on taking away the fat that is trapped in between the liver cells. Lastly, there is something called the “unfolded protein response” that takes place in the endoplasmic reticulum. This is where fat simply gets stuffed in your cells, due to trauma, and gets stored away.
Bottom Line: In order for fuel to work properly again for you, we worked to develop a method where we could turn off this “unfolded protein response,” in order to get your cells back to their proper working state.
If you suspect that you have leaky liver, what can you do? The best way to start is by finding out more about your liver, and what you are dealing with health-wise. Pre-order the Metabolism Reset Diet today, and stay tuned for even more exciting information soon to arrive (7).
You can also easily connect with one of our doctors at Integrative Health who will help get to the bottom of your issues. Or, you could even join us for the next free Metabolism Reset Challenge! We do this over the course of seven days, and we really dig deep to help manage your symptoms and safeguard your future health.
In just seven days, we have seen participants reverse elevated liver enzymes, and those who had struggled with losing inches off their waist for decades rediscovered that response. What you need to know is that your body can change, if and when you take the right steps.
Your liver is resilient, and you can get better. If you start taking the right steps today, I would love to be able to help you on your journey to feeling better.
Dr. Alan Glen Christianson (Dr. C) is a Naturopathic Endocrinologist and the author of The NY Times bestselling Adrenal Reset Diet.
Dr. C’s gift for figuring out what really works has helped hundreds of thousands of people reverse thyroid disease, lose weight, and regain energy. Learn more about the surprising story that started his quest.